YOU don’t have to be an artist to keep a nature journal, but it’s always a delight to see a professional at work.
In her Drawn Into Nature blog, Bristol artist Jules Woolford explains how her love for the natural world led her to a career helping people to engage with nature and wildlife. And her @DrawnIntoNature Twitter account echoes that fascination.
“When I discovered the world of journaling, it was a natural progression to begin keeping a traditional nature journal, like my idols Edith Holden and Beatrix Potter,” she says.
Her beautifully illustrated journal is a personal, creative response to the natural world in which she shares stories of the flora and wildlife she encounters. But it’s more than that too, as we revealed in a feature earlier this year.
“My mission is to encourage as many people as possible to join me in creating their own journal,” she says. “I’m passionate about showing people the wonder of the natural world, literally ‘on the doorstep’. Gardens, local parks and green spaces, even roadside verges.
“You don’t have to live in an idyllic rural setting to engage with nature; part of my journaling patch is an ex-landfill site! My garden isn’t grand or landscaped, but it’s a wildlife friendly habitat full of native plants. We have a regular procession of daily visitors who keep us entertained….”
And she is adamant that the life-changing benefits are not dependent on someone being a talented artist. “The good news is that it doesn’t matter,” she insists. “Improving your drawing comes over time, and keeping a journal is the ideal way to practise your skills.
“Looking deeply at nature helps you fine-tune your observation, and that helps you develop your drawing skills.”
Her blog came about through wanting to connect with others like herself who were interested in discovering the wonders of engaging more fully with the world around them.
She says: “Our lives are filled with noise, busy work, and negative stress. I’m on a journey to slow down and simplify; concentrate on experiences rather than things, try to worry less, be more grateful, and kind.
“Sometimes I take two (or three) steps backwards, but I keep going. Through my journals, I try to be an advocate for nature, caring for the planet and the life within it. I’m fascinated by the stories we’ve created about the natural world, and I love sharing these little tales from history, folklore and fable.”
If her mission sounds inspiring, take a moment to enjoy those wonderful pictures: in her occasional newsletters, Jules is frank about the fact that life can be an uphill struggle at times.
“I’ve been a bit lost with Notes from Nature in 2021,” she told her followers. “Life’s overtaken me, and I know from your kind messages and comments that many of you have felt the same this year.
“It’s been the kindness of friends and the lovely folk who follow me online which has kept me going, so a huge thank you to you all.
Back among the chittering grey squirrels scurrying to raid the hazel trees and cache their winter stores, Jules is only too well aware that this is the real world, where it is only too easy to overlook the important stuff: the autumn songs of blackbird and robin, the hedgerows decked in their autumn finery of deep red rose hips, crimson hawthorn and purple sloes.
She writes of her delight that a wonderful ‘ lost’ apple orchard on her patch has been brought back to life, full of old varieties with wonderful names such as Merton Charm, King of the Pippins, Gascoigne’s Scarlet, and Ashmeads Kernel.
But she’s conscious too that time spent on social media can be problematic, even when it brings so many positive benefits too.
“I learn something with every post I write and every drawing I do. That’s pretty amazing when you think about it,” she says.
“It’s easy to feel guilty, and forget about self-care when you seem to have so many responsibilities. I even begin to worry when I don’t post online – so this year I’ve tried to spend even spend more time than normal just being in nature; simply because that is the most important issue for me.
“I’ve not made as many journal pages as last year – but it’s fine.”
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