Recently I travelled up to Northumberland to visit friends from university. They are two of the busiest people I know, so I was pleased to be able to steal a few days in October to catch up and visit their local patch.
The first thing I experienced was severe house envy. Wildlife art adorned every wall; the sort of beautiful paintings and drawings that I planned to splash all over my own home some day. However, it was the bookshelf that really caught my attention. Sprawled across an entire wall and almost reaching the ceiling, it was crammed with every book on natural history you could want. Not just modern paperbacks but antiquarian hardbacks with leather bound covers and swirling gold titles. In front of every row of books was an envious selection of treasures: pinecones, gannet eggshells, roe deer antlers, pin badges, lino prints, Wade Whimsies, fossils, gemstones, lichens, miniature animal wood carvings and a beautifully preserved badger skull with its lower jaw intact. I spent ages studying everything in turn, gravitating first to the roe antlers. I have a roe buck skull of my own – one of my most prized possessions – but I still long to find dropped antlers too. It was an impressive collection of everything nature, framed by dozens of books from my wish list.
I stayed with my friends for a long weekend and managed to cram quite a lot into those few days. Heather and I visited a fantastic patch of woodland, which was home to not only red squirrels but also pine martens! I knew we probably wouldn’t catch a glimpse of one during the day, but it was still exciting to walk among trees that might be housing a sleeping marten. It was so peaceful and quiet with only faint birdsong punctuating the air. As we searched for fungi to photograph, I found a gorgeous caterpillar making its way along the fence. Later, we discovered it was a buff tip moth caterpillar.
The next day I helped Heather with a “Mini Wildlife Adventure” that she was running for a child’s birthday party. The boy was intrigued by nature and so he and his friends spent the morning pond dipping, searching for bugs, finding badger prints and birdwatching in a hide. It was such a fantastic idea for a birthday party, and it was particularly refreshing to see that the boys had good wildlife knowledge and were genuinely excited by what they saw. Educating children about nature at a young age is the key to ensuring they continue to care about it when they grow up. Those boys would have spent hours pond dipping if we’d had the time, and it was so lovely to see.
That evening Heather, Cain and I spent a peaceful last evening watching Sherlock with the fire cracking and snapping in the grate. It had been a pretty jam-packed weekend but as always, I felt inspired with a rejuvenated love for nature that always comes after a trip to northern England or Scotland. I sometimes struggle to feel that same passion at home in the south, where there are more people and noise and far fewer pine martens. I love escaping to the wilder parts of the UK and look forward to another wildlife adventure very soon.