Lead nature agency publishes beaver licensing statistics and sparks an outcry

Captive European beaver from Highland Wildlife Park. © SNH/Lorne Gill

SNH has caused an outcry on social media after sending out the following press release. The timing of the press release couldn’t have been worse coming, as it did, the day after many UK naturalists and wildlife lovers will have seen the BBC’s Springwatch program featuring the Cornish Beaver project.

As you will see from the full text of the press release SNH 87 beavers were shot under licence, but these are in addition to those that are allegedly shot illegally. Graphic images posted on social media show dead beavers, some times pregnant females, allegedly killed, it is assumed, to stop them from causing further ‘damage’ to the areas they live in.

It does beg the question, why not move them? The UK is increasingly hit by flooding, sometimes with catestrophic consequences. Why can’t the beavers become part of the solution by helping to provide natural flood defences?

In SNH’s defence, they have stated that they are “exploring viable alternatives to lethal control” so for the sake of the beavers let’s hope they don’t take to long “exploring” and that as a result, they implement a more enlightened approach to controlling numbers and impacts.

The press release can be seen below.

Scottish Natural Heritage (SNH) today published a report on the challenging balance to be made between protecting beavers in Scotland and helping to prevent serious damage to some farmers’ land.
Beavers are ecosystem engineers. They provide huge benefits to people and nature, improving water quality and flow, and creating new habitats that foster many other species. However, their actions can sometimes cause serious impacts for land managers such as flooding of fields and crops. In some circumstance, it may be necessary to manage beavers and their dams under special licences issued by SNH.

Beavers became a European Protected Species on 1 May 2019. SNH reports that between 1st May and 31st December 2019, it issued 45 species licences which permitted either lethal control or dam removal. These were granted when there was no other effective solution to prevent serious agricultural damage. Five of the licences permitted dam removal or manipulation only. All licences were issued for the purpose of preventing serious damage to agriculture and all but one of these (97.5%) were issued on land classified by Scottish Government as Prime Agricultural Land. Evidence of serious damage included waterlogged fields and crops, as well as erosion on riverbanks and embankments.

One additional licence was granted to allow an experienced ecologist to live-trap beavers from sites where lethal control may otherwise have been employed. SNH also refused 33% of licence requests.

Under these licences, 15 beavers were trapped and moved to either Knapdale or a trial reintroduction project and fenced sites in England, 83 beaver dams were removed, and 87 beavers were shot by trained and accredited controllers. All lethal control licence holders were contacted about the possibility of trapping on their land, but live-trapping is not always possible on every site for a number of reasons, including the topography and general nature of the site and how beavers use it;  and the behaviour of individual animals. Based on survey information, lethal control and trapping has taken place within around 13% of territories. The proportion of the overall range of beavers in Tayside covered by licences is likely less than 10%, with control being carried out on around 5%.

The report recommends continued work with licence-holders exploring viable alternatives to lethal control, improving understanding of the impact of control measures on the Tayside population through survey and population modelling, and supporting work that better recognises the benefits of beavers for nature.

Robbie Kernahan, SNH Director of Sustainable Growth said:

“It’s always been clear to both us and our partners that lethal control of beavers will sometimes be necessary under licence as a last resort when other mitigation is unlikely to be effective. Some of the well documented and most serious issues have occurred on the most productive areas of agricultural land in Scotland. Due to their generally being well-drained, low-lying and flat, these areas are often vulnerable to beaver burrowing and dam building.

“As we work with farmers to trial new and innovative measures for reducing the impacts of beavers on this type of ground, we hope to see less need for control measures in the coming years. We also expect to see the beaver population expanding away from high conflict areas and into  suitable habitat where beavers can thrive and bring the positive benefits we want to see.”

The beavers in Tayside and surrounding areas are the result of unauthorised releases or escapes, with many animals settling on Prime Agricultural Land where they have had serious impacts. Classified Prime Agricultural Land makes up around 13% of Scotland’s land cover and, as the most productive and important farmland, it is of national importance.

