Hi, my name is Nick and for the last five years I have been privileged to work for the North West Ambulance Service NHS Trust (NWAS) as an Emergency Medical Technician (EMT1). This means, in essence, I work day and night shifts out of an ambulance station in rural Cumbria. I mostly work with a Paramedic and we respond to, essentially, 999 calls from the general public. Now, being involved on the front line of a very busy Ambulance Service, is challenging most of the time but during the last eighteen months it has been particularly challenging, as you can imagine. Luckily, the “green family” is made up of a great bunch of people who, along with doing the very best for our patients, do the very best for each other too. We support each other, we check on each others wellbeing, we send messages of support after difficult incidents and exchange good old fashioned workplace banter, great camaraderie. Plus we have a great support structure in place from our management team which helps during the toughest of times. We have regular communications encouraging us to look after our health and wellbeing, often with great advice and tips. I wondered if there was anything that I did outside of work that helped me with my health and wellbeing, certainly being out and about in nature on my days off and on trips out with the family has had a great impact over the years so I decided to set up a social media group for my colleagues in order to promote wellbeing through connecting with nature, posting advice, photos of my own connections with nature and group members post about their own sightings. I did a little bit of research on how connecting with nature can have a positive impact on your mental and physical health, and how it can be one of many ways to protect you from the stresses and strains of a busy working life. The research? Well, a quick search on the web brings up a number of pieces which are all variations on the theme. A study performed by the University of Essex in 2015 concluded that “Overall there is a large body of evidence to suggest that contact with a wide range of natural environments can provide multiple benefits for health and wellbeing.”
My own employer, the NHS, recommends the five steps to wellbeing, so lets start there. This advice is echoed worldwide. You can find advice from South Africa to Japan, the USA to Sweden on the internet very easily. So what are these five steps?
- Connect with other people
- Be physically active
- Learn new skills
- Give to others
- Pay attention to the present moment (mindfulness)
Throughout the coming blogs, I will touch on these in more detail.
Also, for the last few years, I have been part of a great team of volunteers at our local Royal Society for the Protection of Birds (RSPB) reserve, Leighton Moss in Silverdale, Lancashire, an absolutely stunning part of North West England on the edge of Morecambe Bay and part of the Arnside and Silverdale Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty (AONB) and as the moth flies, a few miles from the Lake District National Park. Our little team of volunteers runs a small group for youngsters aged 8 to 12 years old, The RSPB Leighton Moss Wildlife Explorers Group. Where we run activities with a natural theme on the first Saturday of each month, this is a superb way of encouraging youngsters to connect with nature and passing on the skills we, as naturalists, have learnt over the years. From a very early age I have been interested in all things nature, specialising in birds, to a point where I would call myself a birdwatcher. I am happy sitting in a hide with my binoculars watching the birds and I can while away a bit of time idly studying the birds on the feeders in the garden. I like to keep a list of what I’ve seen, occasionally recording it on an app but I haven’t yet gone as far as travelling the length and breadth of the country “twitching”, I’ll save that for retirement. One activity we have done a couple of times with our group is one of the “Meet the Moths” events on the reserve and I’ve always found these events fascinating, especially the enthusiasm shown by the volunteers. I can spot a bird and with a high degree of confidence I can identify it, sometimes I can even ID them by the call alone! Good eh? Butterflies, not too bad, I know a Comma from a Red Admiral and am improving with time. Moths? not a clue. I wouldn’t know where to start! I see them a lot on night shifts when it is dark and we have the lights on, fluttering around dazzled by our blue lights and have encouraged the odd one or two back outside after flying into the house through an open window. As I spotted more and more whilst out and about, I decided, during Lockdown, that it would be interesting to find out what species of moth we had in our back garden but also as an experiment to see how a learning a new skill would impact my health and wellbeing plus it would be something we could do together as a family, I do like to encourage my two children to get hands on with nature. We haven’t got the biggest of gardens but we live in a rural area close to a river, with fields and woodland nearby, so I expected that we would do OK in our bit of rural South Cumbria. Where do I start? I thought the best way would be to buy a moth trap, pop it out overnight and see what was about in the morning. So earlier this year the research began into finding a suitable trap…..