“Deep roots are not reached by the frost”

I’m back! It’s been a while since I’ve written regularly for my blog. I haven’t been feeling myself recently and that meant I was struggling to write anything that felt real. Anytime I tried to put words down, it felt alien and I couldn’t get across my meaning. I’ve got a lot of things to write about though! In the last couple of months I’ve had some wonderful wildlife experiences; from walking and cycling the West Coast of Ireland & Connemara National Park with one of my best friends and her toddler; to having a bat visit our Watch Group at Attenborough; to watching the exploits of the nocturnal wildlife caught on trailcam in my Mum’s garden. The latter feels most appropriate to start with today but I will write about my other adventures in due course 🙂

I’ve briefly explained in previous posts that there’s been quite a lot going on in my life so far this year. Between; moving house twice, the break down of a relationship, changes at work, numerous doctors/hospital appointments, my first (very minor) car accident and the death of my wonderful degu Jeffrey who had been my best buddy and mood-lifter for the past 4 years – all within a few months and whilst still withdrawing from 5 years on SSRIs  – I was understandably left feeling pretty miserable and sorry for myself. My anxiety levels have probably been at their worst in years and all-consuming at times but I feel now as though I’m on the mend again and I’m sure a big part of that is due to taking some time off to go back to my roots in Suffolk.

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My beautiful boy sadly passed away in February.

I drove back down to my Mum’s on a Thursday afternoon for a long weekend and arrived around half six in the evening. I was shattered but Mum dragged me into the garden to help with the her evening frog count and listen to their calls. She’s been disappointed so far this year with the amount of frog/toad spawn but there seemed to be a lot more on the day I left than there was when I arrived so maybe they were just a bit late laying. We broke Mum’s previous record and counted almost 60 frogs & toads plus a few newts, so she was really happy.

I went to bed not long after that but a couple of hours later Mum knocked on my door again and whispered ‘come with me!’. Confused and half asleep, I followed her into her bedroom where she stood by the curtains and asked me to listen carefully. Mum & my stepdad have a trailcam set up in the garden and have recently had a rather large badger visiting. Mum had pulled me out of bed to get my opinion on whether the grunting and snuffling outside the window was the badger or something else… but she refused to open the curtains or turn on the light in case we scared it away.

The next morning we went for a quick trip into Bury St Edmunds with my Mum’s best friend Louise. We got some excellent charity shop finds: my highlight for the day was this beautiful leatherbound embossed edition of Maeterlinck’s ‘The Life of the Bee‘.

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When I got home, I was so tired again but I decided I needed some thinking time and walked the lonely old route around the village that I used to take as an angsty teenager when ‘it all got too much’. It was perfect: retracing those steps – up Mare Hill where I spent one of my favourite New Years Eve’s with two of my closest friends – past the field where I played truth or dare in the hay bales with old schoolmates – alongside the stream where Mum & I found my first newt – onto the bench that I sat on so many times just looking out over the whole village – down Clockhall Lane and back into the village. I walked past my old school where our portacabin classrooms have been replaced with brick buildings and an adventure playground. I walked through the churchyard to the cricket meadow and looked over our old den, where I fell out of a tree and cut my hip open on barbed wire in the ditch beneath.

That evening Mike went through the trailcam footage and it turned out that the badger had been back the previous night, as mum had suspected. However, he wasn’t alone! We also had a fox, a muntjac deer, a local cat and some magpies set off the camera.

For Christmas, I bought Mum & Mike a tiny wireless cctv camera designed to fit in the roof of a birdbox. Mum’s boxes are used every year and Mike usually sets up a camera on a tripod, with a waterproof cover and live feed to the bedroom TV. They put it outside the box so they can watch the birds fledge but I thought it would be great if Mum could see them hatch too 🙂 While I was visiting at the weekend, the birdbox had it’s first overnight visitor! Unfortunately the signal has to go through two brick walls to reach the TV so the picture isn’t perfect (for some reason it comes out purple). We thought that the first bird could be a long-tailed tit but they don’t generally use nestboxes. Anyway, it only stayed one night. Since then though, the blue tits have moved in and have so far laid ten tiny eggs! So exciting!

Recent email updates from my stepdad sound like some kind of secret code!

Blue tit progress – 10 eggs as of Monday…

Have established that the fox is a wimp- avoids the badger. Conversely, hedgehogs are ok with the fox, and deer are ok with badgers.

So that was supposed to be my blog post about the wildlife in my Mum’s garden, and I suppose it is. But actually the whole trip home that weekend meant a lot more to me. I lived in the village from age 7 and there are so many memories caught up there. I think it really did me good to go back and think about where I’ve come from. As a child I mildly resented being towed around nature reserves and sitting in freezing bird hides with my mum and stepdad while my peers were visiting theme parks (I’ve still never been on a rollercoaster). I was impatient but I was more interested in books than birds so if I had my favourite Enid Blyton with me I wouldn’t complain too much. We alternated annual holidays between Derbyshire (Edale) and Scotland (Ullapool) which I loved but when I got back to school and friends were chatting about the beaches in Lanzarote or Tenerife I felt out of place…

Looking back now, I wouldn’t change a thing. Going home reminded me that I am who I am because of my mother and her love of nature. My appreciation of nature and the environment – my whole idea of life really – stems from those early experiences with my family; from spotting eagles in the highlands to collecting sheep skulls on walks in the peak district.

I’ll leave you this time with some wonderful photographs that Mike’s taken over the past few years of the wildlife in our rural Suffolk garden.

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All images subject to copyright. All opinions expressed on this site are my own and don’t necessarily represent the view of Nottinghamshire Wildlife Trust for whom I volunteer, or any other organisation.

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