Joining forces with the perceived enemy
It’s probably fair to say that I’m the type of guy that can get on with most folk – even those I don’t especially like. In part, I think it’s instinctive for me to take this approach in life because, as much as anything, I don’t very much like conflict. However, I can also be fairly outspoken and I’m rarely short of a view on what’s right and wrong about the world around us, so sometimes that conflict can’t be avoided.
Age also plays a part in all this, because as I’ve got older (I’m 56) I’ve progressively learnt that, actually, if you want to get stuff done and make a difference, then better to work with someone than against them.
Over the years and given my life-long and obsessive love of nature, both conflict and sensible dialogue have figured in a vast range of issues I’ve campaigned for and been actively involved in. These include issues as diverse as lobbying foreign embassies of countries taking part in whale hunting in the 1970s, to establishing my own oak tree nursery to replace elm trees lost to Dutch elm disease in Northamptonshire (where I lived prior to moving to Scotland 5 years ago).
Living where I do in the northern Scottish Highlands, I see no shortage of differing views on the natural world around us. A prime example – and indeed an especially important one – is the illegal persecution of birds of prey on sporting estates and, to a lesser extent, on farm and croft land by a very few who take an entirely homocentric view, in that THEIR livestock comes first and any large bird with a hooked bill (i.e. Sea Eagle and Golden Eagle) should be a dead one. And, it must be said, the RSPB (which I’ve been a member of for nearly 40 years) has done little or nothing to improve understanding and positive cooperation between different parties, and indeed its stance has often been one of provocation and arrogance. (A position our regional newspaper up here, The Northern Time, regularly reports on and attracts a good number of subsequent letters about the same.)
As an incomer to the area I live in, I’m very mindful that there are times when it’s just best to keep my mouth shut. But certainly not all of the time and certainly not when I see an opportunity to make a positive difference. Just such an opportunity has emerged in the last year or so, as the local estate’s gamekeeper became a neighbour when he and his family moved into the house opposite to ours. I get on with him pretty well, think he’s a good guy, and as I’ve got to know him better I’ve increasingly learnt that our views on wildlife aren’t so different after all. But it gets better than that, because I’m about to embark on a long-term project with him which will, all being well, see the reintroduction of Grey Partridge to croft and farmland which forms much of ground at the base of our strath.
It’s still early days on the project, but we’re due to meet in the new year to agree a strategy and plan on just how we’re going to make it happen – a key part of which will need to be the planting of significant amounts of Hawthorn hedgerow along field boundaries. And when that happens, it won’t of course just be for the benefit of the reintroduced Grey Partridge, but a host of other bird species from nesting Whitethroats to migrant Fieldfares.
So bring it on - both the exciting project and two unilkely parties working together for the common good of nature.