AFON Guest Blog: Here’s to a green 2017!

(My post for A Focus On Nature)

For 2017, what I would like is Nature Conservation to be taken more seriously by Councils and the Government.  They need to properly see it as a Universal Problem.  It is not an issue only for a certain class system, region, gender, sexuality, age or level of education – we all share this country, and caring for nature and our natural environment is everybody’s responsibility.  Hopefully Planet Earth II was a wake up call for those that work for a Town / City Council or as an MP who have not signed the Greener UK pledge.
I also hope it has encouraged people to support their local nature conservation charities.

Hearing about woodland / greenbelt being decimated for housing developments (or HS2) angers me – it is disgusting and very ill considered, as there are plenty of derelict buildings and brownfield sites that should be used instead!  Urbanisation is not progression, it’s alienation.  There is less crime in places with woodland / greenbelt and it reduces stress in people of all ages.  They are great for escapism, as they’re somewhere to walk your dog or get fresh air alone or with your partner or friend(s).  Such places boost children’s will to learn and they are often more imaginative and creative – it’s somewhere for these children to explore and find wildlife too!  It also improves house sales – people want to live near areas surrounded by greenery, because, let’s face it, it is pleasant!  Trees, hedgerows and grasses filter impurities from the air and also help lower temperatures during heat-waves.  Trees reduce erosion of soil, which finds its way into our waterways during periods of heavy rainfall.  This then has the knock on effect of creating flooding because of the build up of silt – due to the lack of trees in the first place.  They are also a much needed habitat for nature; plants and animals need somewhere to live and have safe connecting passages between urban sprawls.

Re-wilding our Towns and Cities needs to happen, all over, they should be made greener than they already are, for example Birmingham, it is already a surprisingly green city, but being greener will make it better.  I champion Matt Collis and the Avon Wildlife Trust for making Bristol even greener!  As you know, more trees are needed to helping fight Climate Change, as they reduce the Carbon Dioxide in our atmosphere.  More trees will increase oxygen and with increased oxygen levels, the health of people and wildlife will benefit. More oxygen in the air can stabilise unknown and potential pulmonary hypertension (raised blood pressure within the pulmonary arteries) and irregular heart rhythms caused by the lack of oxygen in the air.  Plus more oxygen to the brain relieves depression and fatigue.  Many diseases including cancer, thrive in an oxygen depleted body.

Longbridge in south Birmingham

What would I like for myself this New Year?  Well, I am currently on a City & Guilds Level 3 Diploma in Conservation, Countryside & The Environment – ideally I would like to complete my qualification at overall Distinction and would then like to work for a NGO specialising in Re-wilding, therefore assisting in restoring Britain (in urban and rural places too) to its natural glory!

In the past I have achieved several Media Production qualifications, my highest being a Level 5 Higher National Diploma.  I have considered a Masters, but Academia isn’t really for me, I would rather be out there getting on with it, or even teaching it!  Around 6 years ago I combined my passion for wildlife and filmmaking, and have recently been co-presenting / co-producing a series with Jamie Wyver, about nature conservation for Cambridge TV (now called That’s Cambridge).

Filming for The Wild Side

The series is entitled The Wild Side and it was broadcast to the city and has been put online for everyone to watch.  It would be brilliant if I get the opportunity to present a series with another TV station or even for a channel that broadcasts nationally.  I love how imaginative and creative ideas can come to life on screen, to entertain and inform an audience.

Thanks for reading  🙂

Day 14 – 30 Days Wild

“Tweet for the wild” 


TWT 30 Days Wild_countdown_14

Today I tweeted a link to the video below – which I made last year – about my favourite local patch and why it matters to me:

The poem I mentioned in the video:  Ode to a Secret River

Thanks 😀

Day 3 – 30 Days Wild

Nature Highlights at Minsmere


Hello 😊

TWT 30 Days Wild_countdown_03

For day three, I caught up on Springwatch and UNSPRUNG episodes that I’ve missed, plus I’ve put together a short video of my highlights at RSPB Minsmere (below) featuring:  

  • Great Spotted Woodpecker
  • Otter
  • Nightingale (Song)
  • Chaffinches
  • Sand Martins
  • Stone-Curlew
  • Barnacle Goose
  • Avocet
  • Redshank
  • Black-Headed Gull Chicks


