Welcome to our 2015 Advent Calendar series (#AFONAdvent)! For each day in the lead-up to Christmas, we have a post from an A Focus On Nature member on this year’s Advent theme: “The Gift of Giving”. We hope that you enjoy the series and have a Merry Christmas and Happy New Year!
On the topic of “gifts from nature” I could talk about many things, from lecturers and family members departing knowledge to the infinite inspiration gained from favoured documentaries and books. On this occasion however I will refrain as for me one thing, or should I say one place, eclipses the others in terms of the breadth of wisdom, knowledge and fantastic experiences dispensed throughout the years. I am of course referring to Northumberland. My home county, a place that both captivates and motivates, inspires and intrigues and one that holds a very special in my heart.
Northumberland is without a doubt the place that first sparked my love of natural history and I feel nothing short of privileged to have grown up in such a ecologically diverse and overtly beautiful region. Northumberland gives continuously, every day, every month, every year though looking back, it is the gift of inspiration that I am perhaps most grateful for. Inspiration gained through fond memories, memories forged of the very experiences that first ignited my ecological flare and set me on my current path. Among these memories; resplendent summer days spent collecting wildflowers with my Grandmother and hours spent observing the mesmerizing courtship of Great Crested Grebes with my Grandad. Northumberland truly set the wheels to motion so to speak and gifted me that first jolt of inspiration to keep me hooked on nature for a lifetime.
In current times my county keeps on giving, etching out fond and fabulous memories whenever I step outside my door. From whirling skeins of Pink-Footed Geese and Foxes foraging in my garden to tantilising rarities bejeweling the coastline, there is always something new to see in radiant Northumbria. No two days are the same with everyday encounters like those listed above keeping me motivated to get out there and to learn and enjoy in equal measure. The North-East showcases the best of England’s wildlife and one need only visit the Farnes or Lindisfarne to be reminded of the gifts this underappreciated area has to offer. Gifts that transfix you, that bring your favourite documentaries to your very feet and have to potential to profoundly influence your life, like they did mine.
On a serious note, Northumberland has likewise provided me with a more sombering gift. Something that though unpleasant motivates me just as much as the factors listed above. My county, my home is far from perfect and despite its many assets also has its flaws. Northumberland faces many of the same problems blighting other areas of the UK. Urban sprawl, illegal persecution, intolerance and a population increasingly disconnected with nature all threaten the wildlife I hold to heart. Witnessing such things first hand has provided me with further motivation and perhaps a little foresight. Foresight that lets me see where things will go absent change and motivation to get out and at least attempt to rectify these issues. Everything from my choice of degree to my time spent volunteering stems from these but ultimately such things are means to the same end. They will ultimately allow me to repay my debt, to give a gift myself and protect the wildlife that I have enjoyed so much over the years. Northumberland has given me an awful with many gifts still to unwrap will keep me coming back long into the future.