And so the wheel turns. This week we entered August and passed Lammas or Lughnasadh, celebrated as the time of the first harvest. (There are two more harvests to follow at the Autumn equinox and at Halloween.) It's the time of year when the fields of corn have turned to gold and in my head the sunlight is also golden. Sadly, as yet, this is only in my head, we seem to have been a bit lacking on the sunshine front lately, but that hasn't stopped nature. The grasses that have been left to grow are now delicate seed heads, some leaves are turning yellow or red around the edges, a hint of things to come, and the blackberries are getting fatter and shinier by the day. On the windier days, the lime trees opposite my flat are letting go their leaves which fly past the window - much more than a hint of autumn - and I've just discovered a lime seed head that has somehow parachuted its way indoors. I note in my nature diary that on this day last year I found my first brown conker. From my window I was impressed by the seemingly laden elder tree in the back garden. Until recently it had a fine display of delicate white flowers and a heady scent and now covered in berries, as I thought. In the garden I took a closer look. Even unripe, it looks like the birds have been feasting and my dreams of making a supply of elderberry syrup to keep colds and flu away over the winter have been fading.
Corn dollies are symbolic of this time of year. Made with the last few stems of unharvested wheat woven into a hollow shape, they are said to contain the spirit of the grain which has been made homeless by the harvest; the dolly is then ploughed into the soil in spring to pass on the spirit to the new growing season. Recently we were asked to run a session about nature connection for mental health and decided to make it practical rather than just a powerpoint presentation. Based around the five pathways to nature connection, we like to use the meaning prompt to encourage people to think about the wheel of the year, a way to keep connected regularly throughout the seasons. This session was placed midway between the summer solstice and lammas, so making a corn dolly seemed like a seasonally appropriate activity. Not having any ears of wheat to hand, and having failed dismally using grass, we took along craft straws. Armed with a few viewings of a YouTube video and other internet instructions we attempted to help people make their own corn dollies. While I'd have to admit that the finished products were not an unmitigated success, we had a lot of fun trying, and I'm sure the corn spirits are grateful for our attempts.
Whatever the season, walking is never far from my mind. Go Jauntly have launched their new summer to autumn amble - a challenge to encourage you to walk 600km in 13 weeks. It's twice as long as their previous challenge and with less time to achieve it, so get those walking shoes on. You sign up on the app and get rewarded as you hit each milestone; I still find it surprising how happy it makes me when my phone buzzes to let me know I've completed another 100km towards my target. I was recommended a podcast episode of the Mel Robbins show that features Shane O'Mara, author of In Praise of Walking. I didn't think I could be more excited about walking than I already was, but I am. All his research shows that the time spent walking doesn't have to be huge, yet the benefits really are! I was stupidly thrilled to discover one of my walking heroes was in the Lake District recently, to the extent I begged a friend who was staying in the locality to go hang about on a hillside to see if she could meet him. (She didn't take me up on my request!) The newsletter about his experience of the Wainwright Coast to Coast walk popped into my inbox this week and is a total joy. I have no idea how I first discovered the writing of Craig Mod, but if you like walking, photography and have an interest in Japanese culture, head on over to his website to find out more. Coast to Coast walks seem to be having a moment and I particularly enjoyed the photographs in this article about the new Tamara Coast to Coast Way which runs along the border between Devon and Cornwall. For reasons unknown, I believe the sun always shines in South West England, despite experiencing plenty of rainy camping trips there, and so whilst I don't think I'll ever be organised enough to complete such a route, I can't help but imagine myself stomping along in glorious sunshine. However as we know , even looking at pictures of nature can help improve mood and nature connection, so I'll take that for now.
Finally, another shameless wee plug for the video that VASLan made for us during Green Health Week. If you want to know how the five ways to wellbeing can be applied in nature, or why being outside and connecting to nature is beneficial for us, then check it out. If you like what you see and what to find out about how we might be able to work together to bring some of these benefits to the people you work with, then please do get in touch.