Wildflower scrapbooks… school nature walks under a canopy of elms… family Sunday walks out on the Levels hijacked by dad’s need for willing volunteers to collect whatever plant he needs for his latest homemade wine experiment… fingers stained for days if it was dandelion or elderberry, and mouths too if it was blackberry… a field full of sunny cowslips… tree climbing anywhere & everywhere… newt spotting at Shervage Woods pond… beaver impersonations at Great Wood - damming the streams… birthdays always there at the picnic sites & roasting blackberries on sticks over the little fire you were allowed to build, fire beaters close at hand… endless summers only coming home for meals and to wait for daylight again…

Now earning pocket money scraping the insects off dad’s windscreen and radiator grill would be a pleasure. The Quantocks walks never ended with a ‘tick check’ in those days & much that we took for granted then has now disappeared, parents & cowslips included. The joy of seeing a plant, bird or insect for the first time wasn’t tempered by the thought that it’s a worrying sign of climate change.

Tainting those fond childhood memories with adult reality retrospectively is something I’m unwilling to do, but I’m sure my parents would have fondly looked back on their carefree childhoods in the same rose-tinted glasses & bemoaned the seventies for being degraded & spoilt. Something that sticks in my mind (like very little does now in mid-life!) from reading Wilding, is that our baseline - our idea of what the natural world or landscape should look or be like - is based on what we recall from when we were young, a very short time in its history.

I now sit at a desk! Careers advice to a painfully shy & impressionable teenager amounted to “You’re good at maths, you’d better become an accountant” led me here in an era when you didn’t need ‘people’ or ‘communication’ skills in that role, just a ‘way with numbers’! But it has its advantages too – a warm office in the winter being one significant benefit! Most of all, the opportunity to combine that very specific skill-set with my life-long passion for the natural world. Working behind the scenes in a variety of wildlife & conservation charities has been a great privilege and has given me the job satisfaction that most accountants could only dream of. I work with an amazing team of people who are intensely passionate about what they do & always keen to share their knowledge with us numpties back in the office. How many other accountants could say that?

I may still be very blissfully ignorant, but I’m far from ignorant of the unremitting drive of the FWAG team & many others to turn the tide of loss and degradation. I can still enjoy listening to birdsong & just identifying it as ‘a nice tune’, or wonder at how a tiny wren can make such a racket! We can learn the name of a flower in the spring & have forgotten it again by the autumn, only to relearn it the following year, or just enjoy its bright colour and the wildlife it attracts, not totally overwhelmed by its or their decline. I definitely have the best of both worlds and hope I never take that for granted.