Yorkshire-born Unsprung presenter, Lindsey Chapman, has become a patron of The Wild Watch. She spoke to Ann for a piece in The Yorkshire Post to support their campaign to recruit volunteers for Nidderdale’s biggest ever wildlife survey.
Read the full feature here:
Walking on the Wild Side
Several years ago, 50 words relating to the natural world were culled from the Oxford Junior Dictionary to reflect modern tastes and technology.
A public letter of protest followed from authors such as Michael Morpurgo, Margaret Atwood and Robert Macfarlane. Macfarlane went on to write The Book of Lost Words, a celebration of nature words, to stand against the disappearance of ‘wild’ childhood.
British children now spend on average less time outdoors each day than prisoners. Screen time has soared. It’s not just children. A Wildlife Trust survey found that a third of British adults couldn’t identify a barn owl; two thirds felt that they lost touch with nature.
Acorn, willow, curlew, kingfisher… the words matter, Macfarlane says, ‘because we’re losing nature as well as the names for nature in this country.’
“We’ve got more than 50 per cent of species in decline, many of them common,” he says. “We’ve got starlings going, skylarks going, we’ve got newts going, hedgehogs going. And names, good names, well used, help us see and they help us care. We find it hard to love what we cannot give a name to. And what we do not love, we do not save.”
Nidderdale’s The Wild Watch, supported by the Heritage Lottery Fund, aims to put names to nature in its most ambitious citizen science project to date in 2018 – by conducting the area’s biggest ever wildlife survey.
The team is offering free professional training for volunteers in order to help them acquire the natural history skills needed to collect data on threatened species.
Nidderdale’s Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty is home to some spectacular, and in some cases, threatened wildlife including curlew, great-crested newts and water voles, and the Wild Watch team is inviting families, naturalists, students and volunteers of all ages to come forward to gather information on over 50 species.
Alice Crosby, project officer at The Wild Watch, says the study will help identify priority areas where they can make improvements and potentially create new habitats for some animals in the future.
“The survey is important because we cannot look after our wildlife if we do not know how they are doing and what habitats they require to flourish.”
It has the backing of nature presenter, Lindsey Chapman, has become an enthused patron of The Wild Watch. Born in Beverley, in East Yorkshire, she studied Drama and Theatre Arts, before going on to land a job alongside Chris Packham on Springwatch Unsprung.
“This is citizen science but still science, and that’s really important,” she says. “Only by getting people involved in creating these studies in large numbers do we get a proper understanding of what’s happening in our natural world now, and we need to act.
“Essentially the citizen science created can end up affecting the law of our land. So it’s key to get people involved at a grassroots level.”
Lindsey’s love of nature stretches back to her childhood. Her father was a town and country planner and her mother was a French teacher and the family spent time cycling and camping.
“I grew up playing in the hedgerows, streams and fields where I lived. I was lucky to have access to that and to have great parents and a sister who wanted to do the same things, so we spent our childhood roaming about in the natural world and that absolutely shaped who I am now, there’s no question about that.”
Her sense of adventure and confidence was instilled by The Girl Guides; a movement she’s also passionate about. Her can-do attitude helped her break into the BBC’s esteemed Natural History Unit.
“I didn’t think there was enough television programming out there which positively encouraged young children to be out in the natural world doing things like climbing trees.
“I went down to the Natural History Unit – which makes Blue Planet, and Planet Earth 2 – and said I’d really like to learn some of your expertise. I met the Springwatch team and explained that I wanted to inspire kids to get outside.
“I didn’t realise I was speaking to the series producer, he got back to me six months later and said we have a role as a roving reporter…it all went from there,” says Lindsey.
She says she enjoys working with Packham. “I’m very lucky in that we get on very well so what you see on screen is a genuine relationship. He is a real pleasure to work with. It’s so much fun in a live studio, the crew are all very supportive, when we’re laughing and having fun, it’s genuine. Chris is obviously one of the best naturalists in the UK if not the world, he’s like an encyclopedia.”
Fellow Springwatch presenter Martin Hughes-Games has also put his weight behind The Wild Watch and is full of praise for those involved in its work.
“The Wild Watch team, with the aid of a growing band of volunteers, is working heroically to safeguard the future of the wildlife of the Nidderdale Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty – from dragonflies to dippers, adders to otters, curlews to cuckoos,” he says.
“Nidderdale is currently rich in wildlife but it needs our help to stay that way and volunteering is massively rewarding – it gets you out and about, you meet some truly fantastic people, and you know you’re doing something important for wildlife.”
Which is why Martin feels it’s such a rewarding project. “The work the team does is so important to help safeguard the wildlife of this beautiful patch of the British countryside. Over a nearly 40-year long career in TV my main passion has been to try to get more people interested in conservation to help protect our special places. Many species are declining at a frightening rate and we just can’t afford to sit back and do nothing.”
The support of Lindsey, Martin and other high profile BBC naturalists, is thanks to Professor John Altringham from the University of Leeds and Wild Watch Youth Patron, Zach Haynes, from Northallerton – both have links with the Springwatch team – with Zach’s award-winning blog helping to get more young people engaged.
As well as helping to safeguard wildlife, it’s an opportunity for people of all ages to reconnect with nature. “There are studies now saying that connection with the outdoors is very good for your mental health, your well-being, your fitness,” says Lindsey.
“It’s really cleansing to be outside, whether it’s around Nidderdale which is very beautiful and vast, or just a walk in the park. The benefits are really important for the individual and those connections mean we start caring more. It’s a two way relationship between ourselves and the natural world, and we have to nurture it.”
She feels it’s important to create connections between people and the natural world. “The more people understand about it, the more they create memories and connections, the more they’ll want to protect it.
“That’s key. We need to put people at the centre of the conservation and that needs to happen now. There’s a lot of bad news out there but people need to be given the tools and opportunities to do something about it. This kind of project is wonderful for that – it’s what I care about most.”
To get involved with The Wild Watch visit https://www.nidderdaleaonb.org.uk/wild-watch-0 and follow @TheWildWatch