A feeling of shame came over me last weekend. I was sitting in a canoe gently paddling down a river listening to an amazing chorus given off by a multitude of birds. I wasn’t in the wilds of the Amazon, Africa or even Scandinavia. I was here in the UK. A mere one and a half hours from Bristol, on the English and Welsh border I experienced something quite spectacular.
Red kites soared overhead descending close, right over our heads. Swifts darted between and around us, pulling the most impressive of aerobatic turns to prey on flying insects. Song thrushes perched on the bowed ends of reeds sang their sweet melody. A cuckoo interrupted and a woodpecker punctuated. Mallard ducks swam by the river banks watching closely at their brood of fluffy ducklings as they played amongst the fallen branches and the goosanders showed off their hairstyles.
This was all captured in one scene, a picture perfect postcard of Britain. Further along we canoed through a gang of swans, adolescent cygnets from the last season still sporting some grey. As we slowly paddled through they silently parted either side in the most poetic of dances. Another group in the distance took off, silhouettes, mere metres over our heads, whilst a mother curled her long body up over her precious eggs on the banks.
My shame came from my surprise to this feeling of amazement at having found this spring time paradise in our country. I attribute wilderness and wildlife to other places, not to industrialised Britain that I have accepted as tamed and boring. And I feel bitterly ashamed by this unconscious view I held. I feel embarrassed that with this view I am letting down all those people that have been trying to re-wild Britain, those that possess the imagination of what Britain can be and once was and with the faith to tirelessly campaign towards this goal.
So here’s to those activists, lobbyists, environmentalists that have taken up this baton. Here is to those giving a voice to the real natives of this fair land and to their successes allowing me to experience this beautiful nature, right on my doorstep.
The job though isn’t done and we didn’t see any otters. The next time I am canoeing down the Wye I am hopeful that I shall.