SNH trapped and re-located 15 beavers in 2019, helping projects throughout the UK from Knapdale to Northumbria and Dorset. SNH will consider opportunities for conservation translocations of beavers from high to low conflict areas within existing catchments to improve resilience of existing populations. With Scottish Government we also will consider other alternative measures as part of a wider beaver mitigation strategy.

SNH also operates the Beaver Mitigation Scheme and in the first year, provided advice and support for over 40 cases and entered into 10 management agreements to implement mitigation. This work included installing flow devices, tree protection work, exclusion fencing and bank protection to protect agricultural land, infrastructure and property.

SNH has begun trialling water-gates this year, which aim to exclude beavers from areas of land where conflicts are arising or likely, as well as trialling other techniques, such as automated early-warning systems to alert people to beaver impacts, allowing rapid intervention before problems occur. Although water gates are only likely to be successful in certain situations, a number of potential water gate sites have been identified which, if successful, have the potential to fully resolve problems on 12 current licences where lethal control is permitted and partially resolve issues on a further 6 licences.

For the full statistics on 2019 mitigation, see https://bit.ly/2zzjVSh.

Call for nature lockdown stories on Biodiversity Day

Roe deer have been more visible © Catriona Reid/SNH

Scottish Natural Heritage (SNH) is calling on people to share their memorable stories and images of nature during lockdown.

In these unprecedented and difficult times, many people have reported finding solace in the natural world and being more interested in, and appreciative of, nature as our lives have slowed down with less travelling and more people walking and cycling daily.

In our quieter cities, towns and countryside there have been reports of unusual wildlife sightings – from a fox exploring Waverley station in Edinburgh to a deer perusing the shops in Glasgow’s Buchanan Street.

To celebrate the International Day for Biological Diversity (May 22), SNH wants to hear people’s personal experiences of nature in lockdown, whether that is spotting something new you’ve never noticed before, unusual wildlife, changes to nature locally or finding a deeper connection with the natural world.

Gathering a people’s record of nature during lockdown will complement longer-term scientific research into our growing understanding of the state of nature and the forces influencing it. 

The nature agency is also keen to encourage and support people to develop their interest, learn more and get involved in citizen science.

Staff have produced an online guide to the many nature surveys and activities that people can get involved in from their home, garden or out on a local walk.

Especially now when much professional field work is restricted, citizen science is key in helping to expand our scientific knowledge.

Professor Des Thompson, SNH’s Principal Adviser on Science and Biodiversity, said: “The true impact of Coronavirus restrictions on nature will of course take some time to establish, and there are likely to be both positive and negative impacts.

“The overwhelming positive is that so many people seem to be noticing and connecting much more with nature, and we’d love to hear any unusual or interesting nature moments that the public have experienced during the lockdown.

“Over the past few weeks we have certainly been seeing animals which are sensitive to disturbance returning to areas they formerly occupied, as well as being more active in the daytime.

“We’ve heard stories of coastal waders benefiting from quieter beaches, roe deer moving closer to populated areas, mammals such as pine martens and badgers becoming more active during daytime and foxes and other urban wildlife moving about more in cities.

 “We urge everyone who can to take the next step and get involved in recording and monitoring nature. Citizen science is not only an enjoyable way to make space for nature in your day, but is also crucial to help us understand and improve the state of Scotland’s nature for the future.”

People can submit their stories and images to BIODIVERSITY@nature.scot. Please include a full name and location.

A full list of citizen science activities that can be enjoyed during lockdown can be found here: https://www.nature.scot/scotlands-biodiversity/biodiversity-what-can-you-do/citizen-science-biodiversity

Discover a world of wildlife in your garden

At this time of year, our gardens and ponds are full of life such as wasps and tadpoles.

Natural Resource Wales is calling on people of all ages across Wales to step outside to explore the abundance of natural life to be found in their gardens as the world joins together to mark International Day for Biological Diversity (Friday, May 22).

As part of the annual celebrations, the United Nations has called on the global community to reinvigorate its relationship with nature and the many environmental benefits it delivers, including clean air and water, sustainable food supplies, and recovery and resilience to natural disasters.

