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Falling in love with wildlife

Posted: Monday 8th February 2016 by 30-Days-Wild

Badgers, Elliott NeepBadgers, Elliott Neep

My love affair with wildlife began before I was born. You could say it was predestined; my maternal grandfather, Harold, was a naturalist – and not a naturist, as I would tell people as a child!

He spent vast amounts of time engaging with the world around him, whether that meant drawing and painting wildlife, collecting artifacts, documenting species behaviour, or simply taking the time to exist on the edge of the Broads in a home he called The Wilderness. I barely remember my grandfather, as he died when I was just five years old. What I do know, though, is that his passion for wildlife seems to have rubbed off on me, regardless of how short a time our paths crossed for. Each time I would stare avidly out of the window in search of birds my mum would comment that I was so like her father, and I took pride in the fact that I had inherited such a special trait.

My childhood was divided between our ‘library’ (a conservatory with a few shelves), in which my wildlife fact-files were stored, and the field next door to our house; back then the trees and lumpy grass were our playground. My best friend, Chloe, and I would also take long trips around the local lakes, creating stories for the swans that lived there, and paddling in the water. We’d look out for birds, kid ourselves that we’d seen fantastic beasts, and fish with plastic bags; we couldn’t get enough of being outdoors. What I remember most about my childhood was how amazing everything seemed. My dad was, and still is, an avid caver and walker, while my mum enjoyed being outside as much as my brother and I did. I remember scaling rock faces, scrambling around ponds, ducking my head underground, and just walking – for what seemed like hours at a time. We collected mementos from every place we visited, whether that was the woodlands, beach, or just another flower from the field next door. We would build dens for the woodlice we’d captured as pets, house ladybirds in ice cream tubs, and marvel at the tadpoles as they grew legs in our pond; we didn’t talk about wildlife, or read about it in books, but lived alongside it and breathed it in.

When my own children were born I promised that they would grow up feeling the same as I did when I was little; that they’d marvel at the everyday and enjoy adventures wherever we went. I remember the moment my son showed his first interest in nature; my toddler son, barely able to walk, was kicking through some autumn leaves, giggling to himself as though every rustle was a hilarious joke. That’s the thing about wildlife; you don’t have to go far, or invest much effort at all, to be completely and utterly overwhelmed by it. Engaging with wildlife is noticing a snail on a garden wall, hearing a bird calling above the noise of traffic, or even just walking a slightly different way home so you can spend longer outside. My children love looking for mini beasts, splashing in puddles, watching the rain, and identifying a new bird on our feeders.

Wildlife is closer than you could possibly imagine, and easier to engage with than you think. Derbyshire Wildlife Trust is ready, whenever you are! Join today at

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