Andy Beer’s formative memories of his childhood are of exploring the insides of overgrown hawthorn hedgerows in search of speckled wood butterflies and sitting on gates listening to yellowhammers. In his new book, ‘Every Day Nature’, he shares the solace he finds in nature with tips of what to look out for every day of the year.
There's a common turn of phrase that turns up a lot in books about nature, which goes something like this: ‘If you're really lucky then you may catch a glimpse of a bearded tit/otter/purple emperor butterfly’ (delete as applicable).
I'm sorry to break it to you, but no, you won’t. What these books should say is: ‘If you accompany an expert to exactly the place where these rare things are found, at exactly the right time of year – and you look where the expert is pointing – then you might have a chance of seeing the rear end of the creature in question as they fly away/dive under the water.’
I've been fascinated by nature for most of my life, but there are still lots of things I have never seen. So, this type of advice is not only discouraging, it also reinforces that sense that being interested in nature is simply a quest to fill in some long list, perhaps in the hope of a prize. There is always something brighter, rarer, more exciting just around the next corner.
My new book ‘Every Day Nature’ is about another way to watch nature. It's about noticing the commonplace, marking the cycle of the seasons and taking time to study things closely. It’s not about heading off to distant parts in order to find a creature – rather it's about looking at what's under your nose.
" Now more than ever, nature can be a comfort to us. We can feel spring coming by looking out of the window or standing on the doorstep, soaking up the sight of blossom blowing in the breeze or listening to birdsong."
I have realised that a daily dose of nature is essential for my wellbeing. Like many people, I find the descent into the dark days of winter saps my spirits and causes me to hunker down. The antidote is to notice things and take delight in them, to get as much fresh air as you can, stomp outside in the rain, go out on a freezing dark night.
We have somehow come to think of nature as something fragile that lives far away. Instead it is something huge and powerful that is all around us. If we take the time to slow down and observe, then the turning of the seasons can add great meaning to our lives.
I hope my book will help you enjoy nature wherever you are. It's not about the kind of nature that's restricted to nature reserves or remote places. Instead it's deliberately about things you will find in a garden, a park, a hedgerow or a road verge. Expertise is not required. You don’t have to know exactly what something is called to appreciate it. Notice a little bit of nature every day. It may change your life…