Welcome to our 2016 Advent Calendar series (#AFONAdvent)! This year, our theme is “The Gift of Inspiration”. For each day, one of our members has written a blog post about someone who has inspired them, and how that inspiration has lead to them being where they are today. Each member is a shining example of a young person who is acting Now for Nature. We hope that you enjoy the series and have a Merry Christmas and a Happy New Year!
I was listening to ‘The Diaries of Brett Westwood’, a podcast series by the BBC where Brett talks about the records he kept of his local patch as a young boy and the changes that have occurred there since he was a child. One thing he said was particularly poignant and has stuck with me.
‘…the diaries themselves are a motley collection of different sized hardback notebooks, some of them very battered now, but they’re worth more to me than some of the most expensive wildlife books on all of my bookshelves, because what I’ve amassed in over 40 years is a fascinating record of the natural history of my patch’.
I’m sure any budding naturalist has a collection of scruffy notebooks filled with diagrams and incoherent scribbles that may look inconsequential to the casual eye, but have more than a just a material value to them. This quote beautifully sums up why Brett inspires me; through his wonderful enthusiasm and appreciation for nature and an innate recognition of how priceless the natural world is to us.
Caroline’s first wildlife notebook
I never get bored of listening to Brett, he manages to summon boundless enthusiasm for every aspect of natural history. I particularly enjoy listening to him presenting the ‘BBC Natural Histories’ radio programme as he invests the same amount of excitement and zeal into talking about the humble flea as he does the great and mighty whale. Only Brett could talk about fleas for a half an hour podcast and not only make it educational but thoroughly engaging due to his limitless passion for any creatures that, walks, flies or crawls.
Brett Westwood (c) BBC Springwatch
Sometimes when life gets busy or stressful and I’ve spent all day working at a desk, all it takes is half an hour of listening to one of his podcasts or a short clip of him from BBC Springwatch to remind me how astonishing nature is. Brett has managed to regain this wonderful boyish eagerness for the natural world and never fails to inspire me to walk outside and look around me again at the nature that’s surrounding me with fresh eyes.
Moreover, I’m sure many naturalists have felt the pressure to specialise, to decide on species to concentrate on or a career path to stick to, be that wildlife film, photography or conservation. But Brett serves as a daily reminder to me that you can include your love of nature into every aspect of life. Brett has worked as a radio producer and presenter for natural history programmes, he’s presented and co-presented several TV series including BBC Springwatch amongst many other things, but the one key thing that everything he does has in common, is its central focus around nature.
Today I’m studying ecology at the University of Aberystwyth, when asked what type of wildlife I’m interested in, I will always reply that all wildlife is beautiful and unique and inspiring in its own way and every organism works together intrinsically to make up a beautiful functioning ecosystem. I photograph wildlife, I film wildlife, I write poems about wildlife, I blog about wildlife and I study wildlife.
So, thank you Brett Westwood, for inspiring me to be a jack of all trades and to never forget how beautiful the natural world is from the tiny little fleas to the greatest whale in the ocean.