Noticing Nature

Dr Deborah Long, Chief Officer at Scottish Environment LINK, talks about noticing the small details of nature in Autumn and the benefits it gives her

Paths for All image

I like to try and get out, even for a short walk every day. That doesn’t always happen! But whenever I do manage it, what always happens is that I feel much better afterwards. 

Part of this is simply being out in fresh air and whatever weather is happening at the time. But part of it is also the level of focus that just looking at nature around you brings, as you walk. It stills my mind and reminds me how amazing our planet is. 

At this time of year, in Autumn, my favourite things are often at eye level or boot level. Fence posts for example, are often topped by amazing little ecosystems with lichens, mosses and even sometimes seedling perched on them, like mini gardens. At ankle level, tree stumps also host miniature worlds, with fungi and mosses often jostling for space.  In Scotland, our damp climate and hugely varied habitats provide perfect conditions for a mind-blowing diversity of species. Scotland, for example, is home to more than 60% of the moss and liverwort species in Europe. And Scotland we only occupies about 0.76% of the land. Isn’t that remarkable? 

But it is at boot level that a walk at this time of year really rewards. The variety of leaf colours on the ground, as you scuff through them, from green and gold to russet to red and mahogany. And if you are lucky enough to be walking just after a rain shower, some of those fallen leaves will have jewel water drops, perfectly spherical on their surface. In fact, water drops hanging from twigs and branches refract colours and magnify patterns. Just have a closer look through one, next time you are out.

The colours and textures of Autumn are one thing. There are also, of course, those plants and fungi that really come into their own in Autumn: the buttery birch tree and the red of wild cherry. Fungi also make a spectacular show in autumn: look for scarlet elf cap, or orange peel fungus on the ground, or porcelain mushrooms on dead or dying wood. Have a closer look, and be transported out of your world and into a world of colour, diversity and profusion. 


Dr Deborah Long, Scottish Environment LINK