Sustrans Cymru’s Support Officer, Emily Sinclair, lives in Penarth with her partner Howard. Despite the current lockdown, she's been making the most of the beautiful nature on her doorstep by teaching Howard about the different species that live along their local railway path.
Emily and Howard walking on their local railway path
Living on a second-floor apartment during lockdown has restricted our access to the outdoors.
Our gardenless predicament, along with our extended time at home, felt like a great chance to take the daily walks we’ve always wanted to do.
With access to parks restricted, my partner Howard and I have been exploring nature along our local railway path.
Growing up with nature
Growing up with a dog meant that I went out for walks twice a day, whatever the weather.
Holidays consisted of long walks around the UK.
My dad would try to enthuse me and my siblings about the wildlife around us, sometimes to no avail.
Over the years my passion for nature has grown.
I’ve been lucky to have some unique nature experiences including surveying black grouse on the eerie Welsh Moors at 3 am and releasing butterflies back into the wild.
These experiences have opened my eyes to the amazing array of nature we have in the UK and I’ve been keen to share this with Howard.
Despite being brought up in the countryside, Howard has had limited interaction with nature.
Last summer I discovered he had never picked a blackberry. A fruit which I class as a staple snack to pick and eat on a late summer walk.
Over the years I’ve known him he’s been keen to increase his knowledge of nature.
He’s come with me to nature reserves, unwisely wearing blue suede shoes, but keen to use the ID boards to work out which ducks can be seen.
Showing Howard the ropes
Howard would agree with me when I say he is a fair-weather walker.
I regularly meet my parents to take their dogs for walks and Howard is always reluctant to come if there is a hint of moisture in the air.
Luckily the fantastic weather we’ve been having while in lockdown has made our daily walk a no-brainer.
When we started our walks there were buds on the trees but little else.
I must admit trees are not one of my strengths, so I was relieved when plants started to sprout, so I no longer had to wing my tree knowledge.
Just some of the beautiful flowers spotted along the path
I introduced Howard to the plants, butterflies and birds along the path.
By just taking a step off the path we were able to spot eggs shells from recently hatched chicks.
And we could pinpoint the melodic sounds from the birds and spot the bees at work collecting nectar.
We tried unsuccessfully to communicate with the wood pigeons and stalked speckled wood butterflies to get good photos.
Walking the same straight path every day could become monotonous. Luckily, at this time of year nature is blooming.
It’s amazing to see how much growth there is. From a muddy verge to a miniature forest at my feet in a matter of days.
At the beginning of lockdown, I only had buds and shoots as clues to identify the plants. It was fun to see the plants grow and gradually unveil themselves.
Sometimes I was spot on with my identification. White bluebells evaded me though, I mistook them for wild garlic, even convincing myself there was a waft of garlic in the air.
Changing our habits for good
During the lockdown, Howard has realised how important the outside is to him and values the time we have outdoors.
Living near the coast we have great access to walks and always said that we would take an evening walk, but they rarely materialised.
We’d often claim we were too tired or it was bad weather.
Exploring the nature around us has helped us feel more connected to each other and our local area.
It’s been great to see Howard’s knowledge grow and see him spending time in the house, working out what we’ve seen from leaves and photos he’s collected on our walks.
Our time exploring has helped us realise that we are never really too tired to go for a walk after work.
And we definitely plan to keep them up even after the lockdown.