Insectopia

Mary Cook, Video Strategy intern, reminisces fondly on a summers day discovering ‘intsectopia’, and sharing with her son the value of green spaces.

It was perhaps Granny’s garden that inspired it.  The Buddleia was alive with butterflies.   “Let’s go on a nature walk!”  Edward was thrilled; he had been given a book called “Nature School.”  He couldn’t wait to get started. He put on his wellies and his sun hat. With the huge book, the binoculars and a bug box, he felt ready, albeit somewhat encumbered.  “You won’t need any of that” said his Uncle Ian.  Instead all we took was an old white cot sheet.  “Where are we going?”  I asked, “Not far” he said. “We’re just going to see who is home”
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In the garden, the willow tree’s arching branches were gently shaken to see who was home. We couldn’t count the number of tiny bugs going about their business in the leaves: many went into flight instantaneously, but more than twenty remained, creeping across that small white space.  We gently shook them back into their sphere.  From our vantage point seconds before they had been silent and invisible.  We approached the small compost heap next – Ian took a heap of dry leaves and leaf mould and unceremoniously placed it in the centre of the sheet.    Then gently he spread it wider, centipedes, millipedes, small snails and beetles. Plenty of life at home here too.

 Next we left the garden, crossing the lane to the meadow.  From ground to sky the place was alive with the hum of insects and the chirrup of birds. Brambles in the hedgerow already burgeoned with fruit yet to ripen while crickets and grasshoppers pinged across the scene invisible but for the flick of grass stems.  There was no need for the white sheet here. It was insectopia. This farmer had made space for nature and nature had moved in.

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We cross the plank bridge into the field beyond.  Getting down to his nephew’s height my brother said one word “Listen.”   After seeing so many amazing creatures, my son was quiet and wide eyed. The ditch we had crossed could have been a portal between worlds. In the vast treeless wheat field all was quiet. “I don’t hear anything!” said my son, disappointed.  “No, much quieter, isn’t it?” said Ian, “See there isn’t so much space for nature here.”  In the margins of headland where space had been left we heard some squeaks. A mouse perhaps?

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My son knows now what nature needs to thrive, a little space. Whether it is in the mountains, or on the coast or maybe at the edge of the fields or the hedgerows you pass on your commute: wherever that space is, it is precious and needs protecting.  That is what the National Trust is all about.  As Autumn comes and you think of the changes you want to make to your garden and the plants you would like to grow, consider making a space for nature. If you don’t have your own outdoor space you can help with a volunteer project at one of our many locations.

Curious and inspired?  What next?

Meet an Expert: http://www.nationaltrust.org.uk/what-we-do/what-we-protect/nature-and-wildlife/

Get Muddy Boots: If you don’t have your own outdoor space you can help with a volunteer project at one of our many locations – we have worked in partnership with individuals, families, schools and community groups to do this all over the country.  Follow this link for more information or contact your nearest National Trust property or Rangers’ office for details.  http://www.nationaltrust.org.uk/article-1356394758010/

Text:  Mary Cook

Photographs: © 2013 Ian Cooper All Rights Reserved

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