Amgueddfa Blog

I plunge my face into the leaf litter on the forest floor and take in the earthy aroma: a sweet mix of damp decay and mossy greens. Have I gone mad? Quite possibly, but no more than most; stuck in a modern world that doesn’t quite make sense, worried too much about too many things, and rarely remembering to stop, look up and breathe. Down here, hidden in this hollow, under a canopy of gently swaying oaks, cheek pressed into the dark rich soil, I actually feel more normal than I have in a while.  

Truth is, I woke up fairly miserable this morning.  Sadly, it’s not uncommon, and frustratingly, it’s often not clear why, or what has caused it. As a result, I tend to focus on what I can control and change. Sometimes, that means a change of scene.  

Nature Connectedness and the Wheel of Wellbeing 

Recently, since working on the Winter of Wellbeing Programme (WoW), it has got me thinking more about what makes me well. At the same time, separately, I have been reading a lot into the power of Nature Connectedness. So, with both of these in mind, I wrapped myself up and headed to the nearest clearing of trees. I am fortunate to have this on my doorstep.  

‘Nature Connectedness’ is the sort of thing that is easy to dismiss as a bit ‘flowery’, but there is an increasing body of evidence showing the restorative power of Nature, the value of access to nature, and crucially, the importance of feeling a connection with nature. In fact, there is a whole research group at the University of Derby working on just this.

As part of the WoW project, we have been using the ‘Wheel of Wellbeing’ as a way of understanding and measuring the elements that make us feel well: Body (be active), Mind (keep learning), Spirit (give), People (connect), Place (take notice), Planet (care). It became clear to me that each of these elements can be nourished through time in nature, something I am keen to explore through the WoW project, as well as through my own forays into the forest!  

The benefits of a connection to Nature  

Nature is a profound teacher and healer, and a sanctuary for those fortunate enough to access and connect with it. When you spend time in Nature, it almost instantly creates a physical change in you - reducing levels of stress, lowering blood pressure, helping you focus and concentrate - as well as a number of other tangible and well documented positive effects, especially around mental health

These benefits are amplified the more we feel a connection to Nature.  Sadly, for many, Nature remains hidden or unnoticed, and their feelings of connection hang by a thread. This is particularly true amongst young people, especially teenagers, where there is a natural dip in connection with nature, just when they might benefit most from the improved physical and mental health associated with Nature connection; to free themselves from social anxieties and find some identity, security and meaning in the otherwise manic world around them.  

Five pathways to connection  

A crucial step, of course, is finding a ‘way-in’ for young people, both physically and emotionally. Many don’t have easy access to nature in the first place, or have little interest, even if they are surrounded by it. Meaningful and lasting connections can’t be forced. They must be made in our own time and in own way. Yet, there are a few things that can be done to facilitate and encourage this.  Even urban environments are bursting with life, which means you don’t have to be in a forest or beautiful flower meadow for Nature to cast its spell. Sadly, most of us have lost the knack of noticing, so rarely dedicate time to truly see and appreciate Nature.   

To help open up our eyes and minds, and bring us closer to nature, the University of Derby have developed 5 pathways to greater connection ( 

  • Contact – multisensory, tangible experiences 

  • Beauty – Engaging with the aesthetic ‘awe-inspiring’ qualities of Nature.  

  • Meaning - thinking about the meaning and signs of nature and what they mean to individuals.  

  • Emotion – Finding and exploring emotional bonds with, and love, for nature 

  • Compassion - Extending the self to include nature, leading to moral and ethical concern 

These were consistently found to be important and effective at making people feel closer to nature, which makes them useful for individuals, educators and practitioners when thinking about the sort of activities and exercises that will create connection with Nature. 

The Natural Health Service 

Even amongst those who would consider themselves connected to Nature, like myself, it is all too easy to forget to nourish it, to go back to the source and refresh now and again. Perhaps we need to view it as less of a luxury and more of an essential part of our human existence, where we are part of Nature rather than separate and sanitised. That is why it is great to see moves towards green social prescribing in the NHS, including research and pilot projects in Wales.

With all of this in mind, back in the middle of my own mini wellbeing crisis, it is tempting to stay a little longer here in this earthy embrace, let a few more winter leaves fall and settle on my back. By the time I finally pull myself up and dust myself down, I have totally lost track of how long I have been here and realise I should probably get back - I’ve still got work to do after all! But now, at least, with moss in my hair and flecks of mud on my cheek, I feel in a slightly better state to tackle it.  

Join us for Digital Riot! An exciting free workshop celebrating drag, gender identity and its involvement within Welsh protest history.

This project, inspired by the history of the Rebecca Rioters explores identity as a form of protest.

Digital Riot will aim to do this through holding a workshop for young people from ages 10 to 14 at St Fagans National Museum of History.

The day will be divided into three parts.

  • Design your own protest badge
  • Make protest signs inspired by the history of the Rebecca Riots
  • And lastly, wearing our badges and using our protest signs we will visit the toll house at St Fagans to stage and photograph our own mini-Rebecca riot

An ‘Art pack’ filled with artistic resources and materials will be provided to each participant

This free workshop will take place at 12-2pm on the 12 March 2022. Participants can join either at St Fagans in person or digitally over Zoom. To book your space please contact

Digital Riot is a project devised by artist Abigail Fraser for the 9-90 community outreach programme from GS artists Swansea, as part of the Winter of Wellbeing funded by Welsh Government.

Experimental (Indexical) Drawings

Evie Banks, 23 February 2022

Indexical drawings exist all around us!  

Indexical drawings record the interaction between objects, documenting the activity involved.   

