As I headed home from my morning walk, there was a perfect prickly pod in the middle of the pavement. I almost just left it be, as every other conker that I have tried this year has just become a squelchy mess as I've used my shoe to try and ease them open. Treading on it gently with the side of my shoe, it gave way too easily and didn't seem to have anything inside, so I bent down to pick it up; there was no resistance as I pulled it apart and there inside was a perfect brown conker. I practically danced all the way home. I love conker season and the first conker day is my second favourite day of the year after first daffodil day. My autumn altar is underway. The conkering can begin.
All this thinking about conkers reminded me of one very small section of the Nature and Me report produced by the National Trust and the University of Derby. After working with the National Connectedness Unit, and reviewing some of the ways they introduce the public to nature, the National Trust made a simple change to one of the Things To Do Before You're 11 3/4. They changed "climb a tree" to "get to know a tree". Climbing a tree is an activity that could be seen as trying to conquer nature. (Conker, conquer. Geddit?) However we are not something apart from nature we are a part of nature. The prompts they now give to encourage people to get to know a tree include bark or leaf rubbings, counting a tree’s rings, noticing seasonal changes, raking leaves, or inviting people to lie on a picnic blanket and look up at the sky through a tree’s branches. These are accessible to a much wider range of children and adults than the more one dimensional climb a tree. They are also much easier to do on an ongoing basis, to build that every day nature connection that is so good for us.
We support nature and nature supports us. This idea is key to the I Remember Scotland's Covid Memorial project. I was lucky enough to attend a workshop recently to hear about the plans for the memorial, and was moved by the images of people supporting or being supported by trees. You can see these for yourself in the album pages of the website. These shapes and figures are going to inform the final memorial sculptures that will be situated throughout Pollok Park and community spaces across the country. If you want to get involved in the process there is a public online workshop on 2nd September 2021 and some more in-person sessions in Pollok Park itself. In South Lanarkshire there will be some Covid Memorial Orchards too, a wonderful way to remember people who have died, but also a way to create natural spaces to celebrate and enjoy life. As COP26 approaches, let's not forget that we are part of nature and we need to play our part in protecting it too, so we can continue to enjoy those moments of connection with nature, collecting conkers not conquering it.