Thanks for visiting. 👍🏻


Day 2 – 30 Days Wild

“Explore somewhere wild” 


I travelled near enough 4 hours from the West Midlands to Suffolk, so I could visit RSPB Minsmere, and also be in the BBC Springwatch Unsprung audience!  Some of you will know, it’s a reserve right on the East Coast of England!  And is a host to a variety of habits, wildlife and of course, BBC Springwatch!  😃  I came over on the Wednesday night and stayed in near by Leiston, at the  Field End Guest House.TWT 30 Days Wild_countdown_02

I often wax-lyrical (to friends and family) about reserves that have a variety of habitats, I absolutely love them, because they are so enriching to explore and will be home to many different species of wildlife, which is fantastic to observe and have encounters with.

RSPB Minsmere certainly deserves it’s national recognition!  I will definitely be visiting again in the near future!  I arrived on the reserve at 10.30AM.


I was very happy to be there!

I love a good Log Pile and what an amazing extensive one this is!
Top Nature of the Day:


That’s the Bittern Hide in the distance

said Orchid

Observing the Stone-Curlew (in the distance)

Sand Martin colony

Sea Thrift
At 5.00PM it was time to load the car up and get ready for Springwatch UNSPRUNG!

Cueing up for Unsprung with Gary

Waiting to be let into the Studio! 

To see me on UNSPRUNG click here!

Thanks for reading. 😄

Day 24 – 30 Days Wild

Behind the Scenes: Video for the Wild


I chose the mystery location for yesterdays’ video, because I grew up a short walk away from it and was inspired by an episode of Countryfile where Anita Rani showcases rural Bradford 😛  Incase you’ve not seen the video, I’ll not ruin the ‘surprise’ with naming it.  It’s where I cut my teeth as a child and naturalist, so to speak and over the years I’ve seen loads of wildlife there, a few firsts, which includes the time I saw my first Weasel as a child!  Yesterday my friend Gary and I observed a Kestrel and Jay up there.

In the second shot of the intro to my video, I’m on the top of Rubery Hill/Cock Hill, with the Frankley countryside and suburb in the background, there are more great views from up there; the Lickey Hills, Rubery and Bromsgrove in the distance – plus the country park I reveal in my video 😉

When we were filming near Frankley Beeches wood, we heard and saw a beautiful male Yellowhammer – it’s the second time I’ve seen one in Frankley, (I’ve mainly distantly heard their song now and again) so I decided to record and feature this Yellowhammers’ song as the soundtrack for the video.  We could also hear the beautiful song of the Skylark in the distance, down near Lower Hill Farm.  On New Street, near the Greenbelt just before Frankley Hill Lane (which leads up to the Frankley Beeches Wood) I saw a partly Leucistic male Blackbird collecting worms, I almost mistook it for a Ring Ouzel!

**Yesterdays’ Video for the Wild** 😀

Today I observed a male and female House Sparrow feeding on aphids from the wee Willow Tree that’s in my parents garden.

Thanks for reading 🙂


Day 23 – 30 Days Wild

Video for the Wild


My favourite local patch – and why it matters to me:

Ode to a Secret River – the poem I mention in the video.

Thanks for visiting 😀


Day 16 – 30 Days Wild

“Invite a friend into nature”


Today my friend Gary (mentioned in previous posts) and I visited the Wolseley Centre – Staffordshire Wildlife Trust HQ!

We’ve had great day, the weather was wonderful.  We both hadn’t been before.  I was impressed by the variety of habitats (grassland, lakes, rivers and woodland) and species.

Today’s challenge was “invite a friend into nature”, but it was also chance for Gary to brush up on his photography skills  (I shall document what we saw below!)  And in line with the challenge, I did my best to teach Gary about all the various creatures we came across and the bird songs we heard.


We saw Swallows and House Martins flying above the centre.
We saw Swallows and House Martins flying above the centre.

We saw this Bee and Bumble Bees on the Purple Wallflower at the entrance of the centre.
And this Bee and Bumble Bees on the Purple Wallflower at the entrance of the centre.

