I’ve been bursting to share this news with you all week! I have been given the opportunity of writing a regular column in one of the best magazines (in my humble opinion) currently in publication! Best, because it is innovative, fresh, engaging, stunningly well produced, and all created free of charge by young naturalists (aged under 30). It is of course, “New Nature“, and if you haven’t checked it out already, you really should! Ever been told that young people are lazy, uncaring, and not interested in nature? Let the writers, editors, scientists, artists, birdwatchers, botanists, entomologists, graphic designers and tech wizards of New Nature Magazine prove you wrong!
And as if you needed any further reason to click over and download your own copy, as of May 2018, each monthly issue will include a feature on my wildlife watching exploits in Sussex (and the boundaries with Hampshire & Surrey).
A Part-Time Naturalist and The Quest for Wild Sussex
“My name is Sophie and I am a part-time naturalist.”
My day-job is at a local plant nursery and garden centre, and as the gardening season kicks off we have just entered our busiest time of the year. I can easily walk well over 10,000 steps a day from one task or customer to the next. Although it is a mostly outside job, I still love to ‘escape’ at lunch times, and the woods, village and heathland that surround the nursery are my retreat. I return for my afternoon shift bouncing on the joy of brimstone butterflies, nuthatches and firecrests, or the glimpse of a roe deer between the trees. Work keeps me busy during the day Sunday – Thursday, whilst in between times, at least half of every weekend is spent working on our allotment. I adore this tiny corner of land that I can tend as I wish. I grow a mixture of flowers and veg, and give over plenty of space to the wildlife.
As a teenager I was passionate, obsessive even, over wildlife, and spent many hours standing with my boots freezing to the ground birdwatching on early winter mornings. Other times I’d be found on my belly, laying in the heather or on downland turf, attempting to photograph tiny beautiful blue butterflies or capture a view of the sky through the trefoil flowers. Over the intervening few years, the more mundane aspects of life mean these specific wildlife watching trips have become restricted to summer evenings, lunch-hours, and occasional free days that are the highlight of my calendar. Time and financial constraints clearly do not allow for jet-setting around the world to see exotic creatures, and I didn’t think my boss, or my boyfriend, would appreciate me taking time out to travel the UK in search of birds, butterflies and small furry beasts.
It is perhaps fortunate therefore that I live in a wonderful part of the world; the heart of the South Downs National Park. Britain’s newest national park, the South Downs is also the most populated, as well as being a working agricultural landscape; but is it also a landscape rich in wildlife?
My local region seems to get little air time on nature documentaries and rural magazine programs on tv, and seems to be often overlooked by guide books save for the eastern white cliffs and perhaps the downland hill-top views. But I know that are creatures, plants, histories and narratives here, every bit as intriguing and fascinating as exotic lands around the world. You just have to know where to look.
I am setting out on a quest to explore the extraordinary wildlife on my doorstep, to discover some of the iconic species of the South Downs region and what the future may hold for them. Some of the species I have seen before but am keen to re-visit, some make the list because I am determined to see them before it is too late, and a few are tricky to see so I will have to draw on some friends and contacts to guide me. From goshawks to water voles, badgers to corn buntings – the hunt is on!
Each month in New Nature I will focus on a different species, my personal experiences of them and a little look at their story.
I hope you will join the many New Nature readers and subscribe to the magazine, or pop onto the website and download a copy. It is free to read and packed with fabulous content!