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Abbie's story: 'Just that little bit of hope'

I first became aware of the project after seeing some posts on Facebook. I’d been kind of wanting to get into something outdoorsy, maybe volunteering, and I saw a post about the Nature Ninjas which was due to start in the September.  I started going along from the first session and I’ve been coming along ever since.   

That was 2019 so I did September through to March every week that it was on pretty much, and then the pandemic hit. They ran Zoom sessions so that we could all keep in touch and so there would be that connection there. Quite honestly, I think it kept me sane through the first lockdown because it just gave me that point in the week where there was something that was just for me. I’d learnt loads through the sessions, lots of plants, and lots of things about habitat, scything, why we scythe. Then with the Zoom sessions each one came with a presentation about something…a particular aspect of conservation. I learnt a lot more through that. Then when the sessions started back up again, I couldn’t wait to get back out. I did a few more months, I think it was the autumn of 2020 I actually went for my first training through TCV, which was a brush cutter course. That was just before we went into the second big lockdown and again you know I think the connections that I’d made through this were really really helpful to me through that. I mean lockdown in the summer was alright because the garden was nice, lockdown in the winter was very different and it hit me quite hard. When it’s winter and it’s grey, and it’s cold, and there’s no daylight and you’re stuck in the house and the kids are….  But again, I had that sort of focal point that I could keep going back to and I knew that once lockdown was lifted a bit we could start back again.  

It was after the last actual lockdown that we had I started going to Wild Ways Well as well.  Paul had suggested that maybe I’d enjoy going along to Wild Ways Well and I did, I love it.  The second lockdown had been quite tough, I just needed that bit more than I was getting from the Ninjas. I think especially as a mum it can be really difficult to make time for yourself and while I’m quite capable of going out and spending time outdoors on my own, I think as a parent it’s quite difficult to say well yeah there’s housework that needs doing but I need to do something for me as well.  I think having that timetabled 10 o’clock on a Thursday, that’s quite useful and again I’m not just going for a walk, I’m learning and I’m investing in myself as well as just going and getting some time out. I’ve learnt so much through Wild Ways Well as well as through Nature Ninjas. I’m really glad that I started doing it. It seems like a lot of time to invest every week but it’s something that I benefit from really a lot and I’m healthier for it as well.  

The sessions are very different, although they are run by the same organisation. One of them it’s very work focused.  It’s not high pressure or anything, that’s what I’m there for and that’s what I do, and I’ll still talk to people and have a social side to it as well.  But the Wild Ways Well sessions are much more about observing and just being in nature and I really enjoy both.  Obviously, the Thursday sessions are less physically demanding because I have a horrible tendency to overdo it, I work until I drop.  So, it’s good to have the 2 aspects of the same overarching philosophy both the more work oriented, intensive side of it with the Nature Ninjas and the less intensive, more relaxed side of it with Wild Ways Well.  

I’ve learnt so much since I started getting involved. The things that I’ve got most out of are the learnings. I’m learning every single time I come out and that’s something that I find really fulfilling.  Like for example, Camilo who’s just started, is really knowledgeable about mushrooms and mushrooms has not been something that I’ve been particularly interested in in the past, and all of a sudden, I’ve got all this information. David who ran the Nature Ninja sessions to start with, he was very into his insects, which again it’s like yeah insects are cool, I understand they have a role in the Ecosystem, but I didn’t have a specific interest in them and because David was so enthusiastic about them, I became a lot more interested in insects.  So, I think one of the things that I’ve really enjoyed about the project is the enthusiasm that the actual project employees bring to it has really engaged me and brought me to an interesting new aspect. I’ve always loved the outdoors, but it’s really given me new specific interests within that, that I don’t think I necessarily would have had without the project.

I think socially it’s been brilliant because there’s no expectation to be… if I’m in a mood where I just want to get on with it and get my head down and plough into it that’s fine, nobody pressures me to make conversation, but if I’m in a mood where I want to be social that’s fine too.  It’s very low demand on a social front, which you don’t get anywhere else.  It’s very…mindfulness friendly because you can just be.  

And then…obviously, we are living in a world where there is a lot of frightening stuff going on, especially on an environmental front. And I actually feel like I’m doing my little, tiny bit to help and that’s not a lot and it doesn’t feel like enough but at least I can do something constructive and make a visible difference. This is the fourth year that I’ve done scything on this meadow and the difference in quality of the meadow from when I started, when it was mostly grass, and thistles, and low quality, not very diverse meadow and it’s gone to being really diverse. I come throughout the year sometimes and have a look. I can see the difference that the group is making even though it’s just a few people and even though I’m only doing a few hours work a week. I’m actually making a difference to a little corner of the world that’s better because I’ve been there and that’s worth a lot when everything around us feels really futile.  It’s just a little bit of hope.  

I notice a lot more when I’m out and about just by myself. If I’m just walking the dog or whatever, I’m finding the quality of my time that I spend outdoors away from the Ninjas and Wild Ways Well is better because I know more of what I’m looking at.  I think I engage more with discussions about the environment and about nature because I feel better informed.   So, for example, if people are talking about conservation work, or people are talking about ecology, or global warming, or whatever it happens to be, I actually feel like I’ve got something a bit more valuable to contribute to that discussion.  I think it’s fairly integral to my identity now. I’m properly assimilated.  [Laughter]



This is part of the project 'Stories of nature connections' (

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Printed from /research/projects/abbies-story-just-little-bit-hope on 01/12/23 09:35:26 AM

The James Hutton Research Institute is the result of the merger in April 2011 of MLURI and SCRI. This merger formed a new powerhouse for research into food, land use, and climate change.