We should all go on a woodland walk!


We're about more than just birds (though obviously we like them a lot).

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We should all go on a woodland walk!

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It seems I should listen to my brain more often!

According to a recent study from researchers at Heriot-Watt University a stroll in a leafy wood or park has a calming effect and lessens stress.

This probably shouldn't really come as such a surprise to me. Working in the grounds of a woodland reserve, I regularly enjoy the solitude of going for a lunchtime walk, weaving my way amongst the trees of the reserve.

I always make it back to my desk feeling refreshed.

Admittedly, it's a small study, but the results are compelling none-the-less about how green spaces are important to our well-being.

And to help you get even more out of your next leafy jaunt, I asked our resident woodland expert - Gareth Fisher - to share his tips on what to look out for!

Pretty plants

As members of the buttercup family, lesser celandine's love bright sunlight and are like small rays of sunshine themselves as they look up to the sky from the woodland floor. They are one of the first plants to flower in spring and as a consequence sometimes get called the 'spring messenger'. William Wordsworth thought they were so great that he was inspired to write three poems about them!

A carpet of lesser celandine's

Common dog-violets have a rather delicate-looking purple flower and heart-shaped leaves - which are an important food source for many caterpillars. However, don't bother looking for them if the soil is acidic or very wet!

Dog violets at Muirshiel

You'll probably just as easily smell, as see, the next plant on the list: ramsons. These beautiful white flowers carpet woodland floors, and fill the air with a pungent garlic-like scent (as an interesting aside, you can use them in salads). They also frequently grow alongside bluebells - so two flowers for the price of one!

Ramsons on display

The next flower to keep an eye out for is honeysuckle. It either trails along the ground, or sometimes climbs high into the trees to form a 'bush'. The trumpet-shaped flowers give off a sweet smell at night - to attract pollinating moths.

Close up of honeysuckle flowers

Wood sorrel is easy to overlook. Until in full bloom, that is, when it reveals its dainty bell-like white flowers (with their pink streaks). I have it on good authority that their leaves taste like cooking apples, or salt and vinegar crisps, depending on your taste buds!

Close up of a sorrel leaf.

Beautiful butterflies

Brown is definitely not boring. Look out for delicate speckled wood butterflies in sunny clearings.

Speckled wood resting on bramble

It's the flashy male who gives the orange tip its name (females actually have grey wing tips!). This butterfly is also seen in gardens, so you might already have met!

Orange tip feeding on a greater stitchwort flower

It's easy to identify bright yellow male brimstones! Females are easier to identify when resting - with their distinctive wing shape.

Female brimstone at rest.

Another visitor to gardens you may already be familiar with is the holly blue butterfly. Their violet-blue hue is easy to spot despite their small size.

Holly blue on garden herb. Photo by nutmeg66 (http://www.flickr.com/photos/rachel_s/1196378378/)

The purple sheen of a purple hairstreak can be difficult to spot - not only because of its small size, but also because of its reliance solely on oak trees - but it's definitely worth the effort. The best time to spot one is in the early evening of a warm summer's day.

Female purple hairstreak on oak leaf.

So that's it! Some great picks from Gareth.  

Now all this talk of nature is making me want to get outside. Will you join me?

  • Thanks John. I've only managed to see a brimstone so far this year! Hope you're doing better.

  • Very informative and the photo were brilliant