Old ex railway carrages at Whitton were wonderful for swallows nests in my childhood, 30 odd years later still standing...just.
At lunch we were discussing possible ideas for NHU inserts to the ONE Show. And in the middle of this a topic came up, which has been flexing my braincells for a while: Namely, watching wildlife on one's own. I've never worried about wandering hill and dale on my own.
As a child, I used to leave the house before breakfast and return when it was dark. During the week, wandering the fields at the back of our house in West Boldon, sometimes collecting eggs on the way - tut tut. Or at weekends down on the Coquet watching the huge trout which was always there under Lady's Bridge, trudging over the Simonsides looking for Ring Ousels (yes even then I looked for them), looking at Swallow nests in the old railway huts at Whitton, or best of all going to the Thrum and watching the Dippers while carving my name in the rocks. Actually it was while down there I met a old man, who lived on the Cragside Estate at Pethfoot Lodge well before it became part of the National Trust. No idea who he was, but he fed birds from his hands, and I used to watch him in awe, as they pecked away. I never had the nerve to do it myself. A splendid introduction to wildlife, and what a childhood.
So it came as a surprise to me many years ago when people used to say to me when leading walks or surveys, this is lovely, I always feel worried about wandering in the countryside on my own, it's so nice to go with someone who knows where to go. Lately, a few women have said the same to me when we've chatted at Sand Bay. It's a sad state of affairs when people, not just women feel worried about going out on their own to watch wildlife. Absolutely nothing wrong of group activity, but I just feel so priveledged to have had the opportunity to be wild and free, at a time when no one worried where I was from dawn to dusk.