Nature Takes Back Control 

The Wildflower Project, Watchet

Has lockdown given nature the break it needs to recover? In a series of articles West Somerset Branch will look at the natural environment and how it has changed.   Liz Passmore, West Somerset’s Fundraising Officer, is a passionate gardener and co-founder of Watchet’s wildflower project.  Liz had a chat with her friends far and wide to see how nature has been changing!

Liz writes….

After a rainy old Winter, Spring, as it every year, seems even more beautiful than the last, but this year after 6 weeks of the lockdown is there any comparison?. I have asked friends in towns and cities and other continents what they think too. Sadly no one in Antarctica, Africa, Russia or China, but I have managed to charm a few friends with the promise of sweeties when I see them again and they have helped me.

Warning. Starting with the horror story, in New York ‘in an area where there are lots of restaurants and few residents the rats are starving and eating each other’. I’m sorry to upset anyone, no more horror.

Everywhere it seems that pollution levels have considerably dropped, no smog in L.A.. From Ashton on the edge of Bristol ‘My washing smells like it used to on the farm and the sky is considerably bluer, and more stars seen at night’. Whereas in inner city Bristol though the air pollution levels have dropped, the light pollution remains. In Auckland NZ ‘the air is noticeably cleaner’. I note that here in West Somerset  the sky can be a blue as if on the Scillies, but some days you can actually see the pollen in the air, as never  before. (Not good if you have taken to suffering from Hay Fever). When we see a vapour trail, so rare these days, we wonder where the plane is going and who will be returning?


Birdsong has figured greatly, probably because there is no traffic noise. From central Paris ‘a thin but enthusiastic dawn chorus has ensued’ In Auckland birdsong has increased as in St Pauls, Bristol but that could just be because it can now be heard instead of the hum of the motor car. Here, in our bubble in Carhampton we have on occasion, sitting outside, been deafened by the birdsong, cannot hear each other speak though less than a safe distance apart. (Its OK same household). We don’t hear much traffic  anyway unless the wind is coming from A39 direction, the extra birdsong could just signify a mild Winter and more birds or maybe more time to sit and listen.

A Kookaburra in Liz’s sister’s garden in Australia

A special mention for birds, from the Island in the lagoon near Venice “Yesterday I saw a large group of Sandwich Terns… not sure if that is usual ,Stilts usually hang out there as well. The Nightingales have returned. We also startled a Greylag Goose who looked very impressive taking off . Oyster Catchers are everywhere and Egrets used to be visitors but now are permanent. And a Grey Heron“

My sister in Sydney says the bushfires had more immediate impact and more birds have moved to the suburban gardens and Urban Wildlife reserves.

More seagulls on the beach in Santa Monica. L.A. In the middle of the road too!

A happier tale (than the ratty one) from New York where my friend’s flatmate has a pair of mourning doves with chicks on her windowsill.

In Bridgwater, ’the fledglings come right up to the windows…don’t know if they always have or just haven’t been around to witness it’.

From Washford,” Bloody pigeons, breeding everywhere, they’ve taken over all the trees, eat all the birdseed from the bird table. My son would shoot them if he could get here.”

Missing Tourism?

I feel I should mention Tourism, one friend in Bristol misses it because of her income from Airbnb, but from an Island in the lagoon in Venice, where “not usually affected by the mass tourism of Venice the island is even quieter than usual  as no one can use their boats for recreation and there are no ‘tourist trips around the lagoon ‘ boats either which surely must churn up the floor of the lagoon for the Nth time and, Venetians come across for the beach bar and restaurant  and leave lots of litter behind boo hoo”

The people who collect the rubbish/recycling in Venice apparently say their collection is down by 40%, I guess it is only the start of the season. “ There are no parks in Central Paris like London or Berlin, it is true that there are tree lined avenues and that the Mayor had a policy of plant box proliferation but they fell victim to the Saturday night bestrewing of cans and dog ends, The numbers of Parisians who left to go to their rural  bolt holes are returning and there is gradually a retaking of the streets Consequently the birds are being drowned out. The Plant boxes look good though.“

Wildflowers take over Kings Square in Bridgwater

A few people have remarked on being able to walk in the middle of the road and my daughter in Worcester sadly notes the empty children’s playgrounds but sees more families exercising together by the river as opposed to single runners. A friend in Bristol about whom I was a bit worried because of isolation was very upbeat when I spoke to him being ‘filled with endorphins from walking with hiking poles’ and being much healthier! Probably better air quality and more (and ever increasing) exercise. Central London correspondent says. ‘The walking saves my life, I can’t work and only have a small flat with no garden.’

Everywhere people have remarked on animals coming closer to human habitation, sadly the dolphins swimming up the canals in Venice is untrue ‘although they do swim in the outer lagoon’. But Porpoises have been seen in the river Parrett, ‘We heard that they were there and watched for about half an hour in the rain, it was wonderful.

 “In L.A I have seen a huge pair of Raccoons in the middle of the city, and more feral kitties that they won’t let us feed!“   

On the outskirts of Bristol ‘my partner walks the dog at night and is surprised by the number of foxes and hedgehogs he sees, God knows what will happen when normal returns’.

My friend in Auckland says they need to close down longer as they did on an island in New Zealand, after 6 months all manner of wildlife started to return. “In the creek area opposite, the bandicoots and rabbits are more brazen about coming for food. We save them peelings but not every day so they don’t become dependent”. 

The pandemic has made areas quieter and less people around so it’s easier to spend time looking at birds and animals in peace and tranquillity.! Warriewood NSW

The last words go to Bridgwater where “The profusion of wild flowers is a joy to see as mowing has been reduced and the noise of the birdsong is deafening without the hum of the A39”

Well, we know what we need to do.!! Thanks to all the contributors.



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Lindy Gibbon
Lindy Gibbon
4 years ago

Lovely to hear all the good stories about the increased awareness of nature.
My husband and I live in Chilton Polden and have been thrilled by the increase in bird song and sheer numbers of warblers, swifts, swallows, martens, wrens , robins and blackbirds.
Absolute favourite spot though were two red kites which performed a majestic flight right over our heads about a month ago. Utterly glorious.

4 years ago

I live in Exmoor.
Exmoor National Park is a Dark Sky Reserve, which means that it has the some of the darkest skies in the world.
Even here the skies are clearer at night, which shows how pollution is more than just a local issue.

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