Resident Ann Ratcliffe moved to Willow Valley Communities in 2017 after a fulfilling, but intensely busy 32-year career as an English teacher of “at-risk” high school students. She loved teaching — but it could be stressful. Ann learned that after particularly long days, walks in nature helped her release tension and rejuvenate her spirit.
When Ann first walked the 210 acres comprising the Lakes and Manor Campuses here, she was delighted to discover so many beautifully landscaped rolling paths where she could continue to savor nature. She has also come to love Lancaster County Central Park, just a five-minute drive away. “The park offers me such treasures as the Garden of Five Senses, beautiful Mill Creek, Muhlenberg Meadow with its profusion of wildflowers, the Conestoga River, and miles of well-tended trails.”
Ann has rediscovered her passion for photography too, inspired by the Willow Valley Communities Camera Club and its monthly “challenges” to explore avenues she might have otherwise bypassed. She now takes her camera everywhere. “I love to wander through the gardens at Willow Valley Communities and walk along the edge of the wetlands. There are scores of native plants, many ponds, and beauty in all four seasons.” Ann often follows the bridge near the Spring Run community, over the stream and into the quiet woodlands. “To photograph nature, to focus on all that surrounds me, is deeply therapeutic,” she says quietly. “I have learned to slow down so that I don’t miss anything this life has to offer. I have learned not only to look, but to see.”
Ann’s stunning photographs can often be seen on Willow Valley Communities’ Facebook page, and she’s happy to share them. “I have learned to patiently wait until the flitting monarch finally settles on a milkweed leaf, to patiently wait as the blue heron stealthily approaches his prey and finally spears his dinner. These moments are precious, and to capture them in photographs gives me untold pleasure.”
Reflecting on her almost daily walks through the lovely grounds of Willow Valley Communities, Ann adds, “I am so thankful that I have the time to absorb this beautiful life, and I hope to continue nurturing the sense of wonder I had as a child — and still have.”