As part of Trust Link’s GO GROW GIVE campaign for Mental Health Awareness week, we have an exclusive guest article from Essex Wildlife Trust’s Education and Community Officer, Lizzie Holt. Here she inspires you to GO outdoors and explore, not too far from Trust Links sites!
We need nature for our physical and mental wellbeing. The Southend Borough, with its connected wild spaces to explore and discover wildlife the perfect place to go outside in nature.
Go outside and explore
At Essex Wildlife Trust, we want everyone in Essex (and beyond too!) to have access to nature, to lead wilder lives and to take action for wildlife. Make time for nature and experience the benefits yourself, by getting outside and following these local nature routes.
Start at the Prittle Brook Greenway, adjacent to Trust Links, Westcliff. Here you will find a green travel route that connects the urban and natural landscape. Beside the river, across the roads, beneath hedgerows and backing onto gardens, this corridor for wildlife where hedgehogs can scuttle past, bats can fly by and butterflies flutter over flowers is only the beginning of what is on offer.
From here, you can start the Seven Woods Walk, a 5.5 mile circular walk covering Belfairs Park Wood, Hadleigh Great Wood, West Wood, Valerie Wells Wood, Starvelinks Wood, Tile Wood and Pound Wood.
Following the brook towards Belfairs Woods you will find banks lined with vibrant, green alkanet and sunshine yellow lesser celandine, walk under old and interesting trees and spot the blackberries, sloes and elderberries that provide a feast for wildlife. Within Belfairs Woods, alongside the Trust’s Nature Discovery Centre, you will find a community of people. Here people connect over coffees, learn a new hobby, find parent support in one of my Nature Tots sessions, go horse riding at the nearby stables or simply take time out of their day to reflect and find calm in the woods.
Walk through Hadleigh Great Wood, part of the Daws Heath Living Landscape, eventually ending up in our beautiful Pound Wood nature reserve in Thundersley. The bluebells create a spectacular display, a purple sea amongst the ancient woodland. Be careful to stick to the paths as bluebells are susceptible to damage – the flowers take between five to seven years to establish, so sticking to paths will ensure this incredible spectacle can thrive for many generations to come. While you’re here, you can wave to our friends at Trust Links, Thundersley.
Many of these woodland nature reserves are owned or managed by Essex Wildlife Trust, where we carry out habitat maintenance and enhancement to ensure we’re providing a haven for wildlife. The Trust offers volunteer opportunities, to learn new skills in a welcoming environment and the ability to see conservation efforts from start to finish – rewarding for people and for nature!
Over near Trust Links, Shoeburyness, Essex Wildlife Trust manages Gunners Park and Shoebury Ranges nature reserve. This site provides great accessibility, with 5km of tarmacked and multi-use gravel paths to explore. The Trust’s Ranger here, Andrew Armstrong, has been instrumental in the success of the site, together with a network of volunteers they have improved the meadow, leading to small copper butterflies and calling cuckoos to now use the nature reserve. The reserve is a designated Site of Special Scientific Interest (SSSI) and the mosaic of habitats provide a home for rare species like the sandwich click beetle and the cuckoo wasp. Wheatears spend the summer months here, while kestrels hover above hunting lizards and seals bob up and down in the estuary.
Near our friends over at Trust Links, Rochford, a short drive away you can find our Lion Creek and Lower Raypits nature reserves. On the Crouch Estuary, these adjoining vast and remote reserves are sure to blow away the cobwebs, as you walk along the seawall spotting wildfowl and waders. In the summer months look for the colourful range of dragonflies, damselflies and butterflies, and if you’re lucky you’ll spot a shrill carder bee, the UK’s rarest bee! All attracted to the border of saltmarsh plants, sea lavender, golden samphire and sea spurrey.
There are so many opportunities for you to go into nature locally and experience the benefits to your health. At Essex Wildlife Trust we protect local wild places for you and for wildlife, our Nature Discovery Centres provide safe spaces to learn about wildlife, find support and community groups, and online we provide resources, tools and even wildlife webcams to ensure you can connect to nature.
Trust Link have some fun ideas on ways to GO GROW GIVE this May. If you’d like to challenge yourself to get outside and embrace nature more – get involved with 30 Days Wild! Do one wild activity every day in June, for all 30 days, and see how a daily dose of nature helps you. You can sign up online for your free pack of resources to start your wild month: www.essexwt.org.uk/30-Days-Wild.
‘Discover more about Trust Link’s Growing Together gardens here www.trustlinks.org/growingtogether.