People's Walk for Wildlife
An estimated 10,000 people of all ages and from every part of the UK gathered in Hyde Park to show how much they care about the future of our wildlife and how much they want things to get better – and to get better quickly.
TV presenter and life-long nature lover Chris Packham was the force behind the event. Chris conceived the walk, got a team of folk to work together, drove it forwards and produced an impressive result on the day.
I met many friends and colleagues from BBOWT and many other Wildlife Trusts – including CEOs, staff, and volunteers – all sharing their concern that nature is in a bad way. The other wildlife and countryside organisations were represented too. A thicket of Woodland Trust placards grew in every part of the crowd.
Billy Bragg sang to us to add a musical background. Robert Macfarlane, author of The Wild Places, reminded us that our everyday language is full of references to nature, and yet we have become physically distant from much of the natural world.
The speeches that stole hearts and made veteran wildlife campaigners weep came from Bella Lack and Dara McAnulty. My BBOWT colleague Nicky said that it was very moving to hear 15 year old Bella’s passion: ‘It made me feel very emotional to hear that a young person is mourning the loss of song birds and sea creatures from her world.’
We must start to put these things right and start it now.
I joined the march across to Downing Street with Billy Bragg singing ‘Where have all the flowers gone’ in the background. The march was fascinating. Buses and cars beeped their horns, doormen from posh establishments in Pall Mall (who must have seen so many marches and processions) stepped out to photograph the Giant Flying Bat with its insect swarm, whilst a Hedgehog and Badger (who were clearly friends) wandered past.
Wildlife Trust banners floated gently overhead and birdsong from hundreds of smartphones filled the air. One fellow walker told me, ‘I have been on many demonstrations, but I have never been on one that is so peaceful’.
Outside Downing Street rousing speeches by Chris Packham and Mark Avery got the crowd cheering. A petition delivered to Number 10 by a group of amazingly articulate children brought the event to a formal end. But the discussions and high spirits lasted long afterwards.
Three days before the Walk for Wildlife, Chris Packham published a People’s Manifesto for Wildlife. This is a very welcome contribution to the current debate about how we tackle nature’s decline, and he and his co-authors share many of the same concerns as The Wildlife Trusts.
Back at work at BBOWT HQ in Oxford, we are all even more determined to make our countryside and urban areas rich in wildlife once again. We are working towards rebuilding nature with even more determination.
Over the coming months BBOWT’s voice will grow even louder as we fight harder to turn around nature’s decline.
Personally, I am determined that my little granddaughter has the chance to enjoy wildlife all around her as I did when growing up in Southampton in the 1950s. We can turn the tide that has seen so many of our plants and animals in the UK restricted to a scattering of fragmented nature reserves and wildlife sites, where they cling to life.
A wilder Britain is what we need and a wilder Britain is what your Wildlife Trust will be working to achieve.