It didn’t take long till we were on our knees. Out came the atomiser (a small plastic bottle that sprays water) and a lovely compact magnifying glass that would open a wonderful window on the world beneath our feet which clings to walls, pavements and trees.
I was walking around Fairfield Park with Alan Rayner, president of the Bath Natural history Society, to begin a project to reveal and understand the nature that calls this area of the city home. Alan’s infectious enthusiasm, burning passion and wonderful chuckle had me hooked. He gets our connection with the natural world and showed another side to the place that I call home; opening my eyes and encouraging me to look more closely at the communities of plants and animals that co-exist with people.
If only I’d had a biology teacher like Alan I would have cracked science at school and the joy of the natural world and understanding its dynamism and sheer beauty would have come to me sooner. Learning has to be more than what is taught in the classroom; what you find out in the outdoors is so important to building links and connections that can last a lifetime.
Back to the atomiser and magnifying glass. We were looking at the mosses and lichens that could be found on the pavement at the entrance to a local allotment. The spray of the water instantly revived the moss and looking through the magnifying glass gave me a glimpse of a magical kingdom. It reminded me of a coral reef – it was so wonderful to see – and this on an ordinary street in Bath. And the lichens and mosses just kept coming. I walk past them everyday, and there is amazing lichen just outside my back door: its made me want to take the time to stop and look.
A short distance from our journey’s end we walked around a square of green; a mixture of grassland and woodland. Its where I’m hoping to set up a community orchard. Alan then talked about how a wildlife survey would bring this place alive looking at the flora and fauna that calls it home.
Walking anywhere with a naturalist can take time as they dive suddenly to the ground to get closer to a plant. It showed me clearly that the ordinary and mundane can be as beautiful as the rare and celebrated. We spend so much time watching amazing wildlife on the telly that we sometimes forget what is on our doorstep. Where ever you live nature thrives in cracks, on trees and scrub land. Wild places are all around us and we just have to open our eyes and get down on our knees to see the places that we live in a different light.