Sunday, 23 February 2014

Go on take a walk



Instead of complaining and grumbling about the state of nature conservation policy I am going to exalt the natural world. This past week has been half-term and working in a school means that I was on light duties for the past seven days. I spent some of that time in the school eco-garden. It’s normally a complete mess. The kids do their best but they aren’t gardeners by any stretch of the imagination and sadly hard work is an alien concept. I spent about an hour pottering about clearing up blown flower pots and dredging leaves from the pond (more on dredging in a future blog).
I was delighted to see the hitherto trampled space beneath the cherry tree covered in delicate snowdrops and the Robin who came down to feast on the insects I disturbed as I shifted logs and slabs. It may not be tidy, it may not be big but I have found this small garden a haven for wildlife and one that can be used for teaching. In the summer months I bring Year 8 students down to hunt for invertebrates and I am constantly amazed by the things that they find and the interest they show.
Today, being Sunday, was my usual day for visiting my little patch of land and path beside the River Avon. I have been collecting Natural History data on this stretch of river for 12 years and at Christmas completed enough visits to develop a solid 10 year block of data on Birds, Butterflies and Dragonflies one day this will be analysed and published but for now I am content to revel in the tranquillity this patch brings me. 

It is no doubt Warwick’s premier beauty spot and only a 10 minute walk from my house on the edge of town. It started as a way to get me out when I suffered from agoraphobia many years ago. I would visit regularly and became enchanted by the wide diversity I found. It has always been a place that has soothed my soul. When Henry my dog died it was here that I was able to tackle my grief, when access was stopped for 2 months when they repaired the bridge I was lost and found myself desperate to get back and see what I had missed.

Here I have had close encounters of Foxes and Shrews. I have watched Sparrowhawk nests succeed and fail and became so well known to the resident swans that they would come to a whistle that I developed to identify myself. Both these swans are no both sadly departed but I still have a Robin – likely a different one each winter – that feeds from my hand. 

I guess what I am getting at is something that conservationists have known for many years; wildlife is good for health and well being. There are planning suggestions that people have access to open spaces within certain distances of their home. Not everyone is perhaps as connected to the site as me, many walkers walk blithely past the wrens nest or barely notice the Buzzard on the ruins but they still seem to be taking some aesthetic value from the site as a whole.

So this afternoon take a walk and open yourself to what is out there. You may not be able to identify it all, you may not see much but you can relish in what the fresh air can bring to you be it the amazing or the sweet song of a Wren or Dunnock.