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When Nature Calls

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When Nature Calls

Emily Ackner

LONDON LIFE GETS A LITTLE TOO MUCH SOMETIMES.

Charging about, coffee fuelled, at full speed is sustainable for a few weeks max, I reckon. Some can go longer, maybe it's better battery life or just a knack for secret napping, but three's my limit at least. Coming to the end of those weeks, I forcibly extract myself from the hustle and bustle and plonk down in a field somewhere, anywhere and sit quietly.

I’ve come to realise in my four happy London years so far, that I’m still kicking it here with maximum energy because I make time to get out.  Out of my borough, out of London, out of my own head. I like to sit and think about everything, so taking time to be distracted by nature is a super important part of what I believe constitutes good wellbeing.

No-wifi-in-the-forest-nature-quotes


As part of a generation yearning to get closer to its natural roots, wanting a life balanced between the city and country seems totally sane to me. I'm not ready to let go of the London buzz, but I do need those nature holidays with relative frequency.

I translated this into running terms recently in an article I wrote for one of my fave running mags, Like The Wind. On the subject of transitioning between London and Cornwall, I touched on the mild anxiety that accompanies each trip and how I've learnt to overcome this through donning my trainers and leaving the house. If only for a few miles on the road/trail, I zone out and tune in to new surroundings or reconnect with old haunts.

Running those Cornish coastal paths...

Running those Cornish coastal paths...

You don't have to travel to the furthest tip of Blighty or The Lakes to feel like you've escaped it all. Last weekend I jumped on the Northern line from Old Street and twenty minutes later I was in the thick of Highgate woods; birds, dogs, dappled light, lovely.

So on the theme, I've compiled a quick list of my 5 favourite nature-inspired running spots in London:

1. Hampstead Heath An oldie but a goodie. Attempting to run the outskirts of HH, my final map routinely reveals a sneaky corner that's gone undetected. Ducking, dodging, diving, dipping, dodging through the undergrowth, I feel like Oberon and Titania lie in its depths. Magical stuff. 

2. Epping Forest Jump on the central line and head east. Hop off in Epping. Trail run til your heart's delight. Maybe bring a map, snax and a buddy, every route is a new woodland adventure. 

3. Highgate Woods - Because it's Mum's childhood stomping ground, it's going in. Having taken me four years to finally travel all of twenty minutes north and explore, it was well worth the oyster fare. A North London nature gem with wide earthy paths to stride along. 

4. Richmond Park - One of London's 8 Royal Parks, Richmond is a National Nature Reserve and a Special Area of Conservation. Yeah it's famed for those beautiful stags, but more impressive are the 1000+ species of beetle that are hanging out hidden there too. As good as it gets for rolling fields to run free. 

5. Lee Valley Canal - Winding from central London up into the thick of the Hertfordshire countryside, it is one of the UK's historically most important waterways & used for transportation since the Bronze Age. Creeping alongside lush open spaces and views, it's canal running at its best. Stop off at the Olympic park too for a monkey around in the epic adventure playground. 

The love of nature is not new and it’s always been deeply important for human beings. It’s a way of finding rest, perspective and escape from the rat race. Escape for the envious feelings that life among our fellow humans can provoke.
— Alain de Botton

Next month the School of Life are running an evening in Shoreditch to explore the idea of rediscovering our connection with nature. As Mr. de Botton is spot on to point out, we humans are pretty wrapped up in our largely self-important and busy lives. We like the sound of our own voices (the irony of the blog post, I know), but time to perhaps take a step back and let mother nature do the talking once again.