Five pillars

I’ve been thinking a lot lately about where my love for nature came from.

I’ve loved wildlife since a very young age, but when I try to identify a key moment that inspired me I struggle to put things in order, either chronological or of importance. I’ve decided that there are five key pillars upon which it was founded.

1. TV

I’ve been lucky enough to meet the great naturalist and TV presenter Chris Packham a couple of times. One of the many things I told him when I met him was how awesome his hair was when he presented the Really Wild Show, a kids’ TV programme. When I watched this show as a child it inspired a love for wildlife, British and otherwise.

And when I met Peter Holden and told him about how much I used to love watching Bird in the Nest, a show using cameras in nestboxes to follow the trials and tribulations of bird families in Spring, he told me I must be one of very few people who remember that programme. It certainly had a big impact on me.

I won’t let anyone tell me that social media and television outright undermine people’s love for nature by trapping them indoors. They did the exact opposite for me.

2. Education

I remember vividly a lesson at primary school about the Amazon rainforest and hearing about deforestation. I must have been six or seven years old. I went home that evening and wrote letters to Friends of the Earth and Greenpeace asking what I could do to help save the environment and I remember the feel and excitement of getting leaflets and posters sent to me in the post.

3. Family

My parents always invested time in making sure that I got outdoors and could get to nature reserves. They began to make our annual family holiday to Dorset more geared around my interest in nature and we began visiting places like Arne and the New Forest. I remember the thrill of seeing my first ever oystercatchers flying over a beach below us as we walked along the cliff path above. They were a confusing and exciting flash of red, black and white that I wrote down in my notebook and had to identify back at our self-catering apartment.

Parents and grandparents willing to buy me bird books and binoculars were invaluable to nurturing my passion.

4. The YOC

Being part of the Young Ornithologists’ Club, the former youth wing of the RSPB, meant that a magazine dropped through my door every two months that taught me more about wildlife and nature. From this I read and learned, I expanded my scientific knowledge and bird identification skills.

5. Connection to Nature

I’ve been very lucky to grow up somewhere with wildlife on my doorstep. The Malvern Hills in Worcestershire are beautiful, green, lush and rammed with woodpeckers and cuckoos and ravens.

I also remember a vivid moment during a family holiday when, leaving Burger King (a vacation treat for me and my brother) I looked out of the rear window of the car and saw a flock of birds on top of the building. Their wings were glistening green and purple in the sunset, and they were whirring and clicking away like clockwork toys. Then they all fell silent and took of at once, as if with a collective mind. I was hooked.

Access to moments and places like this forged my love for nature.

What are the pillars your love for nature is founded on, and are young people today better or worse placed to fall in love with nature?

4605, grey wagtail, Knapp and Papermill


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