Mother Nature didn’t notice the ‘lockdown’ and despite government advice she is in full swing. Butterflies skip along flowery verges, swifts scream through the centre of our villages and dragonflies hawk for prey over local ponds. 

As each summer closes I’m always left thinking I didn’t make the most of it and as a naturalist I always enter the autumn with this sense of misgiving: that rare orchid I intended to see or a particular ancient wood I wanted to visit has gone another year without my discovery. 

The great Bard reminds us that ‘summer’s lease hath all too short a date’ and as I get older the winters, despite being milder, seem longer and the summers that touch more fleeting. 

To search for Norfolk’s impressive and often nationally scarce wildlife one feels a trip to its peripheries is necessary. This year – despite having to stay local – I intend to have no regrets concerning another passing summer. 

With restrictions slowly lifted, a trip to a well-loved beauty spot seems tempting; although I suspect like me the thought of following the herd is not too appealing. 

Verges can be great for wildlife, such as this Roadside Nature Reserve, photo NCC

So here’s a call to those of us, ‘trapped’ in the heart of the county, to discover the wonderful wildlife around us. It has never been the case that one has to travel vast distances to delight in nature’s wonders, even the smallest overgrown patch has a surprising array of wildlife. Otherwise the local park, verge of a country lane or churchyard are excellent alternatives. 

Many people, possibly not noticing before, have commented that this year they can hear bird song, that our lanes are unusually flower-full or have followed butterflies, normally unhindered, alone the herbaceous boarder and encouraging them, normally unsuccessfully, to pose for a photo. 

I don’t believe nature is any more vibrant than previous summers. Perhaps this year, distinguished by confinement and restrictions, we are noticing nature with renewed appreciation. 

April and then May were wonderfully warm and pleasant, a tent of blue unsullied by aircraft vapour trails; for during the spring of 2020 one really did feel “you could reach right up and touch the sky”. The challenge now is to encourage this localised approach and continue in the spirit of community, whether buying locally produced food or taking ‘staycations’. 

Blue tit taking food to her young in a garden, credit Tig Worthington

Brought up on adventure books, Attenborough documentaries and a hankering for the rare and exotic, extensive world travel would suit my palate. But, in relation to wildlife conservation, the bird-watcher that concentrates on a local patch, puts up nest boxes, and scatters wildflower seeds is infinitely more conscientious than the globe-trotting list-ticking twitcher. 

The ease of which we can now travel doesn’t have to make it necessary or justified. A lesson to keep learning is that we can improve our local environment through the smallest of actions, even by just staying put. 

When walking was the only permitted activity, it sent me to corners of my local area I didn’t know were there, I found insects and plants I hadn’t encountered before and, after my many unfulfilled and chased summers, I finally realised home is where the heart is. 
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