Saturday 22nd September was finally here.
After weeks of arranging meet-ups, making videos with other young people and downloading birdsong, we were on our way to Hyde Park in London for Chris Packham’s ‘People’s Walk for Wildlife’.
It was important for me to attend, to join together with other young naturalists to show support, to raise awareness that our wildlife is in trouble, to show the Government that we care about our environment and to celebrate the beauty of nature.
The moment I stepped off the bus at Marble Arch, I joined a steady stream of people wearing ‘Love Life’ t-shirts half-hidden by raincoats, heading towards Reformers Tree and the stage.
It reminded me of a starling murmuration; a small group of people entering from the left, gathering with an existing group, adding to the families, the couples and groups approaching from bus stops. Standing, watching, the groups swayed and morphed. Badger families joining together, butterfly and bee enthusiasts drawn to one another, hedgehog supporters greeting each other, while further clans sheltered under the trees. Like tribes within the collective umbrella of the passion for wildlife.
Today it didn’t matter whether you were a scientist, a politician, a conservationist, a huntsab, a writer, a protester or a photographer. Eight years old or eighty years old. Today was about the spotlight being on environmental issues.
I bumped in to Nature Boy James, a 10-year-old who runs a blog at www.natureboyjames.wordpress.com. He told me he was here today because he felt passionate about hen harriers, foxes and plastic waste in the ocean. It especially upsets him to hear news stories about whales being washed up with their stomachs full of plastic.
The huge screens were showing interviews with young people, the interviewer skilfully teasing out information from the shy and joining in with the enthusiastic. It was impressive to watch the passion, the fascination of these young naturalists to whom nature isn’t separated but a natural part of their world.
I later spoke to Zach Haynes who told me that caring is one thing, but actually doing something about it is another, he added that the People’s Walk for Wildlife is perfect for getting across to the Government and the general public that we care.
While Mya Bambrick said 'it was important for me to attend the walk because our wildlife needs help and I wanted to join thousands of other people, as passionate as me, to stand up and make our voices heard. As well as this I wanted to show that young people do care and want to conserve our amazing wildlife for future generations.'
As Chris Packham appeared on stage a huge cheer rang through the crowd and the introduction to the Ministers for Wildlife started, each having a few minutes to put forward their thoughts and proposals. Earlier I’d caught up with Hugh Warwick, Ministry for Hedgerow and Verges, who told me that linear features of the landscape can either act as corridors or barriers for wildlife. We need wild lines for wildlife.
A special mention to Mya-Rose Craig, Ministry for Diversity in Nature and Conservation and Bella Lack and Georgia Locock, Ministry for Young People in Conservation, all three were inspiring and eloquent. Dara McAnulty’s poem held the audience entranced and Findlay, standing up for what he believed in, had the crowd on his side.
Fabian Harrison appeared on stage with his idea to create a Twitter storm. Within seconds, thousands of people were taking selfies and hashtaging #Peopleswalkforwildlife.
One of the highlights of the infotainment hour was Billy Bragg singing ‘Where have all the flowers gone’ with variations including badgers and Defra.
As the speeches ended, the walk started.
There was a carnival feel, the banners were up, showing a whole host of diversity. Banners on trees, plastic waste, insects, mammals, amphibians, fish, plants, wildflowers and everything in between.
The call of London’s parakeets was joined by the soft sound of birdsong. As waves of people slowly flowed through the streets of London heading toward Parliament, the sound of birdsong got louder coming from mobile phones held in the air. The downloaded birdsong poignantly depicting the missing birdsong from our towns and countryside.
As the day came to an end, final speeches were spoken, goodbyes were said, promises made and the feelings of hope embedded in our hearts. Chris Packham and a small group headed on to 10 Downing Street.
But this is not the end, just the beginning. The beginning of something big.
I spoke to Charlie about the importance of the day, he said ‘the Manifesto is a blueprint for moving forward. It’s about the language, it’s not culling it’s killing, it’s not pork it’s a pig. What we are being told is untrue but the manifesto is the truth’.
Alex White has been taking photos and blogging about wildlife since the age of 9. He was one of the original 12 Local Patch reporters for BBC Wildlife magazine and appear on SpringWatch Unsprung in 2016. He is a youth ambassador for Pocket Pals App and regularly helps out with Oxon Badger Group.
Alex’s interests lie in British wildlife, especially mammals. He has written a book, due to be released in Spring 2019, with the aim of encouraging more young people to become passionate about wildlife and nature. Check out his website and follow him on Twitter @Appletonwild.