The natural world is under threat here in Wales and NRW has a key role in tackling this emergency by protecting species and habitats and the sustainable management of our natural resources.

Graham Rutt, Ecological Data Specialist for NRW, explained:

“The UN International Day for Biological Diversity celebrates the wonderful diversity of nature and wildlife around our planet.

“The impact of Coronavirus has seen far more people inspired to explore nature in their communities and gardens getting to know the rich diversity of animals, insects and plants which share our homes.

“You don’t have to live in the countryside to enjoy nature – it’s all around you, even if you live in a town or city. Any green space will be home to a surprising number of species and you’ll be amazed at what you can find within walking distance of your home.”

So, what can you expect to find in your garden?

  • One of the traditional signs of spring is a garden full of butterflies. In the last few weeks, several different species of butterflies laid their eggs and their caterpillars will soon be emerging.
  • The first froglets are emerging in garden ponds in warmer areas and heading for abundant vegetation and long grass to hide in.
  • The first  damsel and dragonflies can be seen as the Spring progresses
  • Wildflowers are blooming in overlooked corners of our gardens creating unexpected colour and habitat for a variety of insects.
  • Bees are vital to healthy ecosystems through their role as pollinators and the first bumblebees can be seen busily gathering nectar and pollen

Tristan Hatton-Ellis is a habitats and species specialist advisor for NRW. He said:

“Lockdown is a difficult time for many of us, but it also provides an opportunity to notice some of the small things in life.

“In your garden, or when you are taking a walk, take a closer look at the animals and plants around you and appreciate their beauty, or their weirdness – the tiny dramas unfolding around us every day.

“Unfortunately, many amazing and beautiful species just like these are at serious risk of extinction.

“Nature and green spaces are really important for our well-being, and they are also home for so much wildlife. So if you feel inspired and want to give nature a hand, there are some great online wildlife gardening resources, such as at Buglife, Butterfly Conservation, the Freshwater Habitats Trust, the RSPB and Wildlife Trusts Wales.”

Alien Detectives wanted!

Conon River project
Removing Himalayan balsam ©SISI project

People are being urged to get involved in a new lockdown assault on invasive non-native species from the comfort of their own homes.

The Scottish Invasive Species Initiative (SISI) has today launched Alien Detectives – a fun and educational online resource to help the young, and not so young, learn more about alien – or non-native – invasive species.

Originally designed as a school education pack, the huge array of activities now includes a wide range of fun games and activities that anyone can enjoy at home, in the garden or on local walks during lockdown.

Alien Detectives includes crafts, quizzes, worksheets, presentations and puzzles all themed around invasive species and the river environment. Although primarily aimed at young people, anyone with an interest in the environment or invasive species can enjoy them too.

Callum Sinclair, SISI Project Manager, said: “Our project team has been busy while home working during the lockdown to produce these fantastic resources. We hope that becoming ‘Alien Detectives’ will bring many hours of enjoyment to individuals and families during lockdown, especially at a time when most young people are not in a regular school environment and might be looking for a new challenge or activities to continue their learning.

“‘Invasive non-native species might be a new topic to many but it is a really important one – invasive species can have a major impact on our environment and native wildlife and are responsible for significant biodiversity loss in Scotland and across the world. We hope these resources will help raise awareness of the impacts of invasive species and inspire more young people to learn something about them.

“No prior knowledge is needed and there’s lots to learn and have fun with so become an Alien Detective and help us tackle invasive species today!”

Vicky Hilton, SISI Volunteer and Communication Officer, added: “To help structured learning the resource pack is laid out across themes including discovering what aliens are, how they got here, what makes them successful, how we can prevent them taking over and how to find and capture them.

“Each theme has several activities and in addition, there is a whole section devoted to fun crafts, puzzles and games – from invasive species battleships, top trumps and making an exploding seed pod to crosswords, pictograms and word searches. There is also a certificate for those who have earned the sought-after status of ‘Alien Detective’.”

