September always feels like a new beginning – and the North York Moors National Park has designated it Mindful Month with a host of feel-good outdoor events to feed the soul – from yoga to birdsong walks and more.

Great British Life: Listen to the song thrush on a birdsong safari. (c) Richard BainesListen to the song thrush on a birdsong safari. (c) Richard Baines

Listen to birdsong

For a man who has been intrigued by birds since he was nine, it’s a surprise when Richard Baines says he’s obsessed with song thrushes - you might expect him to be by less recognised birds.

He quickly qualifies the reasons for this fascination by explaining: 'Song thrushes were once known as the ‘Nightingales of the North’. Nightingales, which are widely considered to be the world’s best singers, don’t nest north of the Humber and arguably, I would say, song thrushes are actually better vocally.

'Male song thrushes have an incredible variety to their singing and an ability to mimic surrounding sounds whether it’s the call of a curlew or oystercatcher, or even a car alarm. Each male finds different notes and sounds that makes their singing unique from other song thrushes.'

This year, Richard, who runs the wildlife tourism business Yorkshire Coast Nature with wildlife photographer Steve Race, has been helping people experience the delights of listening on his Bird Sound Safaris in Dalby Forest. For Mindful Month he’s also joining with Adventures for the Soul to guide people on a sensory Twilight Nature Safari in Ellerburn.

He explains his approach to mindfulness.

Great British Life: A woodland meditation workshop. (c) Olivia BrabbsA woodland meditation workshop. (c) Olivia Brabbs

'There are multiple layers of mindfulness really. One is that just walking in the countryside or more natural surroundings, even if it’s a garden, takes you away from a normal work or home environment; away from noises and distractions.

'Then there’s a passive kind of mindfulness when you stop and listen to the whole symphony of sound – from birds, insects or the weather – close your eyes and drink in the experience.

'The third, and almost meditative layer comes when you filter out the rest of the symphony to concentrate on one sound. When I was about 11 and really getting into birdwatching, I realised I needed to learn the sounds that each bird makes and since then this aspect has become more important in my life.

'By concentrating and getting into the zone using directional hearing to block out other sounds you can home in on one call or song and forget about everything else in life. Birdwatching is fantastic but there’s always a chance you might not see the birds you’d perhaps hoped to glimpse. It is often more rewarding, and a richer experience, to listen to the myriad calls and songs that birds make. In a wood or forest, hearing is the most important sense as there’s even less chance of sighting birds.

'Some people do struggle to pick out individual sounds and it does take practice particularly switching off the primary sense of sight and letting your ears do the work, but once you achieve this, it can be incredibly absorbing, and restful.”

Which brings us back to Richard’s obsession with song thrushes, as he mentions how captivating it was this spring trying to identify all the different frequencies and pitches of sound the birds make.

Great British Life: Enjoy a Bird Sound Safari in Dalby Forest. (c) NYMNPEnjoy a Bird Sound Safari in Dalby Forest. (c) NYMNP

Now, as autumn approaches, and with Richard lining up more Bird Sound Safaris for October, there are sounds of a different kind on the horizon as huge numbers of migratory birds begin to arrive to overwinter on our shores.

'We can expect to hear crossbills in Dalby Forest, fieldfares, finches such as siskins and thrushes of a different sort – redwings,' says Richard.

'These are nocturnal migrants who won’t have touched land since leaving Siberia. Twilight at the end of September is a perfect time to hear flocks of redwings as they fly over and make their distinctive contact calls as a way of checking they’re in the company of other redwings on the way to their wintering grounds.'

Richard then neatly sums up why mindful birding is so good: “Many years ago I realised that birds, along with other wildlife, are the jewels in a wild place; there’s a delight in discovering those jewels.'


Great British Life: Rievaulx Abbey nr Helmsley. (c) Nigel Wallace-IlesRievaulx Abbey nr Helmsley. (c) Nigel Wallace-Iles

Gardening sustainably

Guests are welcome to book a free appointment to learn how sustainable permaculture techniques adopted at Yoga and Spice Retreat Centre near Whitby can be used on any size of garden.

Creative writing

Join published author and poet Clare Challoner Walker and Janet Dean for an absorbing and inspirational day at Danby Lodge National Park Centre to ‘awaken the writer within’.

Yoga in beautiful locations

There’s an array of yoga sessions happening in beauty spots such as South Cliff Gardens, Scarborough or on the beaches at Whitby and Sandsend. Alternatively visitors can head slightly inland, either to the tranquil riverside setting of Yoga & Spice; Helmsley for a walking and yoga weekend; an evening session at Coast and Camplight coinciding with the Harvest Moon; or a yoga practice combined with a sensory nature walk in the grounds of High Dalby House.

Mindful walking

Join Wild Walks for a series of guided walks in scenic spots like Riccal Dale, Rievaulx, Ampleforth and Kilburn Woods learning mindfulness nature techniques as you stroll along.


Take the opportunity to visit the Staithes Festival of Art and Heritage or head to Danby Lodge National Park Centre for a restful stroll around the Inspired by… gallery’s exhibition The Secret Life of Hedgerows. Coinciding with the exhibition are sessions with the artist in residence Bridget Bailey where visitors can either learn more about her ‘nature table’ inspiration or join in with a knapweed flower craft workshop.

Sound meditation

Be immersed in the restorative and soothing effects of sound meditation by joining an evening session at Coast and Camplight at Stainsacre.

Twilight and dark sky meanders

Learn more about the wonders of the night sky with a dark sky meander coupled with stargazing session with Adventures for the Soul at High Dalby House. Alternatively join Yorkshire Coast Nature and Adventures for the Soul at Gumboots and Wellingtons, Ellerburn for a twilight nature safari and stargazing.

Open air swimming or a beach sauna

Helmsley’s Open Air Swimming Pool is open throughout September including some night time sessions, for those looking for a refreshing dip. Alternatively head to Whitby and Sandsend beaches to try the health benefits of combining cold dips in the sea with the warmth of a sauna.

Mindfulness Course

Claire Rodway, Woodland Wellbeing Officer uses the beautiful Raincliffe Woods for a number of sessions on her 8-week Mindfulness Course which begins in September.

For more programme information and individual event booking details go to