News from the Riverside – April 2020:

Lesser celandine photographed by Adrian Walters

The nineteenth century American poet and philosopher Ralph Waldo Emerson considered ‘that man had once been at one with nature’. Now as we witness the enormous loss of nature, policies try to reflect the need to reconnect with it. This engagement is mainly to promote our health – both physical and mental. It is a laudable goal which would give everyone some respect for nature.

At present, however, our modern technological age continues to tighten its grip over mind and body regardless of our innate need to connect with nature. Humans evolved along with the very wildlife that we now so casually destroy, if not directly, then through wilful amnesia. We hear much about how children need to be taught about our environment and yet few now venture out on to the riverside either with parents or schools compared to even twenty years ago. Environmental writer, George Monbiot, put it bluntly when he stated that ‘of all the world’s creatures perhaps those in the greatest need of rewilding are our children. The collapse of most children’s engagement with nature has been even faster than the collapse of the natural world.’

Everybody should dispense with technology for a brief part of each day and disconnect from its ever-present demands and intrusions. Technology may make disconnected people feel that they are part of something important, but nature provides the ultimate cure. There are so many petty distractions detaching us from our surrounding environment as if we were taking a journey through the countryside by train from where it can merely be seen at a distance but not accessed.

Instead, we could start seeing our wildlife at home in the garden and, safely distancing from others of course, use our exercise time on the riverside as an opportunity to listen to the uplifting sounds of nature and to look closely at the wonderful detail of the natural world around us. Experiencing nature in this manner provides essential ‘nutrition’ for body and soul which, perhaps, is even more necessary at present. In this way each of us can begin to repair our badly broken links with nature. After all, there is still so very much to be enjoyed out there.

Adrian Walters (Clerk to the Trustees of the Sudbury Common Lands Charity and Ranger)