Solitude is like medicine to me.
I like the company of others, don't get me wrong, but spending time alone, especially in nature, is something I find priceless.
I recently walked to a nearby wood which is part of the the Woodland Trust - a charity I've just joined. The wood was Wither Wood in Denby Dale, West Yorkshire.
There's something about being in a wooded area which I find very therapeutic and exciting. I can remember repeatedly watching Robin Hood Prince of Thieves when I was a boy. I loved how it was good guy V bad guy in a wood.
Did I want to be Robin Hood?
Damn right I did!
When I finally arrived at my destination (which was at 11am - I set off at 8:30am) the first thing I did was sit on a bench and pour myself a hot drink from my flask. I'm not a fan of flasked tea - is anyone? - so instead of tea or coffee I decided to put in half a cinnamon stick and a spoon full of honey.
I drank nearly all of it whilst looking over the valley and listening to my surroundings.
The sun shot golden rays through the almost bare canopy, silhouetting a couple of squirrels as they sat on branches eating acorns. Blue tits, great tits, coal tits, black birds, magpies and robins all came to pay me a visit and to sing me their own version of nature's song.
Dog walkers plodded past, always commenting on how amazing the morning was. Their dogs bounced ecstatically ahead, not getting too far without stopping and turning around to make sure their masters were following.
I set off walking again and did a tour of the wood, which took about an hour. The ground was carpeted with yew tree needles and sycamore and oak leaves. It was very boggy in places but this seasonal rug seemed to soak it up, adding a spring in my step in the process.
Held in my hand was the Woodland Trust Leaf identification swatch book; a free gift when you join the charity. This made it so much easier to identify the trees who were keeping me company on my tour.
For about ten minutes I stood and watched three squirrels in one oak tree. One of them was staring at me barking and screaming. I wasn't even anywhere near, but I must've come across as a threat. Have you heard a squirrel bark? It's a strange noise. Not something you expect coming from such a creature. It kind of sounded like a depressed firework without the bang. . . if you can imagine that.
Later on in the day when I was telling my family about my little trip, I was surprised that both of my sisters asked the same question: What music did you listen to?
Anybody who knows me knows how much I love music. But there's a time and place for it. And walking in nature isn't either of them.
I can't imagine sticking my earphones in and ignoring the sounds of nature. How much I would've missed if I had!
For me, a walk is very much a sensory treat. My senses come alive and anything mental which may be taking up space, soon evaporates. This is why they recommend a walk in nature if you suffer from a mental illness or if you just 'want to get a way from it all'.
If you would like more information about the Woodlands Trust, visit: www.woodlandtrust.org.uk
You could be helping a lot by joining for less than £3 a month.
Happy walking. :-)