What is your role at St Nicks and what training, employment and interests led you to this role?
I run the Discover Nature ecotherapy group at St Nicks. I can’t remember a time when I haven’t been interested in wildlife (or Star Trek). Since university I have pursued a career in ecology as apparently Starship Captain is “not a valid occupation”. I’ve travelled across the country for various wildlife jobs but every time I returned to York, I would always head to St Nicks. I originally stumbled across the site volunteering with the BTCV. Before, if you had told me there was a nature reserve in the centre of York, I would have laughed at you… but it was true! A careers adviser suggested I move on to other placements, but I decided if I hung around St Nicks long enough, they might give me a job. Turned out that was also true!
What does a typical day involve?
A typical Discover Nature session in the BEFORE TIMES would involve participants catching up in the morning. Each session had a particular theme, be it squirrels, pollinators, evolution… and even once, making model reindeer out of sticks (we don’t talk about this anymore). After a quick presentation, we spent the remaining session time outside, exploring the reserve and looking for wildlife. Due to the pandemic, I currently make video sessions: https://bit.ly/2Yyav2i
What aspects of Ecotherapy are you passionate about and why is Ecotherapy so important?
Ecotherapy is important because nature is an incredible resource for healing and is (mostly) readily available. As a long-term sufferer of anxiety it has helped me many times in the past. If I can help people feel even slightly more comfortable accessing nature, that is time well spent.
What would you say to somebody who is thinking about enrolling on to Ecotherapy?
Do it! I have found that sometimes the hardest thing is building up enough courage to try something that MIGHT help me, because the fear of it NOT helping is too great. If I overcome that fear, it opens so many opportunities. Also, if it helps, we have access to plentiful biscuits.
What’s your favourite way to connect with nature?
I enjoy watching birds on feeders. It’s quite relaxing. Also, during the pandemic, one of the blackbirds in my garden (“Beaky!) trained me to feed him. He never fails to lift my spirits.
Do you have a top tip for others who want to improve their wellbeing through connection with nature?
Go outside and look for nature EVERY day. It doesn’t have to be long, even just two minutes. And it doesn’t have to be “nature-y” nature, like kingfishers, deer or hippos. Even “mundane nature” can lift your spirits – look how well a seagull soars, the subtle beauty of a female mallard, or the antics of city pigeons.
To find out more about Phil’s work you can follow him on Twitter @greenunderwing or visit his website Green Underwing Wildlife Education. To learn more about Ecotherapy including how to join Phil’s Discover Nature group, take a look at our web pages here or contact Kathy Sturgess at firstname.lastname@example.org.