Tag Archives: BBC Springwatch

Keeping it wild in winter

Millions of us will be tuning into Winterwatch this week as our TV screens are filled with natural winter treats. There is always a slight misconception that nature shuts down during the shorter days and as the temperature hovers around freezing. Yet there is still plenty to see and do; and its a great time to get planning as we move towards Spring. So in true list style here are five things to keep you occupied on the nature front.

  1. Visit a local nature reserve. You’re never that far from a natural wonder, where-ever you live. Organisations such as the RSPB, Wildlife Trusts and National Trust have some great places to explore and the winter time is no exception. You’ll see them in a raw state as they start to come alive with the turning of the wild clocks to warmer days. Repeat the visit during the different season and you will develop a special connection.
  2. Read a nature book. In the last decade writing about nature has boomed. And there is a treasure chest of classics that have been re-issued by publishers such as Little Toller. So pop to a local bookshop, library or browse online and pick a book or some poetry to transport you into the magic of nature.
  3. Get volunteering. Green places, such as City Farms, need people to help out. Spending some time helping to make these wonderful places beacons for wildlife is really rewarding and you can get to know some great local charities. There is always plenty to do what-ever the time of year. Or you can taker part in survey’s such as the RSPB Big Garden Watch at the end of January. Many conservation organisations run similar citizen science projects throughout the year.
  4. Watch the birdies. We all know about the wonder that is the Dawn Chorus; a sound that captures the heart and lifts the soul. But the winter can be a fab time to tune into local songbirds, whether the Dawn or Dusk Chorus. And with few leaves on the trees you can actually see them too.
  5. Go for a wander. If you take the time to look you can find nature in many surprising places. Take the time to go for a wander, either from where you live or in to the local countryside. There are plenty of great walking books or plot a route on an OS Map or online. As you walk look, listen and absorb. You’ll spot things that you would have never thought would be there and you’ll get so much out of it.

So if you love Winterwatch (and the BBC Watches more generally) use it as a way to get up off of the sofa and out into the outdoors. You won’t regret it.

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Corridors of wild power

When we think of places where we connect with nature our minds often turn to open fields, deep forests, mountain ranges or the rugged coastline.  Its a natural instinct in-built through thousands of years of tending the land that we associate nature with rural places. After all our diet of wildlife telly beamed into our living rooms or devoured on smartphones has a particular countryside bias.

And yet for most of us its the everyday experience of urban living where we can potentially connect with the natural world. However, in our busy, fast-paced and hard-pressed lives, we often miss the obvious signs of wildlife right in front of our eyes or beneath our feet.

The nature of our towns and cities means that wild oases can be found in the most unusual places. You just need the time and patience to look in the right places.

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Not far from where I work in Swindon there is a lane sandwiched between the mainline railway and an office car park. Its no more than a few hundred metres long and about 5-10 metres wide; and connects one of the station car parks and path into the centre of town. In reality its one of those non-descript places that people pass through in a hurry, either on their way to work or heading home.

This slightly unloved grey/green corridor, however, is full of wild life. Stroll along the footpath on a sunny day and the noise of the trains and hum of urban life drains away as the birds sing in full throttle, the bees buzz past in a real hurry and butterflies rest on nettles to soak up the sun.

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Over the last few weeks the foilage of the trees and hedgerows has come alive with hawthorn bursting into brilliant white and the mini meadows filling up with buttercups, dandelions and forget-me-nots. Blackbirds and robins have been getting busy building nests for the breeding season and the lane has come alive with cabbage white and orange tip butterflies.

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Throughout the rest of Spring and into Summer this will become a place where I go to get my fix of nature, to daydream and let the troubles of the world disappear.

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For me its these edgelands, these arteries of urban life, that can re-awaken people’s interest in nature. We can all find them near to where we work or live. Just take the time in a lunch break or on the way to home to linger and tune into the intensity of nature or just watch as insects fly this way and that.  It doesn’t matter whether you can identify the species you see; the act of just connecting with the wild place where you live will enrich your life.

Nature Open Days…coming to a town near you

Heritage Open Days is a great idea. It’s a chance to open up a window on the cultural heritage world that people don’t normally get to see. For the last twenty years every September it showcases the best in those places that you always wondered what was behind those doors or gates.

In similar vein there is also the national gardens scheme open garden weekend every June where passionate gardeners open up their pride and joy to local people.

These open days are great ideas – giving people access to places behind bricks and mortar or garden gates.

A footpath along the River Avon in Bath; a haven for nature framed by the trees.

A footpath along the River Avon in Bath; a haven for nature framed by the trees.

So, how about creating a green space and nature rich alternative for our villages, towns and cities?

Nature open days could be a great way for people to find out more about the green spaces on their doorsteps and find new green spaces that they never knew existed. Eighty per cent of us live in urban areas and this is the perfect chance to open a window on the wildlife on buildings, pavements, garden walls and patches of ground.

Many of us spend large chunks of time commuting – I know that I do. And with those days out at weekends or catching up with jobs around the house there is little time to explore your local neighbourhood.

Nature open days would be a great chance to bring together passionate experts and people that love the natural world with communities to go on a journey of discovery. Local natural history societies or conservation groups could get involved in helping people connect with local patches that are good for nature.

You could either have a walk around a local green space at a specific time. Maybe as a dawn chorus or following a route along a river or into some woodland.

Or it could be a longer citizen science style event when people can help record all of the different species. This could be short slots for families or over longer periods of time.

All of this would happen over one weekend across the urban areas of the UK.

Either way its about helping to the story of these places and look at how we need to link up our urban green spaces.

And like the other open days it would be free to get involved or perhaps a chance to raise money via donations for local wildlife projects.

Roadside verges, green spaces, back lanes and patches of woodland are all waiting to be discovered in urban areas. And the great thing is that you don’t need to be an expert to listen to birdsong, wonder at moss on trees and enjoy beautiful wild flowers.

Lanes behind houses can be great wildlife corridors for mammals, insects and in the summer come alive with wild flowers

Lanes behind houses can be great wildlife corridors for mammals, insects and in the summer come alive with wild flowers

The act of wandering around using your senses is a great way of connecting the health and nature agendas. Local GPs or healthcare centres could encourage people to join the walks. And it would be a great way for families to spend time having a wild time with kids collecting stuff or taking pictures of what they see.

The open days could be held in late May or early June, over a weekend, as spring becomes summer; perhaps linking in to BBC Springwatch as its beamed into the homes of millions. It would allow people to walk to nature where they live rather than having to go deep into the countryside.

Hopefully these days could become a catalyst for people to come together to look after these every day nature spaces metres away from where they live. There is something rather appealing about walking to see nature and seeing nature en route, without having to travel to nature reserves; you never know what you might find.