Take a walk through Windmill Woods, and you’ll find a cacophony of creative jewels glinting in the undergrowth…

York is home to many groups and individuals providing proactive help and support in the community. However, looking after the wellbeing of residents isn’t just about food banks and street kitchens. Encouraging people to get out into nature, especially now we spend so much time inside, is vitally important.

We know that nature is good for our health – no statistics necessary. Add this to the well-known benefits of regular exercise and there’s definitely more than one reason to go out for a wander. But, as any City-dweller knows, nature trails are often few and far between.

York may be something of an exception. The Knavesmire, Walmgate Stray and Askham Bog are just a few places where locals can immerse themselves in wildlife. Each of these wide open spaces are home to diverse ecosystems and have been fiercely protected by environmental activists in the face of ‘development’. Last October, XR York processed through Askham Bog at twilight carrying 11 giant paper lanterns shaped like fern leaves.

Another much-frequented nature site is Windmill Woods, which runs alongside Windmill Lane. The shady, mulch-y woodland snakes from York’s residential suburbs to Heslington Church and onto the University campus.

What makes Windmill Woods unique is that it has become a work of dynamic art. Beginning as the project of a local ecologist, the path that winds through the woods is scattered with a growing number of painted rocks. Each rock is decorated with a positive message, or paintings of the creatures that avid nature watchers hope to spot in the undergrowth and in the trees.

‘Please help keep Windmill Woods beautiful’

Each day, walkers can notice a new rock, or find that the rock they saw nestled in the bluebells has migrated to a nearby tree stump overnight.

At the same time as giving residents a much needed dose of Mother Nature, Windmill Woods offers a creative outlet for nature lovers. The DIY nature trail shows just how important communal arts can be in promoting wellbeing in the community. The project proves that wellness doesn’t have to come with a hefty price tag either, despite what the health industry might have us believe.

Each painted rock is a physical representation of the hope that nature will continue to thrive. At XR York, we’re looking forward to seeing more and more rocks added to the trail. If you would like to add your own rock, please remember to place it to the side of the pathway.

Join us at 7.30pm on Tuesdays for our weekly meeting, hosted on Zoom. You can find the meeting ID and password on our social media pages (Twitter, Instagram, Facebook) or in our meeting minutes.

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