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When I began this blog in 2011, I had just returned to the UK after ten years of living in the south of Spain and was facing making a lot of adjustments to my way of life. Fortunately for me, one of my daughters was living in North Wales and spending time with her here soon convinced me that relocating to this wonderful part of the world would suit me just fine. Eleven years on, I’m still loving being here and thankful for whatever fates or Universal forces brought it about.
For me, watching nature is such a deeply ingrained habit that much of the time I don’t even realise I’m doing it; and learning as much as I possibly can about the nature of a place, and putting it into the context of the area in which I live has always been important to me. Writing things down and/or taking photographs has always been the way in which I get things to stick in my mind and I have stacks of journals, files of notes and thousands of photographs. The blog started out as another way to record and make sense of what I was seeing, and where, for my own reference and to share what I was seeing and discovering with distant friends and family. Over the years I’ve continued to familiarise myself with my local area and although I’ve learnt a lot, I know for sure it would take more than one lifetime to get to know as much as I’d like to!
MY IDEA OF A NATURE TRAIL
There are some spectacular locations in North Wales to visit and explore and in which, if you are lucky, you will find wildlife, and there are off-the-beaten-track places that I love to visit but don’t blog about. My interest lies very much in finding the wildlife in the everyday, easily accessed public places and along well-trodden trails, where it is increasing coming under pressure. As a result my classification of a Nature Trail is very loose; it may be anyone’s private garden, parks and public gardens, streets and roads, walks to the village to the shops or strolls along the Promenade with visitors. When I’m at home, a nature trail can even be the route between the rooms in my flat as I nip around to watch birds and even insects from my windows, or on a trip to the recycling bins.
In my adopted home county of Conwy there are many easily accessed and places open to us, the general public, and a wonderful array of everyday wildlife that can still be found within them through the seasons. However, over the years I’ve lived here, I have noticed that the number of people using these places, particularly the Local Nature Reserves and the Coast Paths has increased significantly, and even more so since we were blitzed by the Covid 19 pandemic. This can only be a good thing in terms of people engaging more with the outdoors, but most Reserves are not large in area, and the Coast Path passes through some fragile and species-important areas, so increased walking and cycling people – not to mention dogs – will surely impact on the wildlife and nature that inhabit these places that were intended to provide protection for them.
Nature is wonderfully adaptable and opportunistic and wherever we are, there’s always the potential of something to see, often much to see, especially when you’re in the habit of looking. I hope that by sharing my experiences and what I discover on my wanderings along any of these ‘Everyday Trails’, that others walking similar routes may look with fresh eyes, or if planning a visit to the areas may get some idea of what they could hope to find.
I know I’m eternally grateful to have the ‘awareness gene’, and have absolutely no doubt that my instinct to get outside and absorb myself in nature, whether roaming around in woods and fields, on beaches, gardening or just spending time watching through windows has kept me absorbed through the ups, and relatively sane during the downs of my life.
WALKING, WANDERING, MEANDERING…
Although I can cover some distance when I’m out, the speed at which I wander along probably only qualifies as proper aerobic exercise in short bursts uphill. My aim has always been to see as much as possible of what’s out there and that’s not something I can do, or want to do at speed. Something like ‘slow wandering with a fair amount of hovering around, zig-zagging in pursuit of flighty insects and even standing or sitting still in a good spot to see what comes to me’, might describe it. At best I would say that taking a walk with me may turn into more of a meander with lots of stops to take photographs and I understand perfectly that this may, and sometimes does, cause impatience when walking with others, so for the most part I do prefer to roam alone.
When it comes to writing up a post, my aim is to offer a general impression of a place at the particular time I visited it, adding in details within that space that caught my eye. No matter how many times I visit a place something will be different about it, if only the time of day, the season or the weather. I take a lot of photographs to use as a visual notebook and memory aid, and also to keep as records of my ‘spots’. In the post I generally put photos in first and then add words. Whilst my primary aim is to show the beauty and inform about the still-wonderful nature of places, I also want to show that not everything looks pretty all of the time. Locally it’s difficult to go anywhere where there is no evidence of the proximity of people and the placement of man-made installations and other interventions in our once-wild spaces. I think it’s important too for us to recognise how we impact on places and, in some places, to acknowledge the disturbance to wildlife that ever-increasing numbers of people can cause, no matter how well-intentioned we are.