Not seen Honeysuckle in such a deep yellow before :)
Not seen Honeysuckle in such a deep yellow before 🙂

Gary and myself before our wild walk.  Photobombed by a Mallard! ;)
Gary and myself before our wild walk. Photobombed by a Mallard! 😉

Whilst Gary looked through my binoculars, I told him about what he was observing.
Whilst Gary looked through my binoculars, I told him about what he was observing (nice shirt!)

A wild sculpture, I assume it's a bench?
A wild sculpture!

This time we were photobombed by a Canada Goose! ;)
This time we were photobombed by a Canada Goose! 😉

If you remember, I love Oak Trees!  This individual has been adopted by Philip Rainsbury and Sue Haycock :)
If you remember, I love Oak Trees! This individual has been adopted by Philip Rainsbury and Sue Haycock 🙂

A cute baby Rat!
Can you spot the baby Rat?

Gary's first ever Chaffinch - to his knowledge.
Gary’s first ever Chaffinch – to his knowledge 😛

One of my favourites of Gary's snaps, a Great Tit in flight.
One of my favourites of Gary’s snaps, a Great Tit in flight.

Some grassland management.
Some grassland management (I have the camera now)

We were watching a male Blackcap.
We were watching a male Blackcap.

A disheveled Peacock Butterfly.
A disheveled Peacock Butterfly (by me)

A Common Blue Butterfly (Gary has his camera back)
A Common Blue Butterfly (Gary has his camera back)

But who too this one?!
But who took this one?!

Willow seeds settled on the pond.
Willow seeds settled on the pond.

Giant Leaves, Giant Snail!
Giant Leaves, Giant Snail!

A Terrapin?!  I was shocked to see this.  Taken with a lens kindly leant by a very friendly chap from Stoke (walking past)
A Terrapin?! I was surprised to see this. Taken by Gary with a lens kindly lent by a very friendly chap from Stoke (walking past)

St. John's Wort.
St. John’s Wort.

A stunning sculpture - very talented work!
A stunning sculpture – very talented work!

There’s still a little bit more for us to explore, looking forward to the next visit! 😀

Caught in a web of wildlife.
Caught in a web of wildlife.

Thanks for reading 🙂


Day 8 – 30 Days Wild

A Tale of Discovery


Yesterday was a very long day…  The Beach Clean only lasted two minutes, but there was the early start, the traveling and finding somewhere with WiFi (the connection was awfully slow) not far from the beach – so I could finish yesterday’s blog and do a blog for that day – to share what I had done before the journey back home.  Getting to grips with my friend Gary’s video editing software and waiting for the video to upload to YouTube was very time consuming.  We both got home very late!

More positively; this morning I caught up on Countryfile!  Which funnily enough was in Somerset for yesterday’s episode!  I decided in the afternoon I would venture a little into the South Birmingham/North Worcestershire countryside (which I grew up next door to) 🙂  I came across three discoveries, one more exciting than the other!

1. An old brick bridge that is part of a Public Footpath – which leads from suburban greenspace into the countryside – has been cleared underneath, revealing it fully and making it a lot more accessible to walk under.  The tree lined path that leads away below the bridge had been tidied as well!

Fly tipping removed
Fly tipping removed

Trees cut back etc
Trees cut back etc

Princess Diana Way
Princess Diana Way

2. Two flights of steps have been created/installed!  On either side of Princess Diana Way – a short walk down from the bridge.  You walk up into a meadow (unfortunately not pictured below) with the Farmer’s field going round it.

Easy access
Easy access

Country Park Chic
Country Park Chic

I followed the steps leading up the other side, to pass over the old bridge and come back on myself – to follow another Public Footpath which leads you deaper into the countryside, through an underpass to the other side of the M5 Motorway.  I took a few snaps before that.

Field of Wheat with Lower Hill Farm in the distance
Field of Wheat with Lower Hill Farm in the distance

Top of the bridge with facing away from the farm
On the bridge facing away from the farm

On the bridge facing the farm
On the bridge facing the farm

3. I’m a fair distance away from the bridge now on the other side of the M5, I’ve just had a brief explore of Doctor’s Coppice and have come back into the meadow I’ve just walked across.  The pictures and captions below will end the tale 😉

Said meadow, full of Buttercups
Said meadow, full of Buttercups

Something's hiding in the middle...
Something’s hiding in the middle…

It's a Roe Doe!
It’s a Roe Doe!

