Firstly, thank you for visiting my blog, I hope you find, or found it interesting and/or useful, hopefully both. And thank you even more if you decide you liked what you saw and would like to follow my ramblings and subscribe to regular updates.
WILDLIFE AND ME
Watching nature isn’t something I set out to do deliberately, it’s just what I do and how I am. It’s a trait which is so embedded in my psyche I don’t even realise I’m doing it most of the time; it’s as though a part of my brain is hardwired to notice anything that moves or grows, with no regard to where I am or what I’m doing. In company, it doesn’t seem to matter that it’s not always convenient, appropriate or polite to pause, sometimes mid-conversation to look at a bird outside a window, or to stop and look at a wildflower (weed is a word I rarely use) growing from a crack in a pavement or up on a roof. Most people that know me well are used to it, but some people find this strange. I find it more strange that most people don’t notice, or worse, don’t seem to care what’s going on around them. 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, gardening or just spending time watching through windows has kept me absorbed through the ups, and relatively sane during the downs of my life.
Growing up in the countryside in the 1950s and 60s nature was a normal part of life, absorbed during childhood through walking to school and being sent outside to play while mum got on with her chores and claimed a bit of peace. Wandering around fields learning when and where to find wildflowers, birds nests, tadpoles and conkers was what many, although not all even then, did to keep ourselves entertained. At school we had a Nature Table kept stocked with anything interesting we found that our teachers helped to identify and carefully labelled so we’d remember. We were taken out on Nature Walks when the weather was fine. In the late summer- early autumn we were asked to pick rosehips which we took into school in paper bags to be weighed and rewarded with cash, I seem to remember 6d (6 old pennies or 2½p) for 1lb (about 500g) that somehow then went off to be made into Rosehip syrup. Far preferable to be stuck inside agonising over times tables!
Moving into Leicester in the late 60s, I was at first lost in the city and constantly on the lookout for the nature of the place, escaping back home or into the surrounding countryside as often as I could. Gradually though my awareness shifted and I became increasingly interested in the wildlife that shared our more urbanised gardens, parks and other public spaces; although on a different level, I came to realise that I didn’t have to be out in the countryside to see it.
My perspective on our human interaction with wildlife began to alter during the 70s, possibly triggered by the Starling-gate incident. One particular year, hundreds of Starlings descending into the city centre to roost each evening caused particular mayhem. I’m sure they must have been doing this for years, so I can’t remember why, but one year their autumn roosting along the power cables and telephone wires of the city centre suddenly became a major issue and demands for them to be ‘dealt with’ were issued, as though they were a plague of biblical proportions. Actions were taken by the council, including I think trees in Abbey Park, which was out of the city centre, being netted to prevent them landing.
Naively, I didn’t understand what all the fuss was about, they were only birds that would leave early in the morning, well before the shops opened, weren’t they? I guess it was related to the amount of mess the birds left behind them and perhaps people walking beneath them on an evening out being ‘bombed’ with guano.
This man v Starlings incident opened my eyes to the fact that some wild things were considered desirable while others were considered pests to be eradicated and that our claim to be a nation of nature lovers held up better as long as it stayed where it was supposed to be, out of our homes and gardens and ‘out in the countryside’. As time has gone on, we don’t even seem to want most of it there either, but it also started me thinking that nature is ever-opportunistic, will at least try to take advantage of what we deliberately or inadvertently provide, and if given the slightest opportunity will keep trying to take back what we have taken away.
ABOUT THE BLOG
This blog was begun some time in 2011 as a place to record and a way to share the nature I was discovering on the exploratory walks I took when I came to live on the glorious North Wales coast. Over the intervening years I’ve continued to familiarise myself with my local area and although I’ve learnt a lot, I’m sure it would take more than one lifetime to get to know as much as I’d like to.
My main focus here is on spaces in my adopted home county of Conwy that are easily accessed and open to us as the general public, and the wonderful array of everyday wildlife that can be found within them through the seasons. Although I have only been here for a few short years, I have noticed that the number of people using these places, particularly the Local Nature Reserves, has increased significantly. This can only be a good thing in terms of people engaging more with the ‘outdoors’, but most are not large in area, so I wonder how that affects the wildlife and nature that they are intended to provide sanctuary for.
MY IDEA OF A NATURE TRAIL
If you read my posts you may realise that my classification of a Nature Trail is very loose and by no means restricted to those marked out in Reserves. Officially ‘retired’ now, in common with many grandparents these days I’m in regular demand as a baby-sitter and playmate for my still-growing tribe of grandchildren while their parents work: my family is the centre of my Universe, albeit scattered around England and Wales. This has necessarily curtailed some of my local activities, but it has also opened up opportunities to explore other areas and to note the wildlife, or sometimes its lack, within them.
So, depending on where I am and what my limitations are, I include under the Nature Trails heading: other people’s gardens, parks and public gardens when taking grandchildren out for walks or to play, walks to school, nursery, shops or strolls along the Promenade, and when I am at home, the route between the rooms in my flat I nip around to watch birds and even insects from my windows. Nature is wonderfully adaptable and opportunistic and wherever I am, 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.
WALKING, WANDERING, MEANDERING…
Although I can cover some distance when I’m out, the speed at which I meander 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 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 I 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.