MARY COLWELL, 56
Writer and Producer
Born in Germany (as my dad was doing National Service), but grew up in Stoke-on-Trent. Now living in Bristol.
How did you CONNECT with Nature?
My dad used to take me walking in the Peak District near Stoke-on-Trent. I loved the rough moorland areas around the Roaches as well as the softer White Peak with its limestone cliffs. One day we broke open a chunk of limestone and inside was a perfectly preserved shellfish. I still remember feeling overcome by the wonder that I was the first person to see this creature. I also remember being astonished that something that lived in the sea was now in a rock in a place about as far from the sea as you can get. That was the spark that sent me on to do a degree in geology and find out more about life on earth.
How did you EXPLORE Nature?
I came to backpacking and camping late – in my 20s – but have spent so much time out since then, including exploring the Himalayas, S America and the British Isles. I was also lucky enough to work for the BBC Natural History Unit and travelled to many places filming wildlife. Whether for work or for pleasure, exploring nature is always rewarding, and it doesn’t have to be on the savannah or in a rainforest – there is as much wonder at home. Seeing the winter starling roost over the Somerset Levels is hard to beat anywhere. And it was hearing and seeing curlews camping in Scotland that set me on a journey to find out more about them, and eventually to work towards their conservation.
How did you FLOURISH in Nature?
On a work trip to California I came across the Muir Woods National Monument and spent a few hours wandering around. I had never heard of John Muir, but along the walkway were quotes from his books. It was like meeting a great teacher. Muir’s merging of spirituality and nature was inspirational. I bought every book I could find and have loved reading his work ever since. He inspired me to spend some years working with the Catholic Church encouraging a re-connection with nature. After all some of the world’s most diverse habitats sit within Catholic countries – the Amazon, the Philippines, large areas of sub- Saharan Africa, the Congo, etc. Our spiritual lives are fed by nature, we are challenged and nourished by it.
How do (and will) you DISPERSE your positive experiences of NATURE?
I worked with the Catholic Church. I also went on a 500-mile walk for curlew conservation to raise awareness about their decline. As a result of the walk I organised, with others, two conferences on curlews and am in the process of setting up a third in Wales. I also made many programmes on nature and conservation with the BBC. I wrote a book on John Muir and am writing the book of the curlew walk now. I also write articles.
"When we contemplate the whole globe as one great dewdrop, striped and dotted with continents and islands, flying through space with other stars all singing and shining together as one, the whole universe appears as an infinite storm of beauty." John Muir
Have you been responsible for CONNECTING someone in particular (or a group of people) to Nature and what have they gone on to do, or plan to do?
The curlew conferences resulted in curlew conservation groups being established which have put in place measures to protect the birds this year. I launched a petition to get a GCSE in Natural History established, to help re-connect young people with nature and learn about the life that is around them. This year I am co-organising the New Networks for Nature conference which is held in Stamford in Lincs – it brings together scientists, conservationists, writers, artists, musicians, poets – anyone who wants to explore nature in different ways. I also hear from people that some of the lectures I gave on faith and nature inspired people to get involved with conservation. Sometimes it is hard to know what happens when you put yourself out there – but I feel sure good things come out of reaching out to people.
Any other comments:
I hope your brother [Christian Velten] gets in touch and I wish you every success with what you do.
[Thank you, Mary. x]
[Are you one of 'Nature's Messengers'... please get in touch.]
Nurtured by Nature: Connect / Explore / Flourish / Disperse.