A new year, a new beginning.
The past couple of years have thrown up some particularly difficult emotional challenges but there has been a silver lining, a hope and optimism that has seen me through. What is this magic cure? Three words...
Walking in nature.
For the past fews years, as a family, we have been putting a lot of effort into pouring over ordnance survey maps and coming up with walks locally and around the UK that we have not done before. I have been logging all of our hikes and keeping a photographic record of each route and most importantly for me the plants, fungi and wildlife I discover along the way at these locations at the different times of the year. It has become an obsession, a passion.
2019 in particular saw my obsession reach fever pitch and our walking ventures went into hyper drive. Logging the milage has been a good incentive to keep going out, keep wanting to walk further, for health, to clear heads and to chalk up more miles. It felt like a positive move forward.
The most significant change has been walking locally. Virtually no travel time or cost has meant walking is completely accessible whatever your circumstances if you step outside your door rather than embarking on an epic drive, hell bent on only exploring pastures new. But equally there have been many over night adventures further afield sleeping under the stars.
Once you have lived somewhere for many years it can be quite easy to dismiss your local surroundings as boring as you feel you have covered the area over and over again but I urge you to grab your local ordnance survey map and see what footpaths cover your patch, what links up as a circular route, what special features does your area possess? You may be surprised how little you really know. You could have driven passed woods and fields every day but have never got out your vehicle and walked through them.
There is nothing more satisfying than joining up the dots, the fragmented pieces of the jigsaw puzzle and making that view part of your personal memory, knowing what is round the corner, down the track, at the end of the field and creating fantastic free family days out.
Local walks aside, we have also made the effort to explore many wild and wonderful regions around the UK and the French Alps. I have been thrilled to study wildflowers and alpines in these challenging environments and look forward to sharing my findings.
If you are unable to get outdoors for health reasons then hopefully my musings will be able to bring the countryside inside to you.
Connect with nature where ever you can, see wildlife go about their daily tasks, find plants growing in their natural habitat and see the unspoilt landscape as is should be - wild.
Spending time outdoors has tremendous benefits to our wellbeing. As a professional gardener I am lucky to spend most of my waking week outdoors working with nature but these hiking trips allow me to explore the world without the intervention of humans or see how nature has adapted to live alongside us and explore how nature behaves when left to its own devices and apply this to my gardening methods.
One thing I do know, you stand on top of a mountain, it certainly provides clarity and a quiet space to think. It helps to put life in perspective. It is good to feel so small in a vast landscape. Rather than that being a negative experience it is incredibly empowering and makes you feel on top of the world. Hold onto that feeling and take it home with you.
So why 'Wild Hearted Woman?' It was an anthem of one of my favourite bands of my youth, gothic rock folk band All About Eve. The angelic vocals of Julianne Regan were the sound track to my mid to late teens and will always embody the roots of my musical and artistic journey. It seems fitting to pay homage to this inspiring band who never ceased to paint ethereal images in my mind with their lyrical tunes; a similar feeling I get when I am out walking, the freedom, the escape from reality, the boundless views make you feel very much alive.
Wild Hearted Woman sums me up nicely, wild at heart. The more time I spend out in the wild, the happier I am. I highly recommend everyone to get outside and go wild!
All photos © Debi Holland Gardening 2019