John and his wife Clare live in Lewes. They’ve been Joint Members of Sussex Wildlife Trust for five years.
Tell us a bit about yourself and how you first became interested in wildlife
I grew up on the edge of Southampton within easy reach of the countryside and I loved it.
I was adopted, but nonetheless ‘inherited’ my mother’s love of the natural world and her lifelong habit of feeding wild birds. We spent a lot of time in the New Forest. I loved seeing the semi-wild ponies and learning to identify trees and birds with her.
In my 20s, I started to volunteer with the British Trust for Ornithology, doing field surveys. And when I was working with Oxford University, I got a permit to study badgers in Wytham Wood. I became very interested in conservation, and my friends and I set up Oxford Conservation Volunteers, which became affiliated with the British Trust for Conservation Volunteers.
What are your favourite wild places?
We love Sussex Wildlife Trust’s Southerham Farm and Malling Down Nature Reserves in Lewes, and the informed care that’s been taken here. And it’s a real privilege to have an allotment in Coombe Valley. Every season is so glorious. We must have walked there 5,000 times during the 35 years that we have lived in Lewes.
Southerham Farm Nature Reserve in the snow
What’s lifted your spirits this year?
The natural world. Lockdown meaning it was quieter, with fewer cars, planes and trucks.
It lifted my spirits to see so many other people respond in the same way.
I created a website to capture some of the dawn chorus and various other natural wonders during this year's extraordinary spring. It had a slightly wider geographical range than Michael Blencowe’s amazingly rich exploration of his garden, but almost all of it is based either in the Pells in Lewes or the neighbouring abandoned wetlands at the end of our road about a hundred yards from our house.
That said, as spring melted into summer, I even allowed myself to cross the Ouse to capture a sunrise in the delightful wild flower meadows of the South Malling churchyard.
The site is called simply Noticing (link below) which was all I was doing really.
It has a number of short video clips with the dawn as a sound track during each month of the year, but also several photographic sequences. I became in awe of the simple unfurling of different species of tree leaves.
Tell us what you’re looking forward to in 2021
Another spring! Watching how it will be similar and different. I’m studying the reedbeds in the Pells and plan to talk with the Trust about what might be of interest there. I believe the 10 acres of untouched wetland are likely to include some valuable habitat.
We will meet friends and family outdoors through the winter. Our grandchildren have got used to being outdoors in all weathers.
We’d like to visit more of the Trust’s nature reserves too.
Our daughter now lives in Keswick in the Lake District and our son and family live in Norfolk, so we have reasons for also exploring both of those lovely areas, but Sussex is our home and we are very grateful for the Trust’s work to protect key parts of it.
John's blog - johnsweb.org