As the beautiful Autumn season arrives the felling of one tree – the Sycamore Gap at Hadrian’s Wall – filled news headlines and sparked anger, outrage and outcry. This senseless act should be a reminder that people are disconnected with nature and natural systems. At the same time many people care… but perhaps the sentimental affection for one tree is misplaced or needs some additional focus?
The Sycamore was ‘special’ because it stood alone as a feature of the landscape (possibly deliberately planted as such). There are many ‘special trees’. For me, and associated with the Perth & Kinross Countryside Trust ‘Perthshire big tree country’, the ancient Birnham Oak is special (and incidentally has some ancient sycamores near by). However, it is not alone, it exists in woodland on the banks of the River Tay, and further along is Neil Gow’s oak revered as the place the 18th century fiddler composed and played.
A tree is a ‘unit’ of a woodland or forest, a habitat. The outcry should be levelled at destruction of these habitats for human development (roads, rail eg HS2, building development, monoculture etc). Connection to nature can be ’emotional’ and ‘spiritual’, at the same time there is need for a regard to ecology and what is appropriate planting and management. However, encouraging more people to enjoy and access the countryside responsibly, hopefully re-builds connection and support for trees and ‘added value’ they give us.
Our connection to nature can also be promoted and enhanced through well designed and carefully thought out ‘experiences’ in wildlife parks. At Jimmy’s Farm & Wildlife Park near Ipswich there is a new ‘rare breeds farm’ area, through the native woodland – where some pigs can be seen – and to the fields (with rare breed pigs, goats, sheep, Suffolk punch horses, Highland cattle).
It was an honour to be asked to speak at the UK’s first KEEPERFEST event held at Jimmy’s Farm & Wildlife Park in early September. The event included talks from Jim Doherty, Adam Henson, Nick Baker and a host of ‘industry experts’, as well as practical workshops and stands.
The event nicely complimented the work that ABWAK have been doing for many years in helping keepers to network and develop their skills.
Over the summer I also wrote a short-course on Environmental Education for learndirect and this is available for people to study online as a validated 3 module short-course: https://www.learndirect.com/course/level-3-award-environmental-educator