Green Britain: How nature has given me solace in dark times, by JOHN INGHAM


Green Britain: How nature has given me solace in dark times, by JOHN INGHAM

This little bird's wistful song cut through the gloom and shed a ray of light on the crematorium's conveyor belt of commemoration. When we came out

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This little bird’s wistful song cut through the gloom and shed a ray of light on the crematorium’s conveyor belt of commemoration. When we came out of the short service, the robin was still there, singing away, claiming its territory, wooing females, not the least bit interested in the wreaths below. Life goes on.


For me it struck the perfect note. The redbreast’s song was consoling because, however irrationally, it felt like it was saying farewell to my mum who had fed the birds all her life.

Her funeral was four years ago but nature has provided solace for millions during lockdown.

Through my weekly column I know that many readers have sought sanctuary on walks in the wilds, strolls in the park or just a quick spin round their gardens.

Our own Daily Express survey found that 74 percent of us feel nature and green spaces have helped us get through these dark times.

For me nature is always an antidote to modern life which does its best to cut us off from the natural world.

The days of switching off are long gone thanks to mobile phones and the internet.

But when I’m out in the countryside, binoculars in hand, I forget the everyday pressures that drive us all mad.

The appeal of naturewatching lies partly in the natural world’s miracles. How do swallows make a 12,000- mile round trip, returning from South African reedbeds to the same barns every spring?

Then there is nature’s beauty. A male bullfinch with its shocking pink waistcoat or a red-throated diver, its throat scarlet on a velvety grey neck, are breathtaking.

Partly the appeal is that wildlife links us to our ancestors. If you are lucky enough to hear a nightingale, you are savouring the song that inspired Keats. Shakespeare mentioned red kites foraging.

Nature’s appeal lies in its musicality. Today, if you walk in the woods in the early morning, you will hear the first stirrings of nature’s orchestra.

It is a dress rehearsal for May’s Dawn Chorus, when robins, song thrushes, blackbirds, tits, treecreepers, chaffinches and wrens greet the sun by singing their love songs.

But nature is only clinging on. Far too many species, from bearded tits to bitterns, live in nature reserves, ghettoes for dwindling wildlife that once ranged across these islands.

Nature has been trashed by man, yet during this awful pandemic, it has been good to us, reaching out to help keep so many of us sane.

Now it’s our turn to repay the favour. By donating to our Horse Common reserve appeal you will help create a badly needed haven in one of our oldest forests.

It’s time we started looking after nature properly so that it can look after US.