Put your hand up if you’ve pulled your walking shoes on and pottered around in the countryside over the past 18 months more than you ever had before...*raises arm.*
In fact, an NFU survey has found that 45 per cent of people now feel as though they have a greater appreciation for the great outdoors, after exploring it more during life in lockdown. But how does that translate to the way we’re treating this perfectly formed planet? Will the time we took to stop and listen – to seasons changing the shape, feel and fragrances of our local spaces, or to the never-noticed nuances of different birdsong – change the trajectory of our climate crisis?
In our ‘Celebration Issue’ of Glow Magazine - where this article was first printed - we want to stop for a second and throw some positivity into the melting pot of conversation about the conservation of our planet – to reflect on the awe-inspiring landscapes and abundance of life all around us. If we cultivate a closer relationship with the natural world, surely our empathy and persistence in protecting this harmonious home of ours will follow suit.
Let’s celebrate some of the most stunning sights that our luscious locale has to offer and consider how we can truly take care of them. We owe it to the generations to come to keep the little party that we call life going for as long as possible, and that all begins with protecting our planet.
SNOWDONIA NATIONAL PARK, WALES
Home to Wales’ highest mountain, Snowdonia National Park is one of Britain’s best breathing spaces. Biodiversity in abundance blesses both the grassy greens and the jagged cliffs of the fourteen conservation areas within the park. A fifth of the site is protected because of its wildlife and geological interest in order to sustain the rich and unique life that’s able to flourish there.
Due to its location on the western edge of Europe, Snowdonia is swept by warm, wet weather, making it an ideal home for thousands of species and their habitats. Breaking up its harsh cliffs and sky-blue lakes, 23 miles of coastline and sandy beaches play a part in enriching the biodiversity of the area, which houses many native species that are seen nowhere else in the UK.
ISLE OF SKYE, SCOTLAND
The Island of the Mist, or ‘Eilean a’ Cheó’, is famous for its dramatic rockscapes and visionary vistas, with ethereal tales glittering in ‘fairy pools’ and majestic memories reigning over mountainous, crown-like cliffs. The turquoise, twinkling pools in question sit at the foot of the formidable Black Cuillin mountains, and legend has it that ‘selkies’ – seals by day and humans by night – would come here to bathe by the light of the moon.
Mythology aside, the Isle of Skye sustains an astonishing array of wildlife, and with that knowledge comes concerns about the large scale of local tourism and treatment of the landscape. One way we can help to care for the rich life structures living in areas such as these when we visit is to travel during low season (October-March), so less pressure is put on local resources and habitats by hordes of tourists all flocking to the region at once.
THE GIANT’S CAUSEWAY, NORTHERN IRELAND
The Giant’s Causeway is one of the UK’s most magnificent geological trophies, with the 40,000 black basalt columns protruding from the sea being a globally-renowned phenomenon. Some 50-60 million years ago, when volcanic activity meant molten lava was occupying this very spot, hexagonal columns were formed as the lava began cooling at irregular rates. Today, the rocks – and the pools they cuddle inside them – are home to a vast array of marine life.
However, at Northern Ireland’s only UNESCO World Heritage Site, where you may feel as though you’re following in the footsteps of giants, a poignant message hits home – if we continue to fill the big boots of those who’ve caused destruction in their wake before us, intricate and fascinatingly-formed sites like this one will be washed away under the sea for none to see. According to UNESCO “changes in sea level or an increased frequency of storm events may, in the future, affect the degree to which the causeway is accessible or visible.” Mitigating the damage of global warming might just be the only way to keep these monumental structures from becoming a drowning, distant memory.
RYDAL AND GRASMERE, ENGLAND
As Wordsworth’s former watering hole and home to hundreds of orange-hued tree species, it’s no wonder that people have been noticing the natural beauty rife in Rydal and Grasmere for centuries. More than most other valleys, Grasmere, Rydal and neighbouring Ambleside show off a diversity of landscape, offering an undiluted and exquisite example of everything the Lake District has to offer. The National Trust tells us that “the conservation link is strong in the valley, too. Wordsworth had protested against the extension of the railway from Windermere, and since then this legacy of looking after this locale has lived on.”
The unparalleled greenery, grassland and gorgeous rock and coastal formations found in the far reaches of the UK are a fundamental reminder of the rich and robust ecosystems that exist on our doorstep. While we (responsibly, please) rest our worn-out minds, retreat to the countryside to celebrate these awe-inspiring spaces and soak in the best that Mother Nature has to offer, it’s important that we take stock of the magic of these naturally flourishing spots.
Along with the everyday reminders that we encounter – changing seasons turning the colours of the leaves on local bushes, the billowing of a gentle breeze caressing our skin, birdsong poking through the cracks of urban cityscapes – untouched natural landscapes remind us that this beautiful planet operates so perfectly. Each and every organism is reliant on another for survival in some capacity, but with that interlocking dependency comes such fragility. The best thing we can do for those that come after us, and for the Earth, is to cultivate our bonds with nature and look after our home, together.