Nature Images Reduce Stress And Reconnect People To The Places They Love During Lockdown

  • Looking at images of nature can help reduce stress
  • Weekly live video updates from Mount Stewart prove hugely popular
  • Top performing video features the rare red squirrel
  • Trust pledges to keep supporters connected to the places they love

The National Trust is delivering a series of live videos from Mount Stewart to connect people with nature as lockdown continues to stop people visiting their places.

“If people can’t come to see our places, we will bring our places to them.” This is the pledge of Heather McLachlan, Director of the National Trust in Northern Ireland which has ramped up its online presence with daily doses of nature content for fans and followers of the conservation charity.

Following government guidance, the Trust closed its parks and gardens in addition to its houses, cafes and shops on 22 March, but since then it has remained committed to bringing people closer to nature by sharing films, pictures and live video content of spring unfolding at its places.

There’s plenty of scientific evidence that experiencing nature is hugely beneficial to our health and wellbeing, but recent studies[1] have shown that just looking at images of nature can also help to reduce stress levels.

One of the most popular posts to date has been a live stream from the Red Squirrel Hide at Mount Stewart hosted by ranger Toby Edwards in which three red squirrels can be seen playing and feeding in the background – one even comes right up to the camera for a nosey.

The red squirrel was once abundant in Ireland but has drastically reduced in numbers and distribution over the last 50 years. A priority species for special protection in Northern Ireland there are thought to be 40-45 red squirrels living on the Mount Stewart demesne and around 100-120 across the Ards peninsula.

Notoriously difficult to spot, the live video of the squirrels delighted the audience and has had over 5,400 views to date. In response the team are now posting a daily #MountStewartMoment including regular live streams from the property where a number of rangers and garden staff remain on the estate to carry out essential tasks. 

A second live video from the red squirrel hide is planned for the 5th May 11am on Facebook when Toby hopes some young squirrels, or kittens as are they are known, will make an appearance.

“I spotted a pair of kittens on the estate at the start of April,” explains Toby. “This is really early for the kits to be seen as they usually don’t emerge from their dreys until late May or early June. The early breeding season is a continuation of the late breeding last year which continued into December as a result of the mild winter. Although the reds behaviour hasn’t changed significantly due to the estate being closed to visitors, the reduced noise and low levels of disturbance has encouraged them to approach the hide more confidently so there should be plenty of squirrel activity for people to watch from their homes.”

Other video themes have included the arrival of the Red Mason Bee, woodland walks, wet habitat restoration, bats and more.

“Now more than ever before we recognise the importance of connecting people with nature,” says Heather McLachlan regional director for the Trust in Northern Ireland.

“We hope that by sharing daily dose of sunshine we can bring moments of happiness to people in their homes.

“We may feel like our lives have been put on pause during this exceptional time, but nature doesn’t stop. Spring is still unfolding at our places and we want to remind people of the beauty of nature through pictures and video of those special moments. The emergence of spring flowers, frog spawn in our ponds, the first sighting of a swallow, a spring sunrise – these are events that our visitors and members will be missing as they follow government advice and stay at home. By sharing these moments online, we hope we can help our members, visitors and supporters stay connected to the places that they love.

Heather continues: “We know that when this crisis is over, we’re all going to need fresh air, open space and beauty more than ever before. We are keen to show people that while we’re closed there’s still essential work going on behind the scenes thanks to the vital funds that come from our membership subscriptions.

“Our staff are keeping places and collections safe and secure, our rangers are out in many places caring for vulnerable wildlife, and important gardens are being tended and cared for so they’ll be there long into the future.”

For a daily dose of nature with the National Trust follow @NationalTrustNI on Facebook, Instagram or Twitter.

Search #MountStewartMoment and tune into @NTmountstewart on Facebook for live video details.