Buzzing through Autumn

See the original piece, as written for my university’s student newspaper ‘The Falmouth Anchor’ here.


Photo: Will Hawkes

It’s that divisive time of year again – it may shine bright, clear and golden, but the air that hits your face when you step out of your door is ice-cold and snatches unexpectedly at your now sniffling nose. Some may love the Autumn, relishing in the opportunity to cloak themselves in duffle coats and scarves again like a maddened roof insulator and the childhood nostalgia of kicking dead leaves on a crisp amber afternoon, while others mourn the loss of occasional scorching days and default wearing of single layers, that only seems to have been a couple of weeks before.

But fear not, Summer lovers – if you want an inkling of the feel that the raucous season insinuates in our minds, turn your attention to ivy bees. Unlike many of our native bees, most beginning to turn in for the winter and hide away (how I envy them), the ivy bee Colletes hederae is on the wing right to the end of October. As its name suggests, their devotion to the pollen of ivy, which doesn’t flower until the Autumn, means their presence brings one last reminder of the heady buzzing of bees on a Summer’s day, when much of nature seems to be shutting down. Continue reading

Falmouth Anchor Column: Nature’s Guardians

My latest nature column as printed in the Falmouth Anchor, Exeter/Falmouth university’s student newspaper.

Whose countryside is it anyway? It’s the ultimate question and has been batted around much of the media recently between two ‘sides’ – the conservation community and the shooting/landowning fraternity – with the attitude we hold towards wildlife and nature as a whole at its core.

Perhaps the most notable incident involved the star of Springwatch, Chris Packham. He provoked the Countryside Alliance to demand the BBC sack him due to him calling on conservation NGOs to increase campaigning pressure against badger culling, fox hunting and illegal hen harrier persecution on grouse moors. This in turn led another columnist, Robin Page, of the Telegraph, to accuse Chris Packham of “knowing nothing” of the countryside.

I wonder how many students at this university have been similarly accused, simply because they love wildlife but don’t necessarily want to shoot  it. As someone born and raised in a landscape of woodland and farmland, who has devoted their studying to conserving wildlife in the field, I find this a highly offensive view. I’m not overly sentimental about nature; I understand the need for culling where necessary, and that wildlife is very much red in tooth and claw.

But, nature needs space too, and that is the point which many fail to recognise: their countryside is an industrial landscape as man-made as the towns they claim to despise. Many also state they are ‘real’ conservationists, yet this generally only seems to be of species that can survive in the conditions that intensive farming creates, and if it can, then make absolutely no impact on their activities.

Cooperation is necessary if we are to improve the future of the UK’s nature. But as long as these attitudes still stand, in many of those who manage a lot of the land where it could best flourish, it will be difficult.