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!
For anyone that has an interest and love for nature, when they think back I’m sure there was something that triggered that off. Whether that was a sequence of experiences or just one. That event would have inspired them and brought them to life about the great outdoors, what it’s all about and made them desperate to explore and learn more about it. That moment was a gift. Unfortunately today, for many different reasons, too many individuals don’t have an experience like that and due to this that curiosity never comes out.
If, like me, you have an interest and passion for the natural world then that moment or them few moments brought you to where you are today. A connection with nature influences you in so many ways, whether it be obliviously, on a daily basis, or little things like what you get up to in your free time, how it makes you feel, how it relaxes you, something to turn to, inspiration or so much more. For everyone it’s different, for starters that first encounter would have been different and due to that sets us off into our own world. Maybe for you it was being encouraged to observe the birds in the back garden which inspired you so much that you got hooked. You went onto learn the name of more and more species. Then oh wait, what’s that under the bird table? It’s a squirrel. Your mind escalates and you long to learn and know about the whole ecosystem, how it works and so on.
It may not have been when you were a child either, maybe it was when you were much older or just recently. In my opinion, what it all boils down to is nature’s incredibility and how fascinating it is. What I have just wrote all comes from the vague idea around what really got me into the natural world when I was a child. In fact ‘it’ is part of many of my earliest memories. For me it wasn’t an individual species or an activity but a place.
Growing up in quite an urban place a lot of my family day trips consisted of escaping from this urban environment and heading to much more natural places. It’d be an early morning start and we’d head out to one of our favourite spots, some closer then others and some definitely more exciting then others! One location which we travelled to a few times a year was somewhere up in the Peak District. Some of you may have heard of this place, it’s quite common for local tourists due to it’s natural beauty, it’s an area called Dovedale. I’d step out the car and the car park was always rammed, but that’s not really surprising! We’d pop to the toilet before going on our adventure, maybe grab an ice cream (or wait until we got back) and set of down the uneven path as we followed the River Dove.
As I mentioned, this location is very popular. One of the reasons for this is due to the stepping stones. When we arrived at the stepping stones there was always a queue then once over we carried on down the path. Thinking back, it wasn’t just the stepping stones, the family day out or the hills around that made Dovedale feel so special to me, it was everything. Being transported in a fairly short car journey from a very built up area to this green oasis with hills and dry stone walls as far as I could see was just so overpowering. Especially for a small child who was finding her feet in the world. It threw me. I had a strong pull to just explore. Climb up steep hills, paddle in the river, wander off, spot buzzards gliding above in the clear skies miles away, watch dippers do what they do best for hours in the stream and so much more.
Writing about it now, was it that special? Just going for a walk in a rural area? Trying to get my point across is difficult but it was and there’s no doubt that it inspired my passion for nature that continues today. A true gift and a place that I still visit and plan to visit for as long as I can. Thinking about it now, there’s a perfectly clear image in my head. Everything. So overwhelming and powerful in the sense as I think back to that childhood view I had of the whole area.
Building up from that, as I got older and come to terms with new species, places, activities and wonders of the natural world my interest and passion for it grew more and more. Until today when I’m still ever learning new things and having new experiences.
However, when I hear about all the wrong ongoings against nature and the world’s ecosystems, it’s very difficult. You want to give back yet even that is so hard to do but never is any positive impact, action or doing worthless. At the end of the day it all counts and builds up to the bigger picture. It’s so important to give back and do what you can and when you can, it’s almost liking giving a gift back to nature for what it did for you. It may only be small but it’s worth it.