A Youth Ranger in Lockdown

ladybird on ivy by Adam Watts

Youth Ranger Adam Watts, like other young people, has had his world turned upside-down this spring and summer at a crucial time. He's been finding ways to keep helping his local wildlife through lockdown - and has found it helps him, too...

My name is Adam Watts and I have been a part of the Youth Ranger Team in Peterborough for the Wildlife Trust BCN since October of last year. The projects I have volunteered for provided a fundamental opportunity to experience what it is like to work in the field of conservation. Although I’ve known for a while that I want to study a wildlife-based course at university, joining the Youth Rangers played a key role in helping me with my decision.

As an 18-year-old, this year was set to be an important one for me. It was mostly going to consist of finishing secondary school, revising, doing my A level exams then hopefully getting into my chosen university. Then over the course of a few weeks in March, all my plans had suddenly changed, as well as the plans of everyone else in my situation.

At first it was difficult to adjust to life in lockdown. Young people,  particularly students who were expected to take exams this year, have been under an overwhelming amount of stress and uncertainty during this pandemic. With schools closing and the seeing of friends and family restricted, we have experienced a massive change in our day-to-day lives. So that’s why during this time nature has become even more important to me; I have realised how beneficial it is for our wellbeing. It is vital for us during this time to take a break from the hectic world of social media, the news, or anything else that can cause us worry, and instead to take a step back and acknowledge the natural world that is right outside our doorstep.

Walking the dog by Adam Watts

Walking the dog by Adam Watts

"I have had a lot more time to explore the countryside surrounding my village"

So, here are a few things I’ve been up to during lockdown that you can try too:

1. Noticing new things about my surroundings

I always took going outside for granted before this. Whether you’re going for your daily exercise, walking the dog, sitting in your garden or even looking out the window there’s always a chance to take in what you can see and hear. Until recently, whenever I would go out for a walk, I would put my earphones in and listen to music. But I realised that isn’t making the most of going outside and enjoying your surroundings, instead I take my time to listen more and notice new things, like types of birdsong or the reduction of traffic noise for example. During all of this I have had a lot more time to explore the countryside surrounding my village, and wherever you live there is always a chance to see your surroundings in a new light.

2. Turning a bleak patch of my garden into a wildlife haven

In my back garden there is a gravel patch that I’ve been meaning to something with for a while now. So, at the beginning of lockdown I rushed to the idea of changing it from an area of nothingness to a wildlife-friendly gravel garden. It consisted of creating a small pond, a rockery, planting some alpines and Lavender then arranging some flowerpots. The finishing touches involved weeding and creating a path out of spare paving slabs. As well as creating this, I tried sowing some annual perennial seeds along the garden border ready for pollinators to visit in the summer.

It was great having a project of my own and as a novice gardener I learnt a lot of new things whilst doing it. So, if you’re young and you want to take up gardening, now is the time to do it. Gardening is a prime example of being at one with nature and is no doubt beneficial for your mental and physical health. It helped a lot with keeping my mind occupied, clearing my head, and spending some quality time with my Dad out in the garden as well.

3. Taking up a new outdoor hobby

As well as viewing and taking in the outside you can always find a new sport or hobby to do there. It not only gives you the extra bit of motivation to go outdoors but it also gives you the opportunity of trying new things that you have never had the time to do before. It could be anything from going for a jog to Birdwatching. After getting a new camera this year, I’ve mostly been getting into Wildlife Photography. It’s a tricky hobby to get into but I’ve been using my free time to practice. For me it’s helped reinforce the idea of actively seeking out wildlife and looking at it up close.

4. Trying to find ways of giving back to nature despite the limitations

With limitations including postponed volunteering opportunities or restrictions with buying resources, it has been difficult for conservation enthusiasts at home to carry on helping out nature. But despite this, it’s still possible. Finding creative and safe alternatives is a great idea during this time, as well as continuing with the simple things such as recycling and donating to charities. Recently, me and a couple of friends did some litter picking in my village’s green spaces. Making sure to socially distance and wear protective equipment, we made a big difference in a short space of time. Small and simple ideas come a long way and whether it’s building wild spaces in your garden or carrying out a project in your community, everything helps.

I hope these tips are useful in kickstarting some ideas with things you can do for conservation during lockdown and hopefully to continue doing after. Re-connecting with nature is more important now than ever. It is vital for younger generations to know the benefits that the natural world can give, so during this time we can learn to take care of wildlife and put this into practice.