I'm John. I live in north Northants. As well as having worked in the creative industries most of my life, around ten years ago I rediscovered a passion for the natural world. I say 'rediscovered' as through my teens and early working life I had lost the connection that I had grown up with as a child. I became aware of my gradual reconnection with nature in my thirties, which brought with it many opportunities to get involved in supporting our local, national, even international wildlife; supporting RSPB, the Wildlife Trusts, various NGOs, and meeting like-minded people from all walks of life with a common passion for nature.
Mid March 2020 and we're plunged into lockdown; a darkness – and in reaction, reaching out for a torch, maybe even a way out. Around the beginning of April, I find myself starting to get to grips with this new route we are facing.
I wanted to share my experience of reconnecting with nature in my immediate area, as a direct result of lockdown. In this case, I want to concentrate on the areas I visited in those first few weeks. I thought I had a good understanding of what was on my doorstep; the flora and fauna, locations, times of year, even perhaps rarities. Over the last few months though it has been a case of revisiting, but on a higher, more focussed level. Starting with the initial one-hour exercise limit, this had a real effect on me by seeing where I could realistically visit and when I got there, what I could observe, and in what time frame... the answer for me was to start literally a few minutes walk from my doorstep.
Living in Rothwell, near to the A6/A14, I already had escape routes into the countryside but I was to rediscover them in detail, even extend my known range. There are three main areas; the public footpath near fields west of the A14, land either side of a road to the next village further west, and lastly, an unknown area to the south of my home – totally undiscovered and basically inaccessible because of the constant traffic, until recently.
The local public footpath has long been the main attraction for me, and the hedges are the literal boundary between roadside and countryside. Butterflies of all sorts – Small Tortoiseshells, a few Peacocks – parade around the Elder, warming themselves on the clay-sand soil. House Sparrows, Robins, Starlings and Blackbirds all make a noise and chatter in the hedgerows – they have the best of both worlds here with the naturally occurring food and just a minute's flight from someone's feeders.
The footpath is alongside an arable field, where you can also regularly see Red Kites, Buzzards and according to season; Skylarks, Blackcaps... all sing here, along with the odd Yellowhammer.
This half-mile stretch of footpath had been a sanctuary before lockdown, however the other areas were unfamiliar and I was uncertain as to what they'd hold.
Across the other side, south of the A14 is an area that, in three years of living here, I'd not yet had the chance to explore. An undulating landscape; the first thing to strike me was the peace, this is how it must've been in the days before the main roads. As a result, the subtle is more obvious – the buzzing of insects, the subsong of birds, for example.
The roadsides were a surprise... the swathes of Cowslips I already knew about, but there are also large areas of Oxeye daisies, tall imposing Teasels, the 'spiky' Knapweed, white explosions of Hogweed, and the lollipop-like Scabious. This land had been partially developed around a year ago; a real mix of old and new, and whilst sort of cut-off from the dual carriageway (hence not easy to get to at all) the dramatic reduction in traffic caused by lockdown had meant that this area finally revealed it's hidden natural elements.
The area further to the west (that leads to the next village) has Oak and Ash wooded areas, some Beech too, and wide scrubland areas which are ideal for Song Thrushes, Magpies, and the Kestrels that use the land and verges to seek out their prey.
During this lockdown, as a direct result of traffic reduction, I found myself literally a few metres away from a confused looking Muntjac deer – i'd previously heard occasional non-canine barking locally, but never seen one on my 'doorstep' until now. Cowslips also thrive here, as do Rabbits that i'm sure the Red Kites may scavenge from, from time to time. Being a wooded area, Bluebells were also starting to appear mid-April, as well as the miniature wonder; Common Vetch.
Over these last few months during lockdown, and as it starts to ease, I've discovered more of the natural detail in familiar locations, whilst also looking for the first time at areas I knew existed but had not been able to previously visit.
Finally, Nature is so therapeutic – in a time of lockdown it was and is, an essential go-to for me. It's a complex time for all, but out of this, my appreciation of the natural world has only deepened... and for that, I am thankful.
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