Last weekend, I discovered that a local birdwatcher is moving into the lodge park at my patch. I should be happy, but it’s actually ripped me apart and I’ll explain why. For four years now (this would have been the fifth), I’ve been visiting pretty much the same site for birdwatching and it’s been my haven. When my mind is racing and my head is pounding, the sweeping view across the enclosed lake, swallows up my troubles and absorbs my anxieties. It’s my natural safety net. My escape.

I gained access to the park in the very early days of my mental health recovery. It’s a part of that time of my life. An important time, of self-discovery and positive change. My journey. Those bygone days were filled with excitement as I developed an understanding of the place I was visiting. Its natural nuances and its resident birds.

I began to mentally map the locations of breeding birds and where I’d observed more interesting or scarcer species. This made an imprint, like a heat map, in my subconscious.

I knew and together we grew.

As the seasons changed, I lived the seasonal movements as if I were part of the land. It was an undercurrent to the progressive improvements in my mood and mindset – a place I could rely on if I needed to escape. A welcoming hug when I was struggling or having a bad day.

I took people there and showed them round. We walked past the area of tussock sedge where the Reed Bunting family lived. We passed through the scrub tunnel to my duck-counting bank. We ambled Across to the giant buddleia that brimmed with butterflies in the summer months and we marched, down to the south side, where Little Grebe would laugh and hide amongst the reed fringes. Once a month I counted the ducks for a WeBS count, a BTO citizen science initiative. I was connected, deeply and truly, to the land there.

I write in the past tense. For my connection is so intrinsic to me, that I know I can’t share it with another person. I know it’s selfish. I know that from many a birdwatchers perspective, more eyes means more birds; but it’s never just been about the birds there for me.

As I grew – my understanding of myself, my responses and my thought processes – so grew my understanding of this patch and of the rhythms and cycles of the most fundamental elements of being. I’m not even sure that I can go back there at all now, as those deep roots feel as though they’ve been savagely torn out of the ground.

Yes, my writing and ethos is bedded in inclusion and sharing, but I’m not ashamed or uncomfortable in admitting that this, I just don’t want to share.

I have four wonderful years of memories. I have a plethora of bird sightings, mapping breeding and migrating birds at a focused local site. I’ve written page upon page in the book about how we are (were) connected and I have a vast collection of sumptuous photos, celebrating the natural beauty of a stunning site. More importantly though; I have my family, my career and my garden bird community to focus on. My daughter had visited. If hoped she would perhaps love this place too one day. Plus, this summer will be hectic with the book, so I’d probably only struggle with feelings of missing out anyway. At least that’s what I’ll keep telling myself.

The patch and I had a fitting send-off though. Last week I filmed a short video with Chris Packham for WinterWatch (airing next week) and I’ll treasure this as my final farewell to my fallback plan. For me, it is, the passing of a place.

8 thoughts on “Farewell to my fallback plan – the passing of a place

  1. I’m hideously gregarious by nature so it’s very hard for me to relate to your concerns but my advice would be not to definitively ‘burn your boats’ at this stage. It may yet be that, depending on the other birder, sharing could turn out to be beneficial. Either way, good luck.


    1. I totally agree with your comment. Sometimes the thought of sharing is worse than the actual act of doing so. Having depression myself part of my worry has always been over thinking about what could happen as opposed to what generally what does happen when you get there. Also remember people are generally short of an attention span. He probably won’t be there very long and you will get your place back to yourself.

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  2. I find this so sad that you feel you cannot share this space with another as who knows that person may be at a place you once where and also find the peace beneficial. But as the other comments said and I totally agree, one day you may enjoy sharing your knowledge with this other person.


  3. There are times when something you love has to be shared, a moment in time, a gesture that gives, maybe a voice that cries out for giving and sharing. It is not wrong to feel that something so good will be rendered by the encroachment of another. But like an Great Egret and a Little Egret, birds feeding together yet so different, but at the same time so alike.
    It would be a disservice to those who love your work to only find that you gave up a place you held dear because like some birds we love to enjoy, you must seek solitude rather than embracing another who he too holds the very pulse of nature in his heart.
    To cry Wolf before one confronts the ‘Wolf”to me personifies that your love for this place is not for sharing, only allowing a few select few to glimpse at the wonders you hold so dear.
    Maybe this is an opportunity to embark on a new adventure where you can swap, analyse, discuss and generally talk about birds.
    Think about it before saying all is lost.

    Liked by 1 person

  4. Maybe the new person has come into your patch – and potentially your life – for a reason? You never know, you might be what this new person needs? It’s also potentially a way to give your knowledge and share your patch as per the 5 Ways to Wellbeing. 🙂


  5. I completely understand where you’re coming from and I totally admire your honesty in admitting how you feel. I do hope there will be a happy medium for you and that in some way you can continue to enjoy your patch. Much love.

    Liked by 1 person

  6. I can totally relate to your feelings Joe in how something that has given you so much to connect with can seem to be so fragile that telling someone about it, almost feels like an ending. But it’s the growing of trust in what you are doing that will expand your inner self and inner belief that you are not losing anything: only gaining honesty that you will be helping others who need your wisdom to turn life around. I’ve been in the same position as you and making homemade crafts has turned my life around and I want to share too, but scared I’m not good enough or that I’m fooling myself other’s would even be interested. Scared of the rejection I suppose, also of the loss of control I have now. Is that similar to how you feel? Might be, but I will be following your story thanks to seeing you on Winterwatch with Chris Packham, whom I admire so much and will wait with baited breath for your book release. Can’t wait to get inspired by reading it. I wish you all the best for continued success in everything that brings you much pleasure.

    Liked by 1 person

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