All of the ‘Alien Detectives’ resources can be found at www.invasivespecies.scot/alien-detectives

The Scottish Invasive Species Initiative works with communities and volunteers to remove and control invasive non-native plant species and American mink from the countryside. The project also delivers a range of educational and awareness raising activities which includes working in schools and with community groups.

To find out more about the Scottish Invasive Species Initiative, including volunteering with the project, visit www.invasivespecies.scot , follow on social media or contact the team on sisi@nature.scot

Beavers Build Back Better – but their future is not secure

Devon Wildlife Trust Beaver female with kits (C) Michael Symes
Devon Wildlife Trust Beaver female with kits © Michael Symes

The Wildlife Trusts have pioneered the reintroduction of beavers to Britain ever since Kent Wildlife Trust released these industrious creatures into a fenced area of fenland in 2001. Then followed the Scottish Beaver Trial, which saw the first ever reintroduction of a native extinct mammal to the British Isles since they were hunted to extinction over 400 years ago. Later, in 2015, the River Otter Beaver Trial, based in East Devon and led by Devon Wildlife Trust, enabled beavers to roam wild again in England.

Beavers are back, but their future is not secure.  The Wildlife Trusts are calling for a Beaver Strategy for England which would provide a roadmap for a future where:

  • There are more beavers in many more catchments
  • Beaver populations are healthy and thriving
  • Management frameworks are agreed which provide support for farmers, landowners and river users
  • Beaver impacts and their population health are scientifically monitored

The Wildlife Trusts and our partners believe that beavers should be an integral part of a green recovery. The impressive and ever-growing body of independent scientific evidence reveals the vast array of benefits that beavers can bring to society by working with nature. These include:

  • Improved water quality: Beaver dams slow and filter water, causing sediment and nutrients to be deposited in ponds. This improves the quality of water flowing from sites where beavers are present.
  • Land holds more water: The dams, ponds and channels created by beavers increase capacity of land to store water and produce a more consistent outflow below their dams. This can result in less water being released during heavy rainfall (reducing flooding downstream) and more water availability during times of drought.
  • Carbon is captured: Beaver wetlands capture carbon, locked up in dams, and boggy vegetation and wet woodlands which are restored.
  • More wildlife: Beavers create diverse wetland habitats that can provide a home for a wide range of wildlife, especially aquatic invertebrates which act as a food source for other species.
  • People engaged with wildlife: People are fascinated by beavers. The presence of beavers in an area provides an opportunity for people to engage with wildlife, as well as creating a market for nature tourism.

Beavers create thriving ecosystems helping us to put nature firmly back on the road to recovery.  And they do all this for free.

By working alongside farmers, landowners, river users and local communities we have learnt that management is essential if we are to maximise the benefits that beavers provide.  We now have a range of carefully honed techniques which can help us do this, which help avoid or minimise any localised negative impacts which might occur. We have gained widespread support for our recommended approaches in Scotland and Devon.

We are also calling on government to provide farmers and landowners with financial support to make space for water and beavers on their land. This will reward those who give up some of their land to benefit communities downstream, which will benefit from lower flood or drought risk and higher water quality.

Craig Bennett, CEO of The Wildlife Trusts, says:

“Beavers are proving just what a valuable force they can be in helping to solve the nature and climate crises. Their extraordinary ability to naturalise landscapes, improving them for other wildlife, enhancing water quality and controlling water flow makes them a vital component of a modern approach to land management.  People love beavers and their presence has really boosted tourism in the places where they’ve been reintroduced.

“Now it is time to look forward and set out an ambitious vision for the return of these animals.  But this must be done properly and thoughtfully, with the right support systems in place.   That’s why it is so important that the government publishes its beaver strategy soon.”

Harry Barton, CEO of Devon Wildlife Trust, says:

“This is an incredibly exciting time for re-establishing beavers and bringing them back where they belong.  The work we’ve done on the river Otter over the past five years, with a team of international experts led by the University of Exeter, shows just how many benefits these fascinating animals can bring, and how we can manage any problems that might arise.   It’s now time to seize the moment and take this exciting work forward so that beavers can deliver their many benefits on a larger scale.  We look forward to a swift and positive response from the government.”