Look at this drawing by artist Olafur Eliasson. He created it out at sea in his boat by dipping a ball in black ink. He let it roll across the paper so it could record the waves and movements of the boat across the ocean!   

Why not have a go at your own experimental/indexical drawing? 


What you’ll need: a pen, a piece of string, sketchpad.  

  1. Tie the piece of string or whatever is available to you to the pencil or pen  

Hand holding a sharpie pen







 2. Tie the pen with the same piece of string to a tree branch (top tip: choose a thinner branch that moves around a lot more easily!)  

photograph of sharpie being tied to a branch







3. Hold a piece of paper under the pen and set a timer for however long you would like. We used a 10 minute timer.  

Photograph o sharpie pen drawing on plain paper






  1. Watch as the wind blows the tree branch, leaving marks of the branch’s movement and the pattern of the wind on your paper!   


  5. The result, an artwork created by nature!  

The pictures above are from when I had a go at my own experimental/indexical drawing, drawing the movement of a tree in the wind of Storm Corrie!  

You can track the movement of the branches - in moments of stillness where the pen marks are thick, and in high wind where you can see thin lines!  

Have a go and share your drawings with us. You can tag us on Instagram or Facebook, and remember to use #winterofwellbeing

Be My Valentine: Victorian Comic Valentines

Fflur Morse, 11 February 2022

The custom of sending Valentines is hundreds of years old, but the tradition truly thrived during the end of the eighteenth century and nineteenth century. The improvement in postal services and printing methods during this period, made it easier than ever to celebrate Valentine’s Day.

The Evening Express in 1885 stated that when the trade was its best, between 1860 and 1880, the public spent a quarter of a million pounds annually upon valentines. It reports that at least 5,000 people, mostly girls and women, were employed in valentine factories, at wages ranging 10s to 18s per week.

Here at St Fagans we have a rather large collection of Valentine Cards dating from this period. Many are elaborate, adorned with cupids, satin ribbon, delicate lace or miniature flowers.

But surprisingly some are of complete contrast to these romantic and sentimental Valentine cards. Several from the collection, feature an ugly comic caricature, with humorous yet rather abusive verses beneath, clearly intended to cause offence.  These cards were referred to as 'Comic Valentines', and their history has largely been forgotten.

The card in the middle right, from our collection at St Fagans National History Museum, is a perfect example of a typical comic valentine card. It shows a rather ugly, dramatic caricature of a woman crying with the following verse beneath:

Tired of your lonely state,
Longing for another male,
But this fact pray understand,
Men don’t like Women second hand

These particular kind of cards become incredibly popular during the mid-nineteenth century.

The Cardiff and Merthyr Guardian  reported on the 14th February, 1846:

St. Valentine’s Day is now almost everywhere a degenerated festival, the only observance of any note consisting in the sending of anonymous letters, by way of practical joke, and this confined very much to the humbler classes….Each generally consisting of a single sheet of paper, on the first page of which is seen some ridiculous coloured caricature of the male or female figure, with a few burlesque verses below.

The anonymity aspect of sending a Valentine’s card would have made these racy cards appealing. They were also affordable to buy and to send, as they were printed on a single sheet of paper, unlike the more elaborate romantic cards.

Despite their huge popularity, the demand was short lived, and by the late 1800s, Wales and Britain's love of comic Valentines was over.  The late Victorians viewed the cards as malicious and vulgar and demand for a return of moral values, politeness and decency.

Valentines, whether sentimental or comic, have come to be voted common place – not to say 'vulgar'. The Aberystwyth Observer, 21 February, 1885.

Winter of Wellbeing logo with heart
My name is Lowri and I am one of the Freelance Project makers working on the Winter of Wellbeing project. My main role is as part of a small team putting together activity packs for families and young people with the goal of improving wellbeing. But before this project, I had been a stay at home parent for over a decade. 

The last time I was formally employed, it was 2011. A year where it was still acceptable to say ‘talk to the hand’, 3D movies still seemed like a good idea and Flossing was just a dental practice, not a dance. So when I heard about a position that involved working with young people in the heritage sector, which are both my areas of interest, where I could work from home around my family, I couldn't believe my luck! However, after so long away from work, even with a few relevant qualifications and experiences I have, I struggled to know if I had anything of value to offer.  

Thankfully, I did not need to worry too much. My experiences as a parent have been surprisingly essential to the work I have been doing. Even my daughter has become involved in testing and photographing some of the activities which will now be shared with thousands of children around the country. That got me thinking about how valuable our skills as parents can be in the workplace. For example: 

  • If you can construct a play kitchen with no instructions and 2 missing screws at 11.30pm on Christmas eve… you can problem solve. 

  • If you can negotiate a screaming toddler out of a soft play area… you can hold your own in any meeting. 

  • If you have managed to get everyone out of the door on time, with a packed lunch, reading book read, spellings learnt and cupcakes for the charity bake sale (that you will pretend you baked yourself but actually bought on the way to school and bunged in a Tupperware box) and still arrive at school on time…You can project manage. 

I know now, through working on this project, that I do have value outside of the home. The Winter of Wellbeing project has not only given me the opportunity to make a difference in young people's lives, it has given me invaluable work experience, built m

photograph of computer keyboard, glasses, cup and coloured paper
y confidence up and allowed me to contribute financially to my family. And because of the short term nature of the contract, I have managed to dip my toe into the employment pool without the massive worries about childcare in the summer holidays, which is often a barrier for parents returning to work.  

All in all, I have had a ball so far on the project, I have met so many interesting and inspiring people. I have learnt so much in such a short space of time and will come away from it more confident to apply for future jobs I might previously have discarded because I thought I wasn't good enough. Feeling valued outside of the home has added so much to my wellbeing and I am so thankful for that.