From Faraway Forest to Doorstep: The Extraordinary Beauty of Nature has no Equal
Treshnish on the isle of Mull, Inner Hebrides and sweeping meadows dance with colour. Backed by mountainous green hills punctured by jagged rock, carpets of flower-rich meadows stretch to the sea. Whilst peering at orchids on my hands and knees, a shadow strokes past. Startled, I look up to see a magnificent white-tailed eagle, Scotland’s largest bird of prey, glided nonchalantly overhead. A magical memory from a lifetime spent fascinated by nature.
Whilst far-flung islands have a certain cachet, nature really is something you can enjoy anywhere, a thought brought home to me when I saw the incredible photos of ‘wee beasties’ in Glasgow’s Ruchill Park.
Photographer, David Hamilton, found himself captivated by the treasure trove of vibrant colours, intricate details, and tiny creatures waiting to be discovered there. Shooting with a macro lens, he now takes the most amazing portraits of the tiniest creatures, making them larger than life on his popular Instagram page, ‘weemadbeasties’. More than 1,000 species are now on David’s tally for Scotland alone. He told the BBC, “once I actually started seeing the sort of colours and the vibrancy of the insects, that was me hooked.” Couldn’t agree more.
It’s a stunning example of finding nature, and lots of it, on your doorstep.
Another recent for instance is the walnut tree on the outskirts of Perth chosen as Scotland’s contender in the annual Tree of the Year competition by the Woodland Trust. That tree is estimated at 250-300 years old and stands in the rather ordinary setting of a car park on the A9 at Inveralmond. Regardless of location, admirers describe it as “exceptionally attractive”, offering an “oasis of calm amongst the bustle”.
The reality is that trees make us happy. They lift spirits, reduce anxiety, and are beneficial to our mental health. They have other superpowers too: reducing the impact of climate change, alleviating flooding, and reducing soil erosion. So, by rights, every tree should be Tree of the Year!
Whether close to home or far away, trees provide homes for a rich multitude of wildlife.
A cause to celebrate is the recent return of Scottish wildcats to the woodland edges of the Highlands. Known as the ‘Highland tiger, about 20 specially bred wildcats have been released by conservationists to save the species from extinction.
In a landmark moment for nature restoration, this project is the first aimed officially at reintroducing a predatory mammal to the UK. And watch this space: Eurasian lynx could be next, a thousand years since they were hunted to extinction.
In my past life as a wildlife tour leader, I’ve taken people to places like Africa, Costa Rica, and the Seychelles to marvel at all that the natural world has to offer. Yet, I’ve also had some of my most memorable moments close to home. Whether it be the local park, or coastal islands, there is a richness of new surprises just waiting to lift spirits. Whether reintroduced sea eagles and wildcats, or everyday trees and ‘wee beasties’, one thing I’ll never forget: nature is amazing.
Main Image: The Outer Hebrides
Note: This is a version of an article first published in The Scotsman on Friday 22nd October, 2023