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Originally published 2018
Deb Jordan is owner of Pensthorpe Natural Park, a beautiful nature reserve near Fakenham, north Norfolk. Deb is a Trustee of the Pensthorpe Conservation Trust, so passionately devotes her time to conservation projects which protect local habitats and the creatures living within them. A keen runner, walker and nature enthusiast, Deb is in-tune with the benefits of time spent outdoors.
Here, Deb discusses why being outdoors is one of the biggest antidotes to many physical and wellbeing issues caused by our modern-day lives and suggests ways to break the cycle here in Norfolk.
Spending time outdoors is one of life’s greatest (and simplest!) luxuries. Yet, in our technology-laden lives we get caught in a world of distraction and forget to absorb the clarity of mind that comes with a walk through woodlands, a beach meander or time simply spent feeding the birds.
Enjoying time in green spaces can improve your mental and physical wellbeing. Whether it’s exercising outdoors, spending time around birds and animals or learning about ways to encourage wildlife and insects in to your own garden, immersing yourself in nature is known to improve your mood, enhance your confidence, reduce stress and anxiety, and enable you to be more active. So, we really owe it to ourselves to be more serious about putting time aside to do just that.
‘Sparking a ‘lightbulb moment’ of appreciation for nature is the backbone of everything we do here at the reserve’
At Pensthorpe Natural Park, our 700 acres are filled with a mixture of habitats to suit all people, from the adventurous woodland rompers, the studious garden admirers, and those purely looking for some precious chill moments sitting beside the lake. We have wetlands, wildflower meadows, serene gardens, farmland, scrubland and woodland habitats as well as seven bird hides, our Conservation Trust and the ecologically-significant River Wensum meandering through. Thoughtfully located benches dotted in and amongst the wildlife provide an ideal opportunity to pause and live in the moment.
We have developed interactive trails, walks, guided sessions, interpretation boards, a new Wetland Discovery Area and eco play areas (one indoor and one outdoor) which are packed with dens, tunnels, treetop lookouts, towers and zip wires inspired by the natural world. All essential ingredients to ensure children want to stay outdoors for longer. The play areas provide a challenging yet fun environment where children can develop their risk assessment and problem-solving skills, exercise, and strengthen peer-too-peer interaction. Sparking a ‘lightbulb moment’ of appreciation for nature is the backbone of everything we do here at the reserve and it is apparent from ‘entry level’ activities for children to our educational events.
One of the play areas at Pensthorpe, credit Steve Adams
Pensthorpe at night, Credit Steve Adams
Our friendly team of staff and volunteers enjoy nothing more than sharing their knowledge and inspiring a love of the outdoors in our visitors. Plus, in taking time to chat with new people we learn new things, boost our confidence and enjoy social interaction that’s away from the glaring screen of a device.
Over the years we have recorded over 157 species of bird, 25 of butterflies, 19 dragonflies, 28 mammal and 184 moth. Whilst we regularly hear that our visitors find our ducks and geese the friendliest around (they are rather amorous!), we are also frequented by marsh harrier, breeding avocet, oyster-catcher, marsh tit, reed warbler, swift, red squirrel, flamingos and turtle doves.
The diversity of the natural world is staggering and totally stunning. Take a moment to sit back and observe. Look up. Look around you. Listen. There are few better ways to slow a racing mind or quash negative thoughts than with a spell in tune with nature.
We know of parents and grandparents planning to bring their children/grandchildren because they want to spend quality family time outdoors. We will attract individuals and couples who enjoy walking in the Norfolk countryside and people with a blossoming interest in wildlife as well as seasoned bird-spotters looking to cross a few species off their tick list. All of them share the understanding that being outdoors restores balance and calm.
Whether you know it or not, Norfolk is a mecca for birds and wildlife in the UK. So rather than let it pass you by, take a moment to get outdoors in our beautiful county and get engaging. You never know what it may inspire within you.
For more information about the Pensthorpe Bird and Wildlife Fair visit pensthorpe.com/birdfair or visit Pensthorpe Natural Park on social media.