Nature is wonderful*. In an age where there is a growing drive towards ‘mindfulness’ we are, once again, beginning to appreciate the natural world. Perhaps it’s also because we have an ever-increasing awareness of the damage that humans are causing to our fragile planet. Either way, there is so much in nature that causes me to be constantly awestruck.
A lot of these marvels leave me shaking me head and thinking, ‘surely this magnificence cannot have just happened, surely there must be a Divine Creator of all of this?’. I’ll save a blog post on my faith for a rainy day, but in the meantime, here is a list of 16 of the most wonderful things in nature.
Photos, where uncredited, are my own.
*Be warned – this post will contain a lot of adjectives.
1. Romanesco broccoli
I wasn’t very good at being a student. Whilst my peers were acquainting themselves with the pubs and clubs of Southampton, I decided that I would swap an alcohol budget for an organic veg box. Being a subscriber of Abel & Cole enabled me to try a whole host of vegetables that I had never come across (and I’m a farm girl!) including the incredible romanesco broccoli. The first time one of these appeared in my veg box I remember holding it in my hands and just being utterly astonished that such a thing could exist. The geometry was mesmerising. It sat at the front of the fridge for days before I could bring myself to cut it up.
Our garden is something of an eyesore (our landlord stipulates that we may not prune because we would get it wrong, the garden is subsequently fountainously overgrown) but one of the beauties it contains is a passion vine. I find passion flowers inexplicably beautiful – there seems to be so much going on with them; they look like the imaginings of a child drawing flowers from a galactic planet.
I watch a lot of David Attenborough and I recently watched an episode of ‘Life’ that had a sequence in about a chameleon; it is that which has inspired me to include them in this list. Everything about them is incredible, from their famous camouflage skin, to their eyes that can move independently of each other, and their propelling tongue which also has the ability to grab. They are weird and wonderful animals.
This is not the traditional picture of a peacock. We are so used to seeing pictures of them with their tail feathers up, but this picture shows that beauty from a different angle – the iridescent feathers are like a waterfall and struck me as surprisingly long and dense. I took this photograph last year when visiting Warwick Castle.
I bought this little ammonite in Dorset last month. It’s over a million years old and it comes from Madagascar. It seems slightly obscene that I was able to buy something so old and well-travelled for a mere £3 and have it become my property – it seems somewhat absurd and disrespectful that it sits on my dressing table when I feel like it ought to be in a glass cabinet for all to see, or wrapped in cotton wool and put in a box. Does that sound like the ravings of a fanatic? Does that sentiment make any sense? Regardless of whether or not it is right to take this beautiful and ancient object and sell it so cheaply in a tourist shop in Southern England, I think fossils are beyond extraordinary. I love the idea of something being so miraculously preserved for such an inconceivably long period of time.
This photograph is of one of the London Zoo giraffes. I first went to London Zoo when I was three years old. It was the first time I had seen a giraffe and I was amazed. They are such peculiarly beautiful animals, with stilts for legs, skin like scorched earth and a neck like a swan. Then there are their curious little horns and their mouths that look like burger buns. There was an incredible clip on David Attenborough (I forget which series, it was either Life Story or The Hunt) of male giraffes fighting- using their necks to clash against each other. There was another clip of a giraffe fighting a lioness. They look innocent enough, but these majestic beauties are undoubtedly a force to be reckoned with.
I could have also listed kingfishers and blue tits here. Basically, I’m sold on anything that bears colours that look like it’s flown into a paint box. I used to have a wooden macaw hanging from my bedroom ceiling when I was a child so I’ve always had a soft spot for them.
8. Venus fly traps
These things have always fascinated me. The plant snaps shut when an insect enters and makes contact with two of the spines in the middle within 20 seconds. It then devours the insect. I don’t think there’s anything more menacing and ‘Jurassic Park’ in the plant kingdom.
First, the bright yellow flowers and then these glorious globes of seeds. I love being in a field of dandelions on a slightly blustery day.
10. Starling murmurations
A cloud of birds. Utterly preposterous and magnificent.
These are one of my favourite flowers. They are even still beautiful when the flowers have faded and all that is left is the seed head. I took this photograph at Wimpole, a National Trust property near Cambridge.
12. Caterpillar to butterfly
I had the very good fortune last year of finding a butterfly that had just emerged from the chrysalis. It was basking in the sun and flitting its wings to dry them out. I filmed it and in the video you can actually hear each crisp wing beat. I could have also included the life cycle of the frog here, but decided to stick with butterflies. It boggles my mind that a butterfly was a caterpillar, and all it had to do was eat some leaves, make a nest, have a sleep and emerge as a totally different creature.
These both confuse and scare me, but they are nonetheless extremely beautiful. I took this photograph at the aquarium in Southsea.
14. Frost patterns
It is a treat on a frosty morning to discover that my car windscreen looks like this. I always feel like an eco-vandal to have to get the ice-scraper and scrape away the intricate and delicate patterns that the frost has made on the glass. I would also add snowflakes and hoarfrosts to this category.
15. Bluebell woods
A quintessentially English sight in springtime is the bluebell wood. This photograph was taken at Brantwood in the Lake District, the former home of John Ruskin.
16. Sunrise / Sunset
(If you now have ‘Sunrise, Sunset’ from ‘Fiddler on the Roof’ stuck in your head, then my work here is done!)
I was beyond fortunate to grow up in the countryside. My bedroom faced east and looked out onto fields, so I was always treated to a beautiful and uninterrupted sunrise. My favourite place to view the sunset from was the top of the farmyard. There is something so spectacular about sunrises and sunsets because each one is unique depending on the time of year, the weather conditions, cloud-cover etc. They are always over so quickly and when I see a beautiful sunrise or sunset I always become like an excitable child – “Quick! quick! Look at it! Quick, before it goes!”
What have I missed from this list? What would you include on a list of natural wonders? Please leave me a comment below.