Professor Richard Brazier, University of Exeter, chair of the Science and Evidence Forum that published the River Otter Beaver Trial Report, says:

“Our detailed research programmes have concluded that the positive impacts of beavers outweighed the negatives. A summary of the quantifiable cost and benefits of beaver reintroduction in the River Otter in Devon demonstrates that the ecosystem services and social benefits accrued are greater than the financial costs incurred.”

The Wildlife Trusts are gathering public support for an England beaver strategy – play your part here: wtru.st/act-for-beavers

Shetland’s wonderful webcams

Screenshot 2020-05-06 at 13.11.59
Screengrab of the Soteag Cliff Cam.

During the lockdown, many of us will have turned to the live feeds from webcams located the world over to provide a little escape from what’s happening around us. Undoubtedly operators of these cameras will have seen a significant increase in traffic. Many of the visitors will be wildlife enthusiasts who will have found that there are plenty of feeds to choose from, whatever their wildlife interest is. Cameras operated by charities, businesses or private individuals provide us with a glimpse of somewhere else. And at this time we could all do with some of that!

One such network is the system known as Shetland Webcams set up by Andy Steven who used to be Shetland’s tourism chief. The network has been up and running for 10 years and more recently it has benefited from investments from crowdfunding and commercial sponsorship. As a result, the network of (at the time of writing) 13 cameras covers 11 locations and includes a feed from 60 North Radio and a binaural sound feed. Together these give virtual visitors an opportunity to enjoy Shetland in a range of different ways.

For wildlife enthusiasts, some of the locations for the cameras on Shetland provide views of a wide range of species. On the shore, gulls can be seen making their way over the rocks while seals and even otters can occasionally be seen in the shallow waters. The Puffincam not only provides views of the stunning landscape but also views of the nesting birds. Currently, due to the lockdown, the Puffincam has had to utilise the feed from another camera to provide views of their nesting burrows. But despite this, you can still keep an eye on these engaging birds.

Even with the lockdown restrictions in place, the network of cameras continues to provide not only a fascinating insight into the lives of birds but also a link to another place. Somewhere many of us would love to visit and enjoy – in short, an escape – something many of us are looking for at this moment in time.

With more and more evidence that engaging with nature and the natural world provide major benefits for both mental and physical health, maybe views like this can go some way to offset the problems caused by the lockdown – however necessary the lockdown is.

Whatever reason you have to visit the Shetland Webcam site let’s hope that the views it provides prove to be beneficial and enjoyable. Although we all strive to reduce screen time, during times like these I think we can all be excused. And lets also thank those who set up these services and keep them up and running. Long may they continue.

Southern Scotland’s biggest community land buyout launches crowdfunding campaign to create vast new nature reserve

Tarras Valley Tom Hutton (medium)
Tarras Valley by Tom Hutton

An initiative to create a vast new nature reserve in Dumfries and Galloway through southern Scotland’s largest community land buyout is being launched today, with a £3 million crowdfunding campaign to help purchase 10,500 acres of Langholm Moor.

The ambitious plan by charity The Langholm Initiative to create the Tarras Valley Nature Reserve, by purchasing wildlife-rich and culturally important land from Buccleuch Estates, has received a huge boost as the John Muir Trust announced it is donating £100,000 to kickstart the appeal.

The project has received widespread support due to its positive goals of tackling climate change, boosting nature restoration and supporting community regeneration.

The crowdfunder launched today on Go Fund Me at www.gofundme.com/langholm-moor-buyout aims to raise just over half of the £6m valuation on the land.

Kevin Cumming, the Langholm Initiative’s project leader, said: “Our community plans here have international significance. At a time of climate emergency, we are committing to undertake direct climate action – including restoration of globally precious peatlands and ancient woodlands, alongside the creation of new native woodlands.

“Langholm moor is home to a host of iconic wildlife such as black grouse, Short-eared owls and merlin, and is a stronghold for hen harriers – the most persecuted bird of prey in the UK.

