So many of us have been exploring our neighbourhoods more during lockdown.

Here are some great ways to mix things up a little and make your walks an opportunity for discovery.

Wildflower spotting

They are beautiful, sometimes rare and often have charming names and fascinating folklore.  Wildflowers are everywhere in the summer from meadows to verges, city pavements and car parks.

Keep your eyes peeled on your walk and you will be amazed what you can see: hedgerow cranesbill in a pavement, a tiny navelwort in a wall, beautiful marsh orchids on roadsides. 

Did you know that honeysuckle was believed to keep witches away from your home? Or that the dog rose was believed to cure the bite from a rabid dog?

Wildflower Hour on Twitter between 8pm and 9pm on Sundays showcases many of the best. See @wildflower_hour for inspiration, and share your own finds using #wildflowerhour.

Straight from the author’s mouth

If life is busy and time to yourself a luxury, why not take the chance to read a book while you walk – or rather hear one?

Audiobooks are surging in popularity, with sales up 43 per cent last year driven partly by some big-name celebrity narrators like Elton John, voicing both fiction and non-fiction books.

Audiobooks can be downloaded any time anywhere. You could try the unmistakable tones of Maya Angelou reading her own classic I Know Why the Caged Bird Sings, or Michelle Obama reading her memoir Becoming, or Harry Potter and the Philosopher’s Stone narrated by national treasure Stephen Fry.

Get lost

Walking is known to help wellbeing. Research has shown that exercise releases endorphins which boost mood and hormones which improve sleep. It also brings a sense of achievement and purpose. But you don’t have to follow the same routine each day. 

Throwing away the route-plan can make you see things with renewed interest and curiosity. Allow yourself to wander and see what you discover – perhaps a hidden courtyard, a historic architectural feature, a beautiful garden, a fresh view or a different place for a coffee where you might make a new friend. 

Explore the dawn chorus

Even the most familiar walk is a different and magical experience at daybreak. You can watch the sun rise to the music of the dawn chorus.  

Did you know that birdsong carries further at dawn, and the lack of background noise and air turbulence makes it crystal clear – which is one of the reasons birds are thought to sing most at daybreak?  Birds can sing more than one note at a time, thanks to an adaption in the throat which acts like the human vocal chords.  Listen to a thrush for a virtuoso performance – and be early the thrush starts even before sunrise, followed by blackbirds, chaffinches, wrens and Robins. Later risers then join in.  Find out how to tell which bird is singing at the RSPB’s bird song identifier.  

Walk together

Why not join a local walking group – or set one up? Walking with others increases the mental health advantages, and the fun, for many people. A British Heart Foundation survey found that 59 per cent of walkers said they liked the social aspects of belonging to a group and many felt it was important for their physical and mental health. The Foundation recommends at least 30 to 45 minutes of moderate intensity exercise three times a week. You could call in some family, neighbours or friends and walk together.  Find a group nearby, or start your own, here’s a great link to help.

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