An urban hedgerow photowalk
Today I’m sharing some tips for a sweet and simple idea for your 2mk walk: turn into into a hedgerow photowalk.
We got lucky with our rental house, in that it’s near beautiful woods and beaches, but alas both of those are closed at the moment leaving us with seemingly bland suburban roads and few open green spaces, neither of which are particularly toddler-friendly. However, in the past few weeks I’ve seen small pockets of nature explode everywhere.
Slowing down to really look at what’s growing by the side of the road, on bushes, trees and even pavement cracks makes even the most boring 2km come alive. A hedgerow walk is like a mini mindfulness exercise, grounding you in the here and now while also helping you get to know your local flora and fauna a bit better.
On our recent walk, we popped Ari on my back for the first part of it (we’re still using the Boba X carrier), let him run around wherever it was safe to do so and then napped him in the pram on the walk home.
Here are some tips that helped us, they might work for you.
Bring whatever camera you have
Whatever you’ve got at home will work, whether it’s your phone, an SLR, an old hand-held digital camera or something like an Instax. The aim is to bring something that encourages you to slow down and take a closer look at things.
You can freestyle and simply shoot whatever catches your eye or give yourself a theme to explore (for example, everything you stand on during your walk, from grey pavements to dandelion-strewn grass) or even stick to a specific colour (kids love this!). If you have any kind of zoom or macro feature, use to get as close as possible and completely fill the frame with your subject.
Play with depth of field too – I’m definitely usually a ‘wide open’ gal, favouring open apertures that blur the background and make whatever you have focused on pop. But, perhaps inspired by our lockdown life (or maybe it’s the Jamie Beck effect), on a recent walk I found myself wanting to create shots that captured as much detail as possible – every line on every leaf and every tiny petal (that buttercup pic, above left, was shot at f14).
I firmly believe that the best camera is the one you have with you , so if you feel like yours isn’t great, stick to exploring lines and composition or playing with negative space (the above shots were all taken and edited on my phone).
Learn about what you’re looking at
I’ve been blown away by the variety of flowers and foliage in our neighbourhood. Sure, there are daisies, buttercups and dandelions aplenty, but also delicate bluebells, the soft white blooms of three-cornered leek (edible!), pretty purple mother of thousands tumbling between over a stone wall and, if you’re lucky, wild garlic (wild garlic pesto is one of my Very Favourite Things. Donal has a great recipe here).
If you want to learn more about what you come across, the Picture This app is pure magic – it uses AI to help you identify flowers, trees, leaves and weeds with just a quick snap. There’s also a handy list of Irish wildflowers found in urban areas here.
The last time my nephew came to stay with us (pre-lockdown), we gave him a little clipboard and some paper and a pencil and he loved making a nature walk list of things he wanted to see, ticking things off as we found them (Pinterest also has lots of handy printable nature hunt PDFs).
Become an urban birder
Birds are another fun thing to spot in your garden or on your walks. We bought a few feeders from CJ Wildlife at Christmas and they came with this lovely little poster that helps you identify the different species. The Irish Times has a beautifully illustrated guide to garden birds as well and National Botanical Gardens released a fun garden bird bingo PDF too.
If you feel bitten by the bird bug (which I certainly have been since returning to live in Ireland), there are few books you might enjoy: The Genius of Birds and How to Be an Urban Birder (which, improbably, features an intro from Jamie Oliver!).
Pick a hedgrow bouquet
Goes without saying, don’t nick anything from private or community gardens! I foraged this little collection of blooms and greens (along with some three-cornered leek) just outside our estate, at the side of a busy connecting road to brighten up my desk and remind me of what’s waiting for me next time I head outside.
And that’s it! Would love to know if you’ve gone on a wander or a forage and to hear about what you’ve found in your area.