From my makeshift desk near the window, I can see a plump Nuthatch feeding on a fat-ball suspended in an apple tree. I’m fortunate in that my garden is large and consists of an acre of woodland, two lengthy fields, an outsized pond and oodles of space for life to flourish. All this is shared with an assortment of creatures ranging from two mulish Anglo-Nubian nannies to a Kune Kune pig named Betty (alas, her brother Walter passed away some time ago).
My partner and I have lived in our rambling, rather outdated home since 1999 – we always had great plans to ‘do-up’ the house but inevitably all our hard earned resources went into improving life for the animals. The livestock is more D’s hobby than my own (wildlife is my bag) but that hasn’t prevented me from becoming fond of our unruly but characterful menagerie. I long ago learned to share my living space with egg-bound chickens and orphaned ducklings taking swimming lessons in the sink.
So, on to the reason for this blog…
Back in the 1970s, the environmental scientist, James Lovelock proposed the Gaia Hypothesis, which suggested that all Earthly organisms and their inorganic surroundings were integrated, forming a complex, self regulating system. In 1979 Oxford published his book Gaia: A New Look at Life on Earth, which as an intense, nature-loving 13-year-old, changed my entire outlook on life. I carried the book about with me, Watch Tower-like, attempting to convince bewildered, if amusedly indifferent friends and family members that they should read this thrilling book.
The once-tentative Gaia theory has now become part of scientific orthodoxy but one should remember that Lovelock’s ideas were preposterous to many people at the time, especially coming at least six years prior to the discovery of the hole in the ozone layer and almost a decade before global warming became a political hot potato. James Lovelock was (and continues to be) one of my enduring heroes.
I grew up in a Welsh seaside town – a flourishing, bustling, beach-filled tourist resort with daily Punch and Judy shows on the promenade during the summer; a wild, windswept, grey-skied, rather wonderful headland jutting out into the Irish Sea through the winter.
My mother was (still is) a keen naturalist, artist and local historian. From my early childhood she took me for long walks up mountains, along the coast and through the local woods, teaching me to identify the indigenous flora and fauna. Not only did she fill me with a deep fascination for wildlife, but she taught me to question orthodoxies, stand up for things that really mattered and gave me a lasting love of reading books. No child could ask for more.
Much has changed in the intervening years. The allotments and donkey fields that once surrounded our neighbourhood have been taken over by a sprawling supermarket and shopping park. In the town centre itself, the old butcher’s shop, bakery and fishmonger’s have morphed into ‘pound stores’ or are just standing empty. The muddy field at the end of our street, where Lapwings once nested, has been built over with new homes, which, incidentally, are subject to flooding during heavy rain. And, well, need I say more? My town could be any 21st century British municipality. It’s hard to tell one from another these days.
I now live on the outskirts of a very pretty but land-locked village in North East Wales. My home is a small slice of sanity in a crazy world. If I may, I would like to share it with others who perhaps have an interest in discovering and preserving the natural world.