Anthropomorphise Wilden Marsh Nature Reserve and its natural water springs become its heart, the River Stour its artery; Hoo Brook and drainage ditches its veins, the sluices its means of discarding unwanted fluids, and trees and other vegetation its skin. See, not so different from ourselves really!
Many of the things that make Wilden Marsh Nature Reserve the vibrant resource that it is, are imported. The amount of water and sunlight it receives vary tremendously; many of the animals that live there are transient; they come to breed, eat, and I suspect for a bit of peace and quiet, and to take advantage of its general bounty when it is available. Of course, the marsh foxes stay year in year out to prey on anything on their food list that wanders through their territory, but even they occasionally holiday away from the marsh. The marsh badgers usually leave for the hills early summer, and return late autumn, and many birds fly away for the winter. The cormorants come to the marsh to get away from the blustery seaside winter conditions.
If we neglect our bodies and minds, then maybe we fall ill, go mad, suffer neurotic episodes, shorten our lifespan, feel depressed, or experience a heart attack. Some people might spend inordinate amounts of their spare time flat-out on the sofa, snacking on overpriced and unhealthy foods to keep their hands and jaws busy whilst living vicariously through their televisions and computers, and then retire to their beds. Fortunately, when our lives go critical, we have access to quite a large range of support services, offered by hard-working and caring professionals.
When the marsh shows signs of distress, a botany expert is despatched to diagnose the cause. Depending on the size and severity of the problem, practical conservation professionals are contracted to implement a solution or, if it is not too serious, volunteers carry out what needs to be done. Either way, Wilden Marsh has support systems in place too.
People connect with their NHS support agencies via a general practitioner and sometimes directly. If a person collapses, has an accident, or there is a civil disaster, emergency services will rush to the rescue. It seems that we don’t have to do much for ourselves these days, beyond getting out of bed, going to work, doing as we are told, and then going back to bed at the end of the evening. Does this seem vaguely familiar to you? It’s very familiar to me because I am stretched out on my recliner drinking tea, nibbling chocolate biscuits, and tapping away on my computer.
So, depending on how you view things, Wilden Marsh Nature Reserve and Hoo Wood are overgrown wastelands, or vibrant habitats serving a wide range of fauna and flora, some of which are struggling.
If green spaces and nature reserves are to survive, we should be prepared to do practical things to ensure that this happens. Things like joining a Wildlife Trust and giving money or volunteering labour, or both, is a good idea. Local councils also have nature volunteering opportunities available. Urban green spaces are important! In the 1500s the population of the UK was around 3.75 million, and now it’s somewhere between 64 and 65 million. If we want to keep urban green spaces around our homes, we have to be prepared to do something about it. If we don’t, there are many organisation desperate to acquire them for residential and industrial development.
If an urban green area is seen as not wanted or an eyesore, it is a safe bet that it will be built upon. It is often a matter of use it or lose it!
The choice is ours!
As the Chinese philosopher, Laozi, wrote: “A journey of a thousand miles begins with a single step.”