Easy ways to stay connected to nature and the outdoors from your home
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 and local area.
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.
You can get in touch with us on Facebook, Twitter and Instagram or drop us an email if you'd like to say hello or share ideas.
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
Editor of the Girl Outdoors and Komoot ambassador Sian Lewis shares 10 fun activities to lift your spirits and give a sense of adventure during the 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.
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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
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If you're lucky enough to have a garden, or even a window box, there are still plenty of jobs to do in the garden in winter.
Make nature arts & crafts with your children
Find a daily fun craft project or outdoor nature activity for children to enjoy in the home, garden or in your local area during the Coronavirus pandemic.
- How to make a leaf print butterfly
- How to make a mini egg box garden
- Make a stick family using natural materials
See easy craft projects and outdoor nature activities for children to do at home
Improve your nature identification skills
- January foraging guide: best foods to find and recipe ideas
- Best winter wildlife spectacles in Britain
Listen to podcasts
Make the most of your extra spare time to listen to some of the interesting wildlife, nature and science podcasts freely available. This handy BBC Wildlife Magazine guide, explains how to listen to podcasts.
Don't forget to tune into the BBCCountryfile Magazine 'plodcast'
In each episode of the BBC Countryfile Magazine podcast, we go on a great escape into beautiful landscapes where we look for great wildlife, explore curious historic sites, meet interesting rural people and discuss the big issues affecting the countryside.
Catch up on each season and enjoy a countryside escape
The podcast is available on Acast, iTunes, Apple Podcasts and most major podcast apps
From the inner workings of the human brain to how we’ll conquer space, tackling climate change and better understanding the animals and plants around us – the Science Focus Podcast is the best place to make sense of the big issues of our time.
HistoryExtra podcast comes out three times a week, featuring interviews with notable historians talking about topics spanning ancient history through recent British to American events. Episodes feature history stories and perspectives on everything from crusading knights to Tudor monarchs and the D-Day landings.
Birdwatch from your window
The annual Big Garden Birdwatch returns on 29th-31st January 2021 for the UK's largest garden based citizen science project. Find out how to take part and the best birds to spot in your garden this winter with our handy birdwatch guide.
According to the conservation charity, across the UK nearly 9 million hours have been spent watching garden birds since the Birdwatch began in 1979 with more than 137 million birds counted, helping provide the charity with valuable insight.
See how to take part in the Big Garden Birdwatch
The RSPB has set up the #BreakfastBirdwatch, a daily hour on weekdays between 8-9am where supporters and the wider public can share photos and videos of their garden birds. There will also be different species and themes to focus on, such as drawing and poetry.
The Self-Isolating Bird Club
TV presenter, author and naturalist Chris Packham has set up The Self-Isolating Bird Club on Twitter and Facebook, so that birdwatchers can share their local sightings virtually.
- Garden bird guide: how to care for birds and what to feed different species
- Robin guide: where to see and how to attract robins to your garden
- Guide to Britain’s tit species: how to identify and where to see
Take a virtual escape to the countryside
We've started a Virtual Escapes series last spring to help you enjoy the outdoors from the comfort of your home and provide a bit of inspiration for future trips.
Experience the sights and sounds of each season countryside until we can all safely enjoy the real thing with our stay-at-home guides.
- Virtual escapes: winter wonderlands
- Virtual escapes: Britain’s most beautiful spring hills
- Virtual escapes: magnificent waterfalls and crashing cascades
- Virtual escapes: magical woodlands and forests
Craft ideas to make at home
Here is a selection of relaxing craft projects to make from your home.
- How to make a bee house
- How to make pressed leaf and flower artworks
- How to make leaf-pressed coasters
Recipes – baking ideas
Make the most of being at home by baking tasty treats to enjoy with a cup of tea and a good book.
Stay well, stay home
BBC Countryfile Magazine has always shared great walks and holiday destinations with readers and website visitors – it’s a key part of our mission. But we cannot do that for now – it would be irresponsible. We ask all readers and web visitors to adhere strictly to Government advice on travel, social distancing and personal hygiene. If you are feeling unwell, please visit the NHS website or call '111' for medical advice.
We all have to be responsible, think about others and follow expert advice.
There are some basic rules we can all follow:
- Make only journeys only for essential supplies.
- We are now only allowed out of our properties for exercise once a day.
- Practise social distancing at all times
- Avoid touching stiles and gates if you can.
- Thoroughly wash your hands before and after each walk
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