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Are the real nature lovers more likely to live in towns and cities

My progression from urban life in south London until about the age of 19 to rural life now in the north of Scotland has been fairly progressive, with the transition taking in around a dozen homes in the three and half decades (I’m now 57). So having left London I lived in smaller towns and cities including Reading, Oxford and Northampton, then favoured villages before finally making the move to the small hamlet in the northern Scottish Highland where we live now.
Having experienced the relative extremes of where you can live in the UK but having always been obsessed with the natural world, it recently struck me how ironic it is that, in my experience at least, it’s more typically folk in built-up areas which share my passion for all things wildlife. And note I’m saying ‘typically’ because there are of course exceptions to the rule on both sides, and I’m also taking into account relative population sizes.
So what’s going on here? Well I guess there’s the obvious point that what you don’t have around you is the very thing you crave and desire, and when you do have it around you then there’s a tendency to take it for granted. That’s all fine and I get that, but the aspect I find so hard to accept is when folk in the countryside have little or no respect for the natural world around them. That mind-set is an all-too-common one where I live in the Highlands, with the issue exacerbated by it being a crofting community, and with livestock – sheep and cattle – usually taking complete priority over any consideration for wildlife and its habitat. But these aren’t crofters making a living off the land – a position I’d have far more sympathy with – but often relatively wealthy people with other occupations who have a croft as a hobby or side-line (as I do, as it happens). Let me give you an example . . .
Over the last 9 months or so, I’ve witnessed the destruction of around 8 acres of mature broadleaf woodland, and all in the name of ‘improving the grazing’ on a croft nearby to me. Literally hundreds of downy birch, willow and alder trees have been bulldozed over and mounded into huge piles, then the wood entirely wasted by being burned (the smoke alone from the massive fires has been a local hazard). This destruction has taken place without any regard for the environment, local landscape or wildlife that lived in the habitat, and much of the works has taken place during this year’s breeding season for songbirds. What’s more, the value to livestock will be minimal (if any at all) as the ground is on a floodplain and remains wet for much of the year. I despair.
You might think the above is an isolated incident, but within a two mile radius of where I live I can think of three other smaller areas of woodland which have either been felled or degraded for different reasons – including speculative house plots.
My reaction to all of this depressing activity? I plant more trees on my croft, give over more space to wild flower meadows, put up more nest boxes, and do my very best to positively influence other land owners I come into contact with – which is a real challenge as I feel my voice is a loan one. And I don’t know a single person locally who has a real interest in the natural world.
On a more positive note, I often have conversations with friends who live in towns and cities across the UK, who tell me about things such as the thrill of seeing a sparrowhawk in their garden, frogspawn in their pond, and the fox which trotted past their front gate with its three cubs in tow.

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