Quite naturally nature nurtures


SUMMER is a time for surveys, polls and findings. It's what papers fill their pages with when all the kids - and MPs - are off on holiday.
I tend not to pay too much attention to what Daz (they still make Daz, right) or B&Q or TaxSmart Accountants have found out about the Great British public.
That's mostly because I'm not sure that a quick straw poll by a marketing company in Whitstable, which probably involved something like 62 people, is an accurate gauge.
I mean, let's put this way, most of the major polling companies completely cocked up over the Election, so why would we believe that a tin-pot outfit acting on the orders of The Lavender Fresh Toilet Cleaning Co have accurate data on how much we spend on weddings, our favourite overseas resort or the best flavour of loo roll.
That said, there was one survey a couple of weeks ago which did make me sit up and take notice. It suggested that around one in ten Britons haven't visited the countryside in two years. This was the headline stat alongside claims that three quarters of us couldn't recognise hawthorn and one in six had never seen a toad. 
Two thoughts immediately sprung to mind. The first was that we had edged imperceptibly closer to one of those sinister sci-fi dystopias, where Earth's surviving plant life has been shipped off in some interstellar version of the Eden Project or all the owls in the world are synthetic.
Then, if I'm honest, came a relief that this was the first audit of humanity to come out of Whitstable in which I'd scored fairly well. Usually the questions are about how many countries you've been to (errr), the average age of getting married (ummm) or the number of cars you've owned (pass).
Luckily I was on surer ground this time. I'm satisfied that I've strode enough landscape in my 30 years to easily make a montage that could be comfortably set to The Fellowship of the Ring theme. Although obviously judicious cutting would be needed to take out the telegraph wires and 'slow down for horses' road signs.
I suppose I've always had an obsession with getting out in the countryside, which I put down to having lived in the city all my life and having pined for places where you can see the stars at night and kids scrump apples not iPhones. This may be a rather chocolate box vision of rural areas, but when you live in one of the most run-down urban constituencies in the country, even somewhere like Midsomer or Summerisle seems positively idyllic.
In recent summers I've tried to get out somewhere most weekends. In the past few weeks, for instance, I've walked a hollow way in North Warwickshire, gone to spot bee-eaters out Nottingham way and climbed my favourite down on the Isle of Wight to arrive at a 14th century lighthouse.
I have to confess that of all my hobbies, going walking somewhere green is probably the most enjoyable. It's more relaxing than writing, it's cheaper than model-making and less of an emotional rollercoaster than politics or tennis.
Yes I may get lost now and then and I amble much more than I "step out", but I all the same feel very fortunate that for an hour or two every Sunday I can find time to go out and find things. It might be an old market cross or an oak from King Henry's day . It might be a species of beetle I've not seen before or that sunset out by Coleshill which, though I've watched on countless occasions, still makes me stop every time.
These aren't the things that will make it into that forthcoming Whitstable survey of "10 things people dream of seeing." But in a way the fact that they're small events, which happen and then are gone, make them all the more precious.

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