Connecting the community with local nature

Virn Stothers, tells us how walking during lockdown helped her mental health and led her to share her passion for nature with her local community in Kincardine.

Humans of the Walk Photo: Virn Stothers walking at the shore

I live alone and lockdown made me feel incredibly isolated. I have Autism, Depression and Anxiety. Even without lockdown, it is a tricky balancing act to make sure that I get out enough to elevate my mood, but not so much that I overwhelm myself. The early restrictions meant that I was limited to one walk per day, and I had to make the most of it.

I used my daily health walks to explore more of my local area. I have lived here for 7 years, but I usually stick to the same walks or drive out somewhere further afield for a longer walk. 

My friend was due to walk the Cape Wrath Trail for charity in May, but had to postpone this due to lockdown. I completed a 15k walk around Devilla Forest as part of a virtual walk to raise funds for Venture Scotland on her behalf.

I have a husky who joins me everywhere. She was not happy about being restricted to one walk per day. We changed our routine so that we could have one long walk and then spent some time in the garden each day.

I always felt better (both physically and mentally) after managing a walk. There was a certain amount of anxiety about leaving the house, but as soon as I was in the woods I felt more grounded. Each day I returned home with a sense of accomplishment. I began to look forward to my daily walks, rather than feeling that they were a chore.

I am a keen forager and I usually go to specific areas to pick seasonal wild foods. Being unable to access those areas made me explore the local flora more carefully. 

I was aware that other people were geographically-restricted and only able to walk locally, if at all. In an effort to share my experience with others, I used chalk to name each plant I saw growing around the village. 

This was part of a European movement called rebel botany, where budding botanists (and foragers, like me) highlighted plants that most people overlook. These images were shared on social media (using hashtags such as #morethanweeds and #notjustweeds). 

I received an incredible amount of positive feedback from my community about this adventure. Local people were learning (and teaching their kids) about the flowers they saw, and asking me to 'graffiti' specific streets. I created a chalk-graffiti foraging trail of over 50 edible plants in Kincardine.

After the unexpected response to my foraging trail, I have started taking people out to show them some of the edible plants in Kincardine. I have limited these to one household per session, with physical distancing measures in place. 

These walks take around an hour each time, so I am getting out more, and feel that I am contributing more to society. All money raised from these sessions is currently going to the Kincardine Community Food Hub. 

I plan to take larger groups out for more detailed foraging courses once lockdown restrictions are eased. Lockdown has given me the time and inspiration to organise myself to share my hobby with others, and I am thankful for this opportunity. 

You can find out more about Virn's foraging trail on Facebook and Instagram.