Thanks to Adam Machin, a great Coombes Valley volunteer for this latest blog. Read on to find how, this week, he's rediscovered the reserve.....
I have to admit that my connection to nature has its roots firmly in ecology. This means identifying, naming and understanding. That approach does serve its purpose extremely well, but I do wonder if I'm missing something.
Our visitors are all different, and they will all experience nature in their own unique way. While talking with families in the visitor centre recently I’ve heard children enthuse about what they’ve seen, felt and heard during their time here, and that really got me thinking. I realised what they were trying to tell me. So, after 3 years of volunteering here, it was time to make a change, to explore the reserve and let my senses appreciate it and bring it to life. No identifying, no naming and no counting!
I started exploring on our main trail; the one that leads gradually downhill from the visitor centre towards Coombes Brook and the valley floor. At the beginning I felt a little silly, as I stood on the path with my eyes closed. I ventured forth (eyes now open again). I lay in meadows, I took time to lean over and smell wild flowers, and to feel the sensation of grasses brushing through my fingers. I was not even half way round the trail, and any initial foolishness had long ago been surpassed by a feeling of enjoyment. I had realised that senses can take us on incredible journeys.
With my eyes closed, the quiet rustle of the aspen leaves reminded me of waves slowly lapping on a sandy shore. As I got close to gnarled mature trees, their sheer size transported me back to ancient tales of mythical creatures roaming the woodland. Lying amongst the wildflowers watching the clouds go by, I was suddenly 6 years old again! I couldn’t believe I had never done this before, what wonders I have missed out on.
By far the best experience of my journey though, was when I took a few quiet moments to sit at the valley viewpoint on a still evening. I concentrated on the moment, on the view, and on the sounds I could hear and I was rewarded with a sensory delight. The contrasting colours, the restful sounds of the insects and birds all made any stress I felt just melt away. The unmistakeable smell of the freshly cut meadows filled the warm summer air.
Pink hues eventually leaked into the blue sky as the sun slowly set, giving the most amazing backdrop over the lush green trees. I felt a world away from the hustle and bustle of everyday life. It must surely rank as one of my greatest moments at the reserve. No naming, no identification knowledge needed, just the ability to sit, watch and enjoy.
I sat and thought about how people are influenced by nature; what enjoyment means to them. I could only think experiences like this provide that initial spark. Where that road then goes is up to them. If they come to Coombes Valley, we can be certain though that they’ll have many more of these magical moments.
If you're seeking magical moments like these, then the next few weeks is a great time to visit us. We will bring the reserve alive for you with some special events.
Every Thursday, Saturday and Sunday until 12th August we’re bringing ‘Creatures of the Night’ into the day time at our Date with Nature. Meet our iconic barn owl family and see what else they share the night with.
Until Sunday 29th July, we have days of family fun with Wild Art events. Come along and try your hand at Wild Art in our magical woodland. No need to pre-book, and its free.
Starting on 5th August we have Family Fun events where the whole family can join in with activities like pond dipping and bug hunting. Those sessions are £5 per child. More details are on our events page.
Photo by Becky Elliott