"Up and out of doors is good enough to roam about and get one’s living."
Mr Badger – Wind in the Willows
By now you may well have seen, and hopefully enjoyed, the Wildlife Trusts’ animated Wind in the Willows film trailer. If not then make sure you watch it soon!
Kenneth Grahame is thought to have been inspired to write Wind in the Willows by his walks along the beautiful River Pang in Berkshire, part of which is now a Wildlife Trust nature reserve, Moor Copse. The book was published in 1908. Since then it has inspired many generations of children through the exploits of its main characters, Badger, ‘Ratty’, Mole and Toad.
This new animation, narrated by Sir David Attenborough, Norfolk’s own Stephen Fry, Catherine Tate, Alison Steadman and Asim Chaudhry brings Badger and his friends into the modern world. A world very different from the countryside that inspired Kenneth Grahame more than 100 years ago. A world where rivers have been straightened and litter and plastics float on the water, where ancient trees have been felled, and intensive farming has changed whole landscapes.
The Mole was bewitched, entranced, fascinated. By the side of the river he trotted as one trots … and when tired at last, he sat on the bank, while the river still chattered on to him, a babbling procession of the best stories in the world, sent from the heart of the earth to be told at last to the insatiable sea.from Wind in the Willows by Kenneth Grahame
The animation opens in the idyllic countryside of Kenneth Grahame’s time. ‘Ratty’ of course is messing about in a boat. "Believe me, my young friend, there is nothing – absolutely nothing – half so much worth doing as simply messing about in boats".
Toad, in character, is zooming manically along far too fast on his motorbike. "Toad’s rich, we all know… And he’s a hopelessly bad driver and quite regardless of law and order." The inevitable happens. An accident! Toad hits a pile of tarmac and breeze blocks and he and his riverbank friends are thrown into the landscape of today. A landscape full of danger and hazards unknown and unimagined 100 years ago.
'Ratty's river is now straightened, the banks sheet-piled, the water littered with plastics and rubbish and a pipe pours pollution into its dark and dank waters. Mole is trapped, finding his way to the surface blocked by tarmac from a road development. The ancient, veteran tree above Badger’s sett is felled to make way for a new fly-over for a dual carriage way.
The graphics, in extraordinary detail, reveal a dystopian world. The images may be graphic but they tell an important and sadly very true story. Today we do live in a world where England has become one of the most nature-depleted countries on the planet. Real life toads and water voles are in trouble with 94% of water voles lost in Britain and common toads declining by around 70% in the last 30 years. The images may to some seem exaggerated for effect but sadly we do live in a Norfolk where most people’s first and possibly only sight of a badger will be one lying dead on the side of a road.
I don’t know whether Kenneth Grahame was a conservationist but the choice of his Wind in the Willows characters to tell a modern story raising public alarm at the dire state of our wildlife is very appropriate. His writing remains inspirational today and so I will end with some of his words from one of my favourite childhood books. But please make sure you watch the film
. Together we can create a Wilder Future.
"There’s real life for you, embodied in that little cart. The open road, the dusty highway, the heath, the common, the hedgerows, the rolling downs."
Toad – Wind in the Willows
"People come – they stay a while, they flourish, they build – and they go. It is their way. But we remain. There were badgers here, I’ve been told, long before that same city ever came to be. And now there are badgers here again. We are an enduring lot, and we may move out for a time, but we wait, and are patient, and back we come. And so it will ever be."
Badger – Wind in the Willows