Thursday 2 March 2023 - The early spring sun shone through the crisp morning air at the Lower Leas Coastal Park, Folkestone.
Our monthly wellbeing group met at the Lift Cafe for deliciously strong hot coffee and the kind loan of a hot water bottle to keep a Wild Wheeler warm.
Storyteller Karen Hart introduced the annual delight that is World Book Day and we continued into the Coastal Park to a sit spot overlooking the sea.
We shared our earliest memories of childhood books - many of these had themes of animals and nature. Black Beauty was a firm favourite.
As we learned more about the importance and connection of books in our lives, we heard about writers and media changing as books continue to be a huge part of documenting the natural world.
The wonderful book on offer for this year's celebration of reading all look great - but we had a soft spot for Sophy Henn's Lifesize Creepy Crawlies, featuring some of our favourite insects. It's good to see the books available in Braille and audio versions.
We meandered along the accessible paths, pointing out many emerging spring bulbs and flowers: celandine, dandelion, and daffodils.
We read aloud the 2 March entry, Primroses, in the gorgeous book Wonderland: A Year of Britain's Wildlife Day by Day, by Brett Westwood and Stephen Moss
As the book says:
Karen highlighted another excellent book that opens up the natural world to more people: Light Rains Sometimes Fall, by Lev Parikan. This shows us all that we can find the wonders of nature in unlikely places.
Even though we were into spring, there were still some berries and pinecones left on some trees and bushes. Our new member was surprised, as we had been on a earlier visit, by the weight and scent of a cedar cone compared to the usual pinecones.
Walk Leader Michael Harden shared some folklore behind the connection of books, beech, and birch. He read from Desiderata, a poem about desiring happiness.
The lines 'Go placidly amid the noise and the haste, and remember what peace there may be in silence' led us into our regular stop for being quiet and actively listening. We stopped above Mermaid Beach, closed our eyes, felt soft sun on our faces, listened to waves crashing on the pebbly shore, and birds calling in the trees around us.
In memory of a dear friend and fellow wheeler whom we sadly much miss, we had a work by his favourite poet, Elizabeth Barrett Browning: How Do I Love Thee? (Sonnet 43).
The wellbeing walk is positive but we do not shy away from the natural processes of life. This powerful and sombre moment opened up and connected us to our feelings, memories, and grief. Our group members have become close and we shared. hugs and comfort amongst us. Connecting to Nature helps the healing process.
Wild with Wheels funding is provided through the Farming in Protected Landscapes programme from Defra and the Kent Downs Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty, who are supporting access to nature in Kent.
Image credit: Support walker Laura
@karenjoykhart @walks.words.wellbeing @laurasmile_999