Gracefully prances to the coppice
Gracefully prances to the coppice

Impression of where she lay
Impression of where she lay

Thanks for taking time to read my blog 🙂


Day 4 – 30 Days Wild

“Discover urban wildness and mini habitats.”

I was at work again today, so went with a simple Random Act of Wildness – on the days I’m not at work they’ll be somewhat elaborate 😉  I chose “Discover urban wildness and mini habitats.” – from the booklet and decided I would complete this challenge by walking home from work and passing by certain places and stopping when something catches my eye etc.  Again, I filmed (with my phone) and have a video for you to see!

Brownfield along the Northfield Relief Road.
Brownfield along the Northfield Relief Road.

I left Sainsbury’s and walked down the relief road/bypass, knowing a short walk down it there is a Brownfield site adjacent and that I’d see something there.  A patch of land with scrub and a smattering of wildflowers – Poppies being the more obvious flower.  I witnessed a skirmish between two male House Sparrows and heard a Dunnock and Blackcap singing.  At the top there is a really nice amount of Ivy growing onto of some Hawthorn.

Ivy on top of Hawthorn
Ivy on top of Hawthorn

The Dunnock and Blackcap were somewhere in the Ivy.  A short distance past the Ivy is a Alder tree, which had a Harlequin Ladybird on it – which features in the video.

Buttercups growing in an unkempt feature thing
Buttercups growing in an unkempt feature thing

Off the bypass is Bristol Road South, I crossed over and headed down there and came across some Buttercups growing on top of some sort of feature; a raised garden brick-structure-thing and saw a few Bees flying around!  I climbed on top to get a closer look etc.

I carried on down the road and admired the grass verge that separates both lanes, as some parts of it haven’t been mown – to deliberately leave strips of wildflower!  I passed by a lovely park called Manor Farm Park, but decided not to venture into the park and head on down to Merritts Brook Greenway, where I took the pictures blow and end my short film.

Wild Garlic (Ramsons) flowers past their best
Wild Garlic (Ramsons) flowers past their best

A bit of Fungi
A bit of Fungi

I’ll say no more and let the video say the rest 😉  Enjoy! 🙂


Day 2 – 30 Days Wild


For my second day of the challenge, I wanted it to be something more ‘proactive’ and it to require being outdoors.  Also, if it was to be a video, then I wanted it to be considerably better than my first one.  It had stopped raining, so I couldn’t do “Dance in a downpour”…

Early in the afternoon, my friend Gary came to help choose what I was going to do for Day 2 of 30 Days Wild.  I was quite inspired and had several ideas (thanks to the handy challenge booklet provided by The Wildlife Trust) which I was going to put my spin on and make a film of.  I found it quite difficult to decide which one to go with!  I briefed Gary on all the ideas and how – with his help – I’d like to execute them (so to speak), in the end we agreed upon “Give your favourite tree a cuddle”.

My spin on the idea; was that I cannot pick one individual tree as my favourite!  And to create a fun video of how I had to hug 4 of my favourite species of tree, 2 of which I have a connection with…  Of course I hug a few other trees too!  Haha.
There wasn’t a script exactly, I just finalised what I wanted to say etc.

I didn’t have to travel far for the first tree, it is quite close to my family home.  All of the trees in fact weren’t too far away.  I decided I would do the Intro and Outro for the video at an ancient woodland/nature reserve approx 10 minutes walk away, Balaam’s Wood – where I became generous with my hugs.  The second and third tree weren’t too far away from the first, the fourth was located in a country park approx 5 minutes walk away – but it is deep into the country park!  So in all it took around 35 minutes to get to!  I will reveal more about this particular country park and it’s name another time 😉

Due to starting it in the afternoon, I was very much aware that time was not going to be on our side.  Obviously we had to allow for any last minute changes to the filming schedule and for any possible outtakes, but there was strictly no dilly-dallying!  Editing took time, naturally, as you have to import the footage onto your computer and choose what clips that are wanted and needed and so on.  I am very grateful that Gary stuck around for this process, his opinion helped a lot.  It was great getting feedback from a ‘viewers’ point of view, so there were a few chops and changes before the finished film.

I wanted it to upload quicker to YouTube, so I chose a Standard Definition preset – resulting in it unfortunately appearing a little small in frame.

To see the final edit and find out the trees I chose and hugged click here: