Losing The Countryside
I have been a true country girl since the moment I was born. Growing up in rural upland Northumberland, I was surrounded by diverse habitats and both fantastic and breathtaking wildlife. For as long as I can remember, spring and summer were shrouded in the calls of Lapwings, Curlew and Golden Plover on the moorlands, whilst the forests were full of the tuneful birdsong from a wide range of species. Over winter, the moorlands would become quiet and the snow covered hills would show their red grouse populations, whilst the rivers would still be ruled by the White-throated dipper and the Robins and Wrens, the kings of the woodland, would assert their authority as the most prevalent species in both song and sight. As a wildlife lover and keen ornithologist, life in the countryside is perfect, as when you want to indulge your hobby, all you have to do is step out the front door.
However, time, as it does, passed rather quickly without ever notifying me. And now, twenty-four (oh dear) years later, reality has hit; my childhood and adolescent years in the carefree countryside has come to an end (for now). I returned home to the countryside after several years living in the city for University, but now, a year later, I realised that my time at the family home has passed and I would probably have to leave my beloved countryside to, as Rachel Green would say, ‘get one of those job thingies’. Oddly, to work in nature and conservation, I have had to leave the countryside, hopefully temporarily, for the hustle and bustle of city life. And that is where I am now, sitting in my flat in a Scottish city, writing this article as I pine for the countryside. No longer can I just step out the front door and find a woodland, nor take a ten minute walk to the moorland. A ten minute walk from my street and I will find myself on, that’s right, another residential street, dominated by brick buildings, cars and, not to sound too intolerant, people. Suddenly, wildlife is no longer something that is easily available, in fact, it seems a world away!
Or so I thought. A few days ago, I found myself going stir crazy in my little flat. I was bored, it was raining and I had spent the morning furiously cleaning the flat. My camera, who usually sits on the windowsill just waiting to be used, finds himself redundant, packed away in a cupboard as I take up city life. But as I paced the flat, I realised something. That I quite simply longed for a blackbird! A Jackdaw! A pigeon! Anything that said ‘wildlife does exist in the city!’ And then, as if they had read my mind, two Magpies flew from above and sat on the ledge of the flats on the other side of the road. Now, you may think a Magpie is not all that interesting, but for me, starved of wildlife for over a week, this was a blessing from the Gods. So, I sat on the window ledge and watched them hop about and settle, taking shelter from the rain.
There was a phrase I would often use when at home, walking the dogs or watching for wildlife: ‘You can’t escape people’. Why did I say this? Because eventually, on almost every outing, when hoping you would not see a soul and even after miles of deserted moorland or forest, you would always run into someone. Naturally I would always complain, as if those 30 seconds of passing human company had quite ruined my otherwise entirely peaceful walk. Living back in the city, I have decided I am going to change that phrase to a much happier one:
‘You can’t escape wildlife.’
Thank goodness. In fact, my sister, who lives in the same city, has told me that you really cannot. In the winter, foxes are a regular occurrence, and seals are seen many days in the river. Both of these sights are something that I could not boast when I was still at home. So I have come to a conclusion. I have realised that I do not have to be in the remote countryside to see some of my favourite animals. Here, I can still find a spot in the back yard and see the squirrels running about the trees and the bats flittering around at night. Ok, it might not be as quiet, sure, it might not be as peaceful, but if you give it time, it can be just as special and just as spectacular. If you want to see wildlife, you can usually find it wherever you are.
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