This year’s BBC Springwatch series has been showing a feature on the items people have nominated that most connect them to nature. The items have ranged from cameras for wildlife photography in urban lunch-breaks, to binoculars handed down through generations, even mobile phones for geo-caching adventures and wildlife identification apps.
This set me thinking about what things I use to connect with nature. The natural world has been part of my everyday life for absolutely as long as I can remember. From the early days stretching on tiptoes to see out the upstairs window and watch the starlings and sparrows squabble over the bird table, through college studies in Countryside Management, to the past three years when June’s #30DaysWild challenge has become a permanent fixture on my calendar.
I finally settled on a ‘top three’ list of items; some slightly more tangible than others, and one that is made up of many individual parts…
So what did I include? Well, here is that list, and the reasons why I chose the items I did.
My twitter feed is a treasure trove. Increasingly, when I need a quick injection of nature to combat the fearful gloom of the world in current times, it is the internet to which I turn.
From the transportive word-scapes of Robert Mcfarlane (@RobGMacfarlane), the witty insights into the curious life of a writer and naturalist in the tweets of Melissa Harrison: owl pellets in the post for example, (@M_Z_Harrison), to the solace and beauty of Emma Mitchell’s floral forays (@silverpebble) or the allotment tips from the Garden Blogger’s community (@Gdnbloggers), even wildlife identification assistance from those individuals or organisations who love their bees, bugs, beetles, blooms or birds.
Through the social network locked within my laptop and smart phone, I have opened up a connection to nature in a way that I would never have expected. Life as a young naturalist can be a lonely one. My non-mainstream interests isolated me to some extent, as a teenager at school, and I never built a large social circle. But Twitter, (plus Instagram and Facebook) brings me closer to an entire community of like minded, fascinated and knowledgeable people, building relationships that would never be possible outside in ‘the real world’.
2: My pack
I once laid out all the contents of my rucksack and listed what it included.
- parish map, 5ins to 1 mile
- ordnance survey map, explorer 120
- spare dog lead and a few dog biscuits (I don’t own a dog, but just incase… you never know)
- jam jar containing a handful of a mixture of bird seed, peanuts, raisins and dried mealworms (bait for wildlife photography, not my snack)
- jam sandwiches (a snack for me, not the wildlife)
- black bin bag, pair of latex gloves, carrier bag (for collecting any interesting skulls, or roadkill etc.. Bag also useful for sitting on when ground is damp.)
- spare pair of boot laces (for obvious reasons)
- magnifying glass (for looking at small things)
- click counter (for counting the small things)
- binoculars (well, these are actually usually around my neck rather than inside the bag…)
- beanbag (sandy camouflage colour, homemade, camera rest)
- spare camera batteries
- ID guide to British wildlife (well thumbed, paper clips mark pages, penciled notes in margins)
- selection of small pots (for collecting snail shells, beetles, feathers…)
- old wrinkled conker (I forgot that was in there)
- small first aid kit/hand sanitiser (nettle stings are killers!)
- waterproof notebook and pencil
- packet of tissues (hayfever… I know, ironic right?)
- secateurs (for selective clearing of obstructed footpaths)
3: Ladybird books
I learnt my love of ladybird books from my Mum. She has a selection of books from her childhood, supplemented with junk shop and monthly market finds. Our favourites are the “What to Look For in…’ seasons series, and I can remember as a child spending hours on a rainy afternoon pouring over the paintings that illustrate the pages. Sheep on turnips, the lapwings displaying over the fields, a wren peeping through the woodland vegetation, gulls following the plough, barn owl floating on ghostly wings. I still return to these images when I need some inspiration. There is also something captivatingly somber about these paintings, almost an air that the artist knew even as he pushed his brush across the paper, that many of the details of the scenes were disappearing from our countryside.
The leap from Twitter to Ladybird books is quite a large one, with the two items occupying very different boxes in our ordered world. And yet, they both shape and influence my passion for and knowledge of the natural world, and therefore bring me closer to the nature that I love. These are my Natural Connectors.
I wonder what you would choose?