By the time this post hits the blog, I should be off looking for otters with my eldest, Harry, who's on half term holidays. The natural world is a big part of our lives - I spent last Friday cycling between local nature reserves (above), Sunday the whole family spent the day at Washington Wildfowl and Wetland Trust and on Wednesday Harry and I went on a guided bird walk just up the valley from where we live, spotting dippers, a kingfisher and a goldcrest amongst others.
Although I can be quite brutal about wishy-washy tree-huggers here, I love nature with a passion. I'm never happier than hiking over a moorland or pedalling along country lanes, and we pretty much bought our house on the basis of it being in a wooded river valley despite being near the centre of a major conurbation. And, it appears, there's a good reason for this. The theory of Biophilia says that, as we are intrinsically part of nature, we basically freak out a bit if we are deprived of it.
Studies have shown that patients with a view of nature recover faster than those looking out at a wall. Reoffending rates are said to be lower from prisons with natural vistas and interactions with nature have been shown to ameliorate the symptoms of a number of serious disorders including ADHD and autism.
So it looks like, as with so many other things, protecting nature is an opportunity as well as a challenge. By designing nature into our urban environment, we can bring in major social benefits as well as providing ecological sanctuaries. By providing natural areas in our places of work, we can soothe and inspire employees. And at home, there's usually space for a bird feeder in even the smallest flat to cheer us up.
The otter hunt will probably be a wild goose chase, but we'll enjoy ourselves anyway. Have a good weekend!