The Corona virus or Covid-19 pandemic crisis has marked a huge changed in our way of life. Whether that’s working from home, social distancing, social isolating, home-schooling children or caring for others in your local community, it can feel a scary and lonely time for many.
For those of us who love the outdoors, visits to the countryside, walking in beautiful places and holidaying in the wild outdoors are no longer possible. With the government announcing a UK lockdown, other than one daily exercise or shopping for essentials, there has never been a more important time to connect with others digitally and appreciate the nature on your doorstep.
We understand that this is a difficult time for everyone, which is why we’re here to help you stay connected to the BBC Countryfile Magazine online community, and find ways to enjoy nature from your home, garden or local area, plus we share our pick of the best podcasts, crafts and recipes to do at home.
We’ll be updating this page regularly, so please keep checking back for new content.
If you’re able to get outside for a local walk during your daily exercise, enjoy the signs of late winter, such as snowdrops or other early winter blooms and take a moment to appreciate the nature found on your doorstep.
Activities to do in a winter lockdown
We’re all having to spend a lot of time at home this winter – so perhaps we should take a leaf out of nature’s book and see this season as our own hibernation time, a time to hunker down, brush up on new skills and focus on exploring our patch. We know that getting outside, even if it’s just in green spaces in our local area, is a great way to get some exercise and lift our mood. But if your daily local walk is starting to feel a tad monotonous, we’ve got some great ideas for how to make it a little more interesting – international treasure hunt, anyone? And if you’re not venturing any further than your house or your back garden, we’ve also put together some brilliant ways to get creative, learn something new and connect with the natural world from home.
Cook on a campfire
Whether you have a big garden or just a little patio space, make dinner a special occasion and get cooking outdoors this winter. Build a fire, invest in a fire pit or, if you have a bit more space, have a go at making a cooking tripod. When your fire has burned for long enough to leave glowing embers you can pop a skillet pan on a metal grid, or try burying potatoes wrapped in foil among the embers to bake.
Catch the sunrise
Turn yourself into a morning person by getting up in time to catch a glorious sunrise. You’ll have to do a bit of preparation – pick a day with a clear weather forecast, check what time sunrise will be in your local area and do a recce to find a location with a clear view. A hill or a beach that faces east is ideal, but watching the golden light from your local park or even your garden is still very special. Take a blanket and a thermos of coffee and get a big dose of nature before the rest of the world has properly woken up.
Try winter foraging
Frosty winter landscapes may look rather barren at first glance but there’s actually plenty of wild food to collect and cook with on cold weather walks. Look out for nettles and other favourites such as navelwort and sorrel in hedgerows. Tiny pink crab apples add a splash of colour to winter landscapes and make delicious jelly or flavoured gin, or can even be candied. And if you live by the coast, different seaweeds are easy to identify. Whatever you collect, pick away from busy roads, take only what you can eat and leave plenty behind for wildlife.
Make space for wildlife
If you aren’t venturing far from your house this winter and you can’t get out to spot much wildlife, invite wildlife into your space instead. Making bird feeders is a lovely way to quickly attract wild birds – fat balls, hanging apples and other simple DIY feeders are a good way to use up kitchen scraps, and are easy to make with children. Or make a corner of your garden a welcoming space for wildlife – you could dig a patch of earth now, ready to sow with wildflower seeds in March, and add a hedgehog hibernation house made from bricks or logs.
Make natural dye from plants
Bring the colours of the countryside indoors and get crafty by making natural dyes for fabric from plants. Did you know that red cabbage leaves create a beautiful purple hue? Or that oak bark will dye white fabric a warm brown? You could forage your dye ingredients – such as collecting sorrel roots for green dye – and it’s also a great way to use up scraps from your vegetable garden or to recycle your food waste, using avocado pits to dye clothes a delicate pink or onion skins and carrot tops to get shades of orange.
Try botanical drawing
Trying your hand at botanical drawing might just be the perfect way to combine mindfulness and creativity, all while gaining a better understanding of local flora. Find an interesting leaf on your next walk, bring it home (or take a photo of it) and make it your model for an hour’s drawing. You don’t need any skills to have a go at botanical sketching, just a pencil and paper. And once you’ve finished your masterpiece you can label and save it, which is a great way to learn to ID British trees and plants as well as honing your drawing skills.
Join a wildlife survey
Many wildlife charities rely on the public to help them track the population numbers of native creatures such as amphibians, reptiles and birds. Surveys take place all year, but one of the easiest you can get involved in while we’re all sticking close to home is the RSPB’s Garden Bird survey by joining the Big Garden Birdwatch event, which takes place from 29-31 January in 2021. A simple way to make a real difference to the local wildlife you care about.
Camp in the garden
Sick of being stuck indoors? Spend a night in the elements instead. Proper camping holidays may not be on the table at the moment but if you’re bold enough to brave the chill, camping out in your own back garden can make for a really wild winter night out. Take lots of layers and a warm sleeping bag and make your own den – it’s good practise for camping adventures in winter conditions.
Get to know your Andromeda from your Cassiopeia by spending a few clear nights learning to identify some of the most common constellations. Winter is actually the best time of the year for stargazing, because the Earth’s atmosphere is not as hazy in the colder months. BBC Sky At Night Magazine has a guide to what you can spot in the night sky, and there are also smartphone apps available to help you work out what stars you’re looking up at. And yes, you can try stargazing from your back garden (or even through your window).
Enjoy wildlife in your garden
Although winter might not seem the best time of year to enjoy spotting garden wildlife, there is still plenty of life to be found in our gardens, or locally during your daily exercise. See how many different bird species you can spot from your window or just a short garden wander.
- 9 of the best British bird identification books to buy
- Garden bird guide: how to care for birds and what to feed different species
- Discoverwildlife.com is a hive of fascinating wildlife – both UK and overseas
Chat with family and friends in nature using RSPB nature reserve Zoom backgrounds
From lighthouses to lakes across all four countries, the RSPB has released 15 free images of its nature reserves for people to use as Zoom backgrounds.
Once downloaded, the RSBP is asking people to share a screengrab with the hashtag #NaturePhotoBomb to celebrate nature and the outdoors – even if you have to stay at home. These images are free to download, via rspb-images.com/Respages/FreeImages