Getting outdoors not only means a bit of exercise and some Vitamin D but spending time in nature has been proven to reduce tension, help you sleep and promote creativity. Lucky then, that our lil ol' town not only boasts some stunning green spaces, but lots of opportunities to get dirt underneath your fingernails!
The jewel in Colchester's crown is our glorious Castle Park, so beautiful in every season. We also have the stunning Beth Chatto Gardens nearby as well as Abberton Reservoir and Fingringhoe Wick. All perfect places to take a stroll and have a breather.
If you'd like to get more hands on, however, head along to meet the Big Friendly Gardeners based at Highwoods Country Park's BIG Garden. The garden provides volunteering and therapeutic gardening opportunities for people of all ages and abilities using organic and sustainable methods and volunteers share the harvested food. They BFGs are a very special group of people, and do lots of work with vulnerable people, army veterans and school projects. The garden is open Mondays through Thursdays and alternate Saturdays, from 10am - 1pm and the BFGs will give you a very warm welcome if you'd like to get involved:
(Love this pic, by Peter Beard, after a hard morning's work!)
The Conservation Volunteers also often need a hand in the CO postcode area. Their mission is to create healthier and happier communities for everyone by connecting people and green spaces to have a lasting impact on both. Projects include tree planting, weed clearing, litter-picking and replacing boardwalks. Take a look here for their upcoming activities in Lexden Springs, Hillyfields and the Bourne Valley.
The benefits of getting a bit muddy are not just for adults! Muddy Boots Forest Adventures runs children-led sessions at Highwoods CP and other Essex locations. Founder Kirsty is a fully qualified Montessori teacher and Forest School Leader with over 15 years' experience. The sessions are 100% child-led with a relaxed atmosphere where children can follow their own interests, take controlled risks and learn. Muddy Boots also offers adult directed activities for those who wish to take part, which creates a bonding experience for the whole family.
The Essex Wildlife Trust also run forest and coastal schools for older children, which have been shown to be particularly useful for children disengaged with mainstream schooling. Details here.
But it's not only our green spaces that need some TLC - our town centre is all the more attractive when it's full of hanging baskets, tended greenswards and floral displays. The fantastic group that does much of this work voluntarily is Colchester In Bloom. Their aim is to generate community involvement in making Colchester a more beautiful place to live and work, creating a feel good factor which contributes towards social and economic vitality. Do get in touch with them if you'd like to help out. Not only will you benefit from being involved, the town will too.
And finally, did you know that the Skinny Jean Gardener, Lee Connelly, who was Blue Peter's gardener for three years and often features on gardening segments on TV, is organising a garden festival at Three Wise Monkeys on 18th August? There'll be garden and food stalls, sow and grow activities, celebrities, music and lots of fun. Lee is looking for local collaboration so if you think you can bring something to the festival please email email@example.com
Get your dose of Mother Nature however you choose, but make sure you do!