Black Grouse Kevin Cumming (medium)
Black grouse by Kevin Cumming

“At this critical stage we are asking for the help of the public. We know it’s a big ask at a time like this – but if people can support us by donating to this project we will be ensuring a more positive future for our children.”

Langholm, a once thriving textile centre, has seen this industry decline in recent years. The people of this small town, nestled in the beautiful and dramatic Southern Uplands, have a deep connection to the land, which has never been sold before.

The community wants to seize this once in a lifetime opportunity to have control over their own future. It is hoped that through community land ownership and the creation of a nature reserve, a foundation can be laid for local regeneration, supporting eco-tourism and bringing visitors to the area.

Mike Daniels from the John Muir Trust said: “We are extremely excited about this project. Its ambition and vision is what has attracted us to it and today we are pledging £100K to support the community’s purchase of the land.

“The protection and restoration of wild places and the regeneration of rural communities goes hand in hand and we are delighted to support this inspiring initiative. We call on other organisations to follow our lead and support the Langholm Initiative.”

Kevin Cumming said: “We are extremely grateful to the John Muir Trust for their support. It is the highest compliment for them to offer a significant financial pledge and demonstrates great confidence in the project.”

Much of the support for this project has centred on the ambition of a community to place the environment at the heart of its regeneration.

A summary of the Langholm Initiative’s business plan is available at www.langholminitiative.org.uk. Other plans for the project include the development of small-scale modern business units in existing disused buildings, appropriate renewable energy and responsible nature-based tourism.

Kevin Cumming said: “The community’s regeneration is a vital part of this process. The land holds huge cultural value to local people, many of whom are excited about the possible community ownership of it.”

A number of other national organisations have offered support to the project.

With the land jointly valued at just over £6m, The Langholm Initiative has also applied to the Scottish Land Fund for £3m towards the purchase, with the other half of the purchase price to be generated through the crowdfunding appeal.

Buccleuch Estates announced its decision to sell about 25,000 acres of its Borders Estate last year.

The Langholm Initiative was formed in 1994, as one of south Scotland’s earliest development trusts. The charity facilitates projects that make a real, lasting difference to the local area and the lives of the people that live there.

To support the appeal, visit www.langholminitiative.org.uk.

Volunteers isolate at Highlands ‘lost world’ to save thousands of young trees

Trees for Life look after the grove of trees I set up via their Plant a Grove scheme to offset my carbon footprint. So it’s good to read that the good work of the charity is continuing despite the current situation.

Patrick Fenner, Louise Cameron and Emma Beckinsale tend the young trees at Dundreggan (medium)
Patrick Fenner, Louise Cameron and Emma Beckinsale tend the young trees at Dundreggan

A team of six people from Trees for Life have been voluntarily isolating themselves at the charity’s flagship Dundreggan rewilding estate in Glenmoriston, near Loch Ness in the Highlands since 23 March – to save more than 100,000 native young trees from being lost due to the coronavirus crisis lockdown.

The trees – including Scots pine, rowan, juniper, hazel, holly and oak, as well as rare mountain species such as dwarf birch and woolly willow – have all been grown carefully from seed in Dundreggan’s specialised nursery, and were due for planting out on the hills this spring.

Dozens of volunteers help to propagate and grow over 60,000 trees a year at the nursery, from seed collected across the estate. These trees are then planted out at Dundreggan and other Highland sites to restore Scotland’s ancient Caledonian Forest and its unique wildlife.

“We were all set for another busy season of preparing thousands of young native trees for planting on the hills by our volunteers, when the coronavirus crisis forced the postponement of this spring’s tree planting – meaning tens of thousands of young trees have not left our nursery as planned,” said Doug Gilbert, Trees for Life’s Dundreggan Manager.

“But nature isn’t in lockdown. All these precious trees have been coming into leaf, and we need to take care of them – especially in the dry weather we’ve been having. Without regular watering, they would all die. We also needed to start sowing new seed now, to ensure a supply of trees for future planting seasons.”

