Retirement has brought me closer to Nature and I seem to have had even more than my usual exposure to Nature in the last two weeks. The local walks have been particularly good. The rain in June and early July has made the pastures, hedgerows and trees a lush green and the recent sun has brought out the garden and wild flowers so they are now showing off their peak displays.
One walk was especially spicy in underlining our closeness to Nature. We were crossing a field with a neighbour during a walk that we hadn’t undertaken for a while, when we saw another figure crossing the field at right angles to us. Thirty yards out, we could only see the man’s bare and bronze torso above the wheat. As we crossed paths though, it became clear that we had met – and then briefly engaged in conversation with – the infamous ‘Naked Rambler’. Our neighbour remarked that his naked rambling exploits are frequent since ‘he was brown all over with no tan lines’. I could only mutter that I hoped he looked out for stinging nettles. The encounter made our day.
We also completed a series of walks when my Best Man (BM) visited us last weekend. He has been working from home and in isolation throughout lockdown and needed a break. Fortunately the weather was excellent and we were able to visit our now re-opened pub for our first sit down (outside) meal since lockdown started.
A highlight during his stay was a long walk during which we saw a field sown with green manure coming extravagantly into flower. Another marvellous natural phenomenon was the sighting of a crazily large number of small white butterflies fluttering together in the sun and drinking from wet mud on our path. Both were uplifting sights.
BM works for a large oil company which is trying to shift away from fuelling (literally) carbon emissions. His job is changing and intense. Even while he was with us, he had to prepare a short presentation that he was due to give on the following Monday. Long-Suffering Wife (LSW) and I were sufficiently intrigued by this that we signed up for the public event he was a panel member for and run by the ‘World Business Council for Sustainable Development’ entitled ‘Nature Action for a Healthy and Resilient Future’; what a couple of mouthfuls!
As I listened in to the webinar, I was reminded of my own corporate work life by the business jargon being used by the numerous presenters including BM, and how it flows off the tongues of business professionals. I was also left with a greater feeling of hope for Nature and the planet.
I suspect that the event was populated largely by the ‘green mouthpieces’ of the corporations that were represented. However, several sounded convincing about their company ambitions and commitments and the scale of the opportunity to turn our destruction of the planet around while creating millions of worthwhile jobs in new green industries was clear.
I have just started reading Wilding by Isabella Tree. She is so aptly named given that the book is the story of how a failing arable farm has been turned into a successful experiment for re-wilding a large tract of land in Sussex. The timeline at the start of the book shows how allowing nature to reclaim intensively farmed land can bring back flora and fauna diversity very quickly. Given the chance, Nature can recover surprisingly quickly and I’m enjoying Isabella’s account of her experience.
I have continued to busy myself with some local climate action activities – my small push towards alleviating the pressure on Nature. There is also much to do in the garden and on the allotment given that we are in peak growth season for vegetables and weeds. We are thinking up creative ways to use the inevitable courgette mountain, we are eating chard with almost every meal and the runner bean avalanche is about to hit us. In the next week too, I will need to brush up on my blackcurrant jam making skills since I have a bumper blackcurrant crop this year.
Nature is amazing. Just last week, we saw a recurrence of another incredible phenomenon we have been lucky enough to spot a few times before: the inundation of our home valley by seagulls predating on flying ants. It is almost unbelievable that the gulls will fly over 25 miles from the nearest coast on just the right day to catch the flying yellow meadow ants that rise from their nests in our neighbouring fields on just a couple of days a year; but there they were again.
Nature can also do us damage. Badgers rip up crops, deer eat the roses and strawberries, earwigs are eating the dahlias, blackfly are tormenting my beans and hay fever can be really annoying. The climate emergency and the creation of new human diseases when we encroach too much on the wild are macro problems far greater than my local problems with wildlife. The solutions to these are going to be challenging to find but my immersion in Nature this week underlines the importance of doing so, and gave me some more hope.