Why you should visit a nature reserve during the Christmas holidays
PUBLISHED: 00:00 12 December 2019
© Elliott Neep
Clea Grady from Yorkshire Wildlife Trust shares with us why Christmas is a wonderful time to be celebrating the county’s nature reserves – and how you can help protect them
If you look up nature reserve in the dictionary, it says: 'a tract of land managed so as to preserve its flora, fauna, and physical features.' This is certainly true. Yorkshire Wildlife Trust is proud to look after its very own reserves - we have more than 100 - and are proud to keep and maintain them as the very best for wildlife. But to so many, nature reserves are much more than their dictionary definition. They are a place to discover the wonders of the natural world; a quiet space to escape the bustle and noise of our predominantly urban world; a place to connect with family, friends, nature and even yourself; and an incredibly precious shard of hope for Yorkshire's wild future.
Our nature reserves are undoubtedly a sanctuary for wildlife. Shielded from the pressures of intensive agriculture and urbanisation, they are environments where wildlife can breed, survive and - with additional support from us as a Trust - ultimately thrive. Without the protection these reserves provide, huge swathes of Yorkshire's incredible wildlife could be lost.
For more than 70 years, we have been protecting Yorkshire's wildlife through our nature reserves. They were once the best examples of a rich and wild Yorkshire landscape, but are now the final haven for species that have been pushed out and squeezed into smaller spaces. The UK is one of the most nature depleted countries on earth and 15% of species are now threatened with extinction from Great Britain. Nature reserves are often the only place where some of the rarest species can find the right conditions to live, as everything they relied upon elsewhere is gone.
We must fight harder than ever to make sure wildlife has a space in this world, and in our everyday lives. There are more threats facing wildlife than ever before, and more and more species that urgently need our help. Every year, the trust spends more than £1 million preserving these wild places. Without public support, our nature reserves would start to disappear.
This Christmas, we are asking the people of Yorkshire to come together and give a gift to wildlife. Be a proper Yorkshire hero and help us keep these wild places safe! We will need to do even more for our wildlife next year, and ensure we all experience the gift of nature for Christmases to come.
WHY WE LOVE YORKSHIRE
Don't just take our word for it. We asked some regular Yorkshire Wildlife Trust nature reserve visitors exactly what our nature reserves mean to them, and why even when the days are cold and dark, they keep coming back for more.
Nature used to be little more than a pleasant backdrop to me, something I appreciated but hardly knew, and that I considered as a resource to be exploited. My views have changed greatly. I started visiting Yorkshire Wildlife Trust reserves with my young child because we were beginner birdwatchers. We came with a goal of learning to recognise the species that lived around us, but we've discovered a whole lot more - from trees and fungi to butterflies and wildflowers. But more than that, we've both found a deep and ongoing connection to the natural world. Not only does this sense of belonging bring me huge joy and satisfaction, it also profoundly shapes my attitudes and decisions about how I choose to live.
I'm 14 and nature makes me feel calm - nobody is running or messing around and that's calming. I love just hearing the animals and the trees. I lost one of my family members this year and my nature sessions with the Bradford Urban Discovery Project just help me to be distracted and forget about it for a bit. I've felt a lot better since.
I would like to see more people coming outside, more people out there helping, planting trees and picking up litter. Nature is so important, especially in the world we live in now. Technology is so big right now, and plastics are just being chucked everywhere. We've got to start thinking about other people - we can't just think about ourselves. I encourage all of my friends to come outside if they're feeling down and to collect litter and recycle it. It makes you feel better.
To me a nature reserve is a haven for wildlife, or more like a sanctuary in our ever-crowded and polluted world. An escape where wildlife can ride out the human storm and hopefully flourish where possible. They are places where humans can give something back, when we have taken so much from this world. These places are not actually for us, although it is vital we engage with them and encourage their creation and expansion. Apart from my now annual winter starling murmuration hunt, I love to 'snake spot' at Yorkshire Wildlife Trust nature reserves in the first warm weather. Incredibly, I hear snakes long before I see them and I have learned to recognise the difference between the noise of a plant blowing in the breeze and the more crisp plant noise caused by snake movement. But really I think the one wild discovery I value most of all is the discovery of a wild me. What I mean is, the more time you spend surrounded by nature, particularly in nature reserves, the more you feel completely connected to it and utterly a part of it.
You can help us to protect these precious wild places. Give our wildlife a gift today at ywt.org.uk/our-wild-yorkshire