My Environment – Blog Action Day

Across the globe, bloggers are writing articles for Blog Action Day. This years theme for the event is to write about the environment. I’m not going to write about global warming, carbon footprints, green technology, video conferencing or social communities on the net, but write a bit about ‘my’ environment instead.

My environment

Working for an environmental charityI haven’t always been a ‘geek girl’. After initially training in graphic design, I switched career course and had the opportunity to work in some of the most beautiful places. I retrained in Countryside Management which involved practical habitat management and environmental education. When working at the National Trust in Runnymede, looking after ancient woodland, grasslands and pasture, I would often be seen wielding a chainsaw, or driving the tractor or herding large numbers of visitors at this special site as well as helping to herd the cattle! I also worked in Shrewsbury too, helping to manage a series of small local nature reserves and managing a team of volunteers to restore a canal. When working in Birmingham at the urban Sandwell Valley Nature Reserve for the RSPB, I was involved in helping with the 3,000 visiting school children every year and our mad, fun and chaotic play-schemes we ran in the holidays in addition to practical habitat management. I was nearly chosen to audition to be a television presenter for a children’s wildlife series with the BBC! (the picture is from one of our many events back in 1994. I’m the short RSPB warden on the left with red facepaint!)

In Brum, I met my husband who also worked on the nature reserve and we moved to Devon. After not being able to obtain one of the few available jobs in the environment, I stumbled into my role at South Hams CVS as the Information Development Officer. A universe away from the muddy days of habitat management, but was able to put my educational and information management skills to good use. Nearly ten years on I am still there, and now am the manager and also a freelance designer too. I still miss my hands on practical work outdoors, but am an avid gardener keen to create my own little wildlife habitat and wildlife corridors wherever we reside and have been involved with several local environmental charities.

We live in the thriving little village of Ipplepen, in South Devon and have great views of fields outside the front of our house. Dartmoor and the beaches are close by too, only being a short drive in the car. In fact this could be most people’s idea of a perfect environment. It isn’t ours!

We couldn’t get the kids into the local village primary school, and didn’t want them sent by taxi to a village three and a half miles in the wrong direction, so opted for a school near to where I work. So our route to school is something those on the school run may see as idyllic too. To avoid the morning congestion going through the town of Totnes, we trundle at low speed for six miles along the high sided traditional high hedged narrow lanes, past farms and hamlets, over the railway line of the steam railway at Staverton, across the ancient packhorse bridge and past a woodland to get to school. So in one sense my kids see a bit of the beautiful landscape each day as they gaze through the car windows. All sounds fine to some.

But not us. I’m originally from edges of London. As nice as the countryside and rural life is, urban life has everything on within reach that our modern family needs. Devon is fine in many ways but I don’t want my kids to be transported everywhere. Where we are in our village we don’t even have pavements on our part of the road. My boys won’t ever be able to walk or play outside along our road as cars race down as fast as they can.
Whenever we go to London or other cities, my heart always skips a beat with excitement. I can feel it’s energy and it’s movement. My boys being brought up in a rural area, are in awe of the buildings, the infrastructure and the rhythm of cities when we visit. The ease of being able to get from A to B without a car or not having to wait for sporadic public transport which never seems to run at the right times when we want to be mobile. I miss the rich diversity of communities and the people who make them so special. Of course, I have the internet which connects me to communities of people that I would never normally meet or bump into which is great and vital for my community connections in one sense, although in my living real world I still need a mixture of face to face people to communicate with for my everyday needs.

We’ve spent the last year deciding on where we’ll move to. We want to be in a place where our boys have the chance to see their environment for real, being able to walk in it and take part in it. How otherwise will they be able to be aware and care about their environment when they are themselves grown up? We’ve looked at our favourite places in France, the Orkneys, Birmingham, Bristol and East London.

All of the above would do and meet our needs well. We’ve settled on the market town of Newton Abbot for now, just a mere four miles away. We hope to be there in December. It’s not a big bustling city, and is still within a rural area. But what it is, is a busy and lively town. There’s a train station, bus station, a cinema, swimming pool and much, much more. All in one place. We’ll be walking to school every day too. Being able to walk and talk and be together rather than them being strapped in a car seat belt looking through a window whilst I carefully navigate the back lanes keeping my fingers crossed that there won’t be too many drivers coming the other way!
It won’t be the ‘rural idyll’ that many think we have now. I probably won’t be working for an environmental charity as a ranger or warden either. But, we will be able to forget about the reliance on cars, as we can access public transport to other places easily and I can still make my wildlife haven in the garden. The hover-flies and other bugs and wildlife will all be there living with us. In the middle of the town!

That’s going to be our next environment and we can’t wait!

Finally, a nice place to do a plug which isn’t about technology or non-profits! At first when working with environmental charities, I was more a practical hands on person and wasn’t really interested in the educational side of it all to share my love of nature with others. Then I discovered Joseph Cornell, and used many of his techniques and tools in my environmental education work. I have one other of his books on my bookshelf, which I dip into now and again, when I lose my touch of my awareness of the environment when I am caught up in my busy daily life. Listening to Nature – I highly recommend it!