So Doug – with colleagues Abbey Goff, Emma Beckinsale, Patrick Fenner, and trainees Catriona Bullivant and Louise Cameron – opted to voluntarily isolate themselves at Dundreggan rather than at their homes when the national lockdown was announced.

Doug and his colleagues aren’t leaving Dundreggan except for a few essential reasons, such as collecting prescriptions. Food is arriving at the rewilding estate via supermarket deliveries.

Doug added: “The local Redburn Cafe has started local takeaways, so they’re an occasional treat! No one has visited us for weeks now, except for delivery drivers and the postie. We’re here in isolation for the long-haul if needs be – together with a growing forest for the future.”

Trees for Life plans to open the world’s first rewilding centre at Dundreggan in 2022. This is expected to welcome over 50,000 visitors annually – allowing people to explore the wild landscapes, discover Gaelic culture, and learn about the region’s unique wildlife including golden eagles, pine martens and red squirrels.

As well as being an internationally important forest restoration site, Dundreggan is a biodiversity hotspot that is home to over 4,000 plant and animal species. Discoveries include several species never recorded in the UK before, or previously feared extinct in Scotland.

Trees for Life is dedicated to rewilding the Scottish Highlands. So far its volunteers have established nearly two million native trees at dozens of sites, encouraging wildlife to flourish and helping communities to thrive. See www.treesforlife.org.uk.

Are mindfulness and environmentalism linked?


Undoubtedly there are those who find environmental issues a bore. The mere mention of climate change will cause them to glaze over and carry on, safe in the knowledge that science will save us. That or climate change was all made up anyway. But for many (myself included) I’m convinced that the planet is facing the most crucial and potentially catastrophic period of change it has ever faced. I won’t list all of the ills that are befalling our world, you’ve undoubtedly heard them all before. Suffice to say that the future looks bleak for all of us – regardless of how much money you have!

So what has this got to do with mindfulness you might ask, let alone with the website of a photographer?  Well, it is my opinion that those of us who enjoy and value the world share more than a common passion. It is accepted that there is a direct link between nature and good mental and physical health. And that it’s this link may also be the foundation on which we can build to safeguard our world.

It was only a few years ago that the UK government published a study by Natural England that said  that ‘taking part in nature-based activities helps those suffering from mental health problems like depression, anxiety and stress.’ In it, the phrase “green care” was used to describe the benefits, and since then, the ‘natural health service’ has grown in popularity.

And it’s not just one study. The University of Exeter published a paper in 2017 on research carried out with the British Trust for Ornithology and the University of Queensland. They found that people who live in areas alongside birds, trees and shrubs are less likely to suffer many mental health problems.

Recently people have also seen that there are ways to build on these recognised benefits. They do this by linking with the practice of mindfulness (the meditative discipline that focuses on an awareness) with a connection with your surroundings at a given moment in time. And it would seem it has gained in popularity helping those who want to, use the method to focus on an awareness of the present moment and environment. This may sound simple, but the idea is to do this while accepting those feelings, sensations and thoughts can come and go in the mind while meditating.

Many of us see the desire to get closer to nature and to enjoy the natural world, as a way to unwind and to relax. Increased awareness and appreciation of nature can only help to underline the importance of safeguarding our environment, and this is where these two threads weave together.

For many years I’ve been concerned about what we are doing to our planet, and I’m just as guilty of as anyone else. Having practised mindfulness, and having become more aware of the activism of many people in trying to save the planet, I am now doing as much as I can to ‘do my bit’. So, although I still have to travel around to cover assignments, I carbon offset my fuel use. I’ve reduced meat consumption, the use of plastics, only use of green power suppliers and support campaigns and organisations who fight to overcome the climate catastrophe.

2020 is the year I’ve committed to these principals (but in reality, I was doing many of these things long before) but the new decade will also see me try to use my photography to highlight issues – good and bad. The Covid-19 pandemic has given us all more time to fully consider our future and that of our planet. Sadly I can’t change the world, but I for one will do whatever I can to save it for future generations.