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Forest bathing and beach tracks

I don’t have any new projects to post this week as I am taking few weeks off, but I’ve been walking as usual and covered some good distance this weekend. I’m still exploring ‘locally’ which for me means covering around 10-15 km a day. I could walk more locally, but the forest is a bit scruffy around here and I prefer to go further out. Anyway, I couldn’t imagine a better way to spend the time than exploring.

Forest bathing in the woods

Yesterday I did a 10 km circular walk passing the Tallinn TV Tower and ending up in the nicer parts of Pirita Forest. I think this is now my favourite place for forest bathing as it’s so quiet compared to the city centre. There were plenty of people around, but social distancing is not really a problem here once you keep off the main tracks. I found a pretty, quiet spot, had some tea and took in big breaths of pine forrest.

Today I wanted to find out if I could walk to the beach (as I really miss it), so I set off around noon. The beach from here is about 5 km away and I usually take a bus. But with no public transport option today I had to walk and it was a great walk too in the woods and by the river. I might even take this route occasionally once the lock-down ends. The return walk was less than 12 km and the beach was lovely today.

Pirita beach and forest

I hope next week will be more eventful and maybe some interesting project comes up.. But for now I just keep doing my loops and keep fingers crossed the world opens up soon. Be safe and keep walking!

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Walks in the woods

Everyone should be able to walk into the forest from where they live. Tallinn is luckily quite a small city compared to some other capitals and nature is never too far off. Yet it can be far (as I discovered this week) if you don’t own a car or can use the public transport (which by the way is free). So I’ve been doing some pretty long walks this week to get into the woods during the lock-down.

I walked another 30 km this weekend just like last week and discovered more of the Pirita river valley. It’s not very attractive where I am based right now, but it gets lot better in about 2 km with high river banks on both sides and pine forests along the river banks. Watching wild ducks practising fly-bys along the river valley was not what I expected to see in urban environment.

It’s not all amazing, I’ve also seen lot of rubbish and neglect in these few days – it is still a city and the nature gets the impact from densely populated area. Many people have not been respectful of social distancing and the car parks are full despite of the lock-down.. But across the river Pirita forest’s intertwining tracks were still quiet in most parts and less impacted by the hordes in the valley.

Walking track in Pirita Forest
Pine trees
Teepee made of branches

Local walks in the woods have definitely made my week and I also finished the ‘greener and healthier walking app’ design prototype I’ve been working on for the past week or two for my Coursera project. This was my final submission and I’m quite happy how it turned out (below). If anyone would like to try, the interactive version is in Visme as well.

As it has been pretty quiet over here I’ve decided to take a two week break and hope things pick up again when I resume working. 🤞

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Corona, connecting with nature and Coursera

I am going to change the format of this blog a little and instead of posting only finished projects I will reuse the same method I did with my travel blog few years back – I will talk about what I do on ongoing bases and include the projects as part of the weekly/twice a month posts ( depending how I’m getting on with this time wise and if there’s anyone interested reading it every week) : )

There’s not much new to say about Corona as it’s hit us here in Estonia just as anywhere else. The country went to lock-down as precaution and everything pretty much shut down this week. We’ll see what the long term effects of this will be, but right now the supermarkets are still well stocked (as my Friday shopping trip confirmed) and panic buying does not have such a big impact here (yet).

Things for me were quiet even before the global pandemic and apart of one map project there’s nothing happening right now. The great news is this means I can go for the walks also inside the week and not only on the weekends. Avoiding public transport and not owning a car means I have to discover my local neighbourhood which at first seemed dispiriting, but turned out to be lot better than I expected!

So for three days this week I’ve explored the walks around Pirita river valley – one of the biggest nature reserves in this area. I’ve often walked on the Pirita beach, but I haven’t been in the river valley for years and I didn’t realise how close they are linked. This week I was able to connect the two tracks and discover a new long distance walk that passes some of the most beautiful scenery in the city.

The Pirita forest is a dense urban forest of dominantly beach pine and the river winds through it, offering stunning views on every turn – on one side of high white sand banks and on other of reed beds and abundant wild fowl. It’s amazing to see the nature thriving in the middle of the city, so close to urban development. This is also an active leisure area and yet it remains very calm and spacious.

Calm views across the river towards sand banks and pine forest

As much as I’m loving my social isolation walks it’s also certain things won’t stay this quiet forever. So for the last few weeks I’ve also been taking an online course at Coursera to see if this will bring in some new ideas and ideally new work. I’m taking the UX design fundamentals by Cal Arts and I really enjoy it and can highly recommend it to anyone interested to know more of UX.

My final self-chosen course project is an app prototype for planning greener and healthier journeys and the core idea is to offer alternative route suggestions based on air quality, noise levels, urban greenery and activity count. So this is what I am working on right now and fingers crossed this could also evolve to a real world project.

Anyone out there interested in building or funding it? : )

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Map of Waterfalls in London Parks

After taking a creative break in Edinburgh I’m back in discovering the natural wonders of London. So todays infographic/map is about waterfalls! Waterfalls in London doesn’t really sound likely, but London actually has quite a few waterfalls, although most of them are man-made. Some parks are quite well known for their water cascades such as Regent’s Park and Kyoto Garden in Holland Park, but did you know there’s a beautiful waterfall on the Carshalton Ponds in Sutton or a quirky brutalist style cascade in Barbican Estate?

There is something really tranquil about being near the water and sound of waterfall has a very calming effect. However with the loss of natural environment and man-made structures replacing the nature, the real waterfalls and cascading rivers in cities have become scarce. Artificial structures like ponds and steps may replace the nature, but they are far from being the real thing. If more city parks would have real streams and waterfalls this would help considerably to create quiet pockets, where to relax and enjoy the nature.

I’ve seen many amazing ‘real’ waterfalls around the world and you may argue cities are not a place for waterfalls, but I disagree. I think cities are exactly the right place for anything that would make it more natural/calm/wild/interesting and better for its residents. For example why couldn’t there be a waterfall park in London, where people in all ages could go to relax and hear the water flowing. River Wandle is hardly a Minoo Park, but maybe, with a little help, it could be? 🌊

 

WaterfallMap

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Common Tree Leaves hand-illustrated graphic

Ruskin said (and I’m not sure I would have liked the man himself if we had met, but he had some good points) that drawing makes us understand the world around us more. Only through drawing person can really get into core of things and if there is a one skill I like to master – it’s drawing.

I’ve always loved watercolour as a medium and as I was yearning for a break from screens, initially decided to use it for the initial sketch. But as I enjoyed the whole process so much I decided to take a leap and make the whole graphic with watercolour illustrations! 🙌

My next step was to draw and paint the leaves in a notebook. I used the internet as reference for my secondary research. It’s also a quicker method than going out and finding all the leaves.. although this would make a great project! Drawing and sketching 25 leaves from reference took me a day.

I also decided not to take an easy route and use a digital font, but to handwrite tree names in the notebook as well. As I rarely write any more I had to do some practice runs, but quite happy with the final result.

All my ‘pieces’ ready I digitalised the artwork and put everything together in graphic’s software, trying to keep the colours close to original. It took some fiddling to get it right, but finally here it is – the watercolour illustrated nature graphic of common tree leaves. 🎨