5 (free) places in Norwich to help you feel connected to nature

Written by Common Ground Leader, Saskia Reynolds

Nature is a huge part of what helps me get up in the morning. Doing anything from walking to the corner shop to going on a 2-hour long hike with friends helps me feel clear-headed and like a real human person. ‘Nature’ doesn’t have to equal being in the middle of nowhere in the countryside, or being on top of a mountain surrounded by amazing views; nature is breathing in fresh air after a day cooped up inside, or noticing how the colours of your neighbour’s hedge changes depending on the weather.

Below are a few of the places in Norwich I like to go to when I need a nature-based pick-me-up.

1. The Plantation Garden

The Plantation Garden feels like a hidden gem amidst the flurry of movement in the city centre of Norwich. I like to think of it as a microcosm of one of its larger, distant relatives, Kew Gardens in London; when you walk into The Plantation Gardens, the sounds of the city quieten, allowing you to focus on the serene beauty of the space. There are many nooks and crannies to explore.

It’s a space that also has the advantage of being beautiful all year round: this photo was taken in the height of summer last year, when everything felt clammy and humid. Today I walked up to the Garden and all of the trees and flowers were damp from last night’s rainfall, and everything smelt fresh and alive. Take a seat on one of the many benches. Bring a picnic, or a book, or nothing at all and just enjoy the scenery.

2. Eaton Park

I am perhaps a little biased, as I used to live two minutes away from here when I was at university, but Eaton Park is a wonderfully diverse, ever-changing space. From people passing through on their commute to work, to Extinction Rebellion’s samba rehearsals and weekly parkrun sessions, it’s somewhere that is ready to transform into whatever you need it to be on any given day. Think of it like the Room of Requirement, except with more green and less indoors.

My favourite spot for a bit of calmness is on one of the benches next to the pond opposite the bandstand. Often the local warden, a rather handsome heron, will make himself known and perch on one of the lily pads on the water to observe his surroundings.

If you do decide to listen to the meditation below, welcome the sounds of children running past you or of dogs barking. Or if you’re listening to it whilst taking an evening stroll, elevated by the sounds of people practising in the skate park, and the gentle birdsong muffled by the dark.

3. The Sainsbury Centre

As an alternative to an outdoor green space, The UEA’s Sainsbury Centre offers a carefully curated tour through modern art and sculpture in a calm atmosphere. There are often exhibitions running (free to all UEA students) as well. Alongside the art on display, The Sainsbury Centre also boasts a beautiful café. The Modern Life Café features floor to ceiling windows that allow you to admire UEA’s green campus, stretching out beyond the constantly changing range of outdoor sculptures on display.

4. The UEA Broad

Just opposite The Sainsbury Centre, the UEA Broad is one of the highlights of the UEA campus. I’ve always loved the juxtaposition between UEA’s stoic brutalist architecture, and its vast green and natural landscapes—perhaps a metaphor for the need for a student work-life balance? You can take a gentle stroll around the lake, or go further afield and continue to walk along the River Yare, up to the Eaton area and then back down to the lake. If a trek isn’t quite your thing, I recommend taking a seat around the far edge of the UEA lake, facing the ziggurats. When the sun sets, the reflective glass of the Ziggurats’ windows turns a wonderful shade of metallic pink.

5. Wherever you are!

At the end of the day, you can interact with the natural world wherever you are. Even if it’s just by looking out of your bedroom window, taking a moment to appreciate the beautiful world around us is a great way to cheer yourself up. And if it’s raining, just remember that that rain is feeding all of the plants you can see, and giving them life, which is a wonderful thing!

To listen to the walking meditation, play the video below.

Big (big, big) thank you to Chloe Yates for collaborating with me to create the walking meditation!

Photo credits: Saskia Reynolds

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