'Nature is all around us - all we have to do is look out the window'

Tree hugging, little boy giving a tree a hug with red heart concept for love nature

Tree hugging, little boy giving a tree a hug with red heart concept for love nature - Credit: Getty Images/iStockphoto

Exmouth environmentalist Sarah Allen writes for the Journal.

Last year I saw an incredible amount of animals, more than other years yet I’ve never spent so much time at home!

The animals I saw were in my garden or in the street I live in, right here, in Exmouth. During the first lockdown there were less vehicles around generally and reports of feral goats appearing in welsh towns and the canals of Venice running with clearer water were on the news.

Yet I barely noticed the drop in vehicles roaring along Dinan Way behind my house and there was a clear rise in foot fall as families took their daily walk along my road. It wasn’t less humans that created more animal encounters, for me, it was noticing more! Repeatedly looking at the same view (my garden) and walking the same route along my street, often alone to get some peace, and consciously looking and listening means I have seen animals that have always been here but I hadn’t always taken the time to notice.

Whilst cooking in the kitchen during school closures a sparrow hawk swooped down, circled into a shrub trying to catch a great tit for its’ lunch. Later in the year a pheasant strolled along our lawn, I saw my first ever gold crest and a flock of long-tailed tits tag-teamed across the garden.

In spring, whilst trying to rest away some of the pandemic stress, I lay on a rug in the garden as a family of baby wrens fledged their nest. To my absolute delight (and shock) one landed briefly on my leg!

One night, unable to sleep, I noticed our security light went on outside. Worried about who might be in the garden at this time, I rushed to the window to glimpse a hedgehog scurrying across the drive.

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Another day, my husband, whilst returning from a bike ride, was stopped by someone outside Bassets Farm Primary School. A hedgehog had become entangled in garden netting and when walking under the fence had become stuck.

Quick action by some of the school staff and care by both a vet and a local volunteer meant the hedgehog made a complete recovery and was released back where it was found a few days later. This could have been a very different story.

The school has big gaps under their fence, ideal for hedgehogs to pass through from the school grounds into the local area.

The problem was the netting. If you are storing garden netting please make sure it is kept away from where our prickly friends might roam. I’ve barely seen any hedgehogs in the last few decades but just a few weeks later, whilst walking at night, one crossed over the road, climbed the curb and over a very low wall into a neighbour’s garden.

At the same spot earlier in the year a fox was running towards me on the pavement – until it saw me and, of course, ran off in the opposite direction. I looked for it but its’ speed was much greater than mine!

We got a hot tub just before the first lockdown. It was an amazing purchase (powered through our green energy tariff) and helped alleviate some of the pandemic stress. It also proved to be a successful bird hide, whilst relaxing in the hot water birds didn’t notice me and continued to go about their life undisturbed. One night I decided to stay put until I saw a bat, I hadn’t seen one for a while, and I didn’t have to wait long before one flitted past overhead.

I would not want to go through 2020 again but it has taught me a lesson. I thought I lived an intentionally slow life and regularly engaged in nature but I would often travel to see nature – not necessarily far but to the beach, common or moor. Although I still love and appreciate these wilder places I now know nature is here all around me, I just need to lift my head and look out of the window.

Happy 2021 everyone!

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