In the Spotlight – An interview with volunteer, Martin Child
It’s all about the trees… and so much more: staff and volunteers share their nature joys
Today we would like to introduce you to volunteer warden Martin Child
Several of the volunteers I’ve talked with for these Whittle interviews have been doing their unpaid job for many years. It may be though that Martin holds the record… he’s been unofficially – and then officially – keeping an eye on Hagg Wood for 34 years!
Martin explained that although the wood is one of the few traces of ancient woodland left in Lancashire, it’s close to plenty of urbanised areas, and with good parking nearby and a circular walk, it’s a popular site for visitors.
We agreed that it’s great that people visit, although it does lead to a lot of littering. Like a few others of our volunteer wardens, Martin bemoaned the number of drink cans and fast food containers that are left in the wood.
“I’ve been keeping a diary of my visits to the wood for years,” Martin told me. “In it I describe everything I’ve seen and heard and then use it for my reports to the Site Manager.”
“There are always the regular visitors, mostly dog walkers, but there’s definitely been more traffic since lockdowns began,” Martin added. “And I’ve noticed a new addition to the litter items: old blankets and sleeping bags etc.”
It can seem quite an exciting idea to me – with a comfortable centrally heated house – to sleep rough in a wood, but we commented on how sad it was that homelessness is once again on the increase. Is sleeping in a wood better than a shop doorway? We hoped we never have to find out.
Martin’s choice of favourite tree was what is becoming a popular choice among our volunteers: the mountain ash, or rowan. For Martin, like others, it’s those lovely red berries… glowing when the first rays of the rising sun touches them.
And it’s woodland flowers as another of his nature joys: especially the wild daffodils and bluebells seen in Hagg Wood.
Martin talked too about his love for woodland birds, although we agreed with some disappointment that we’d both noticed a general decline in numbers, and variety of species.
“But one bird I do love,” Martin added, “and there are plenty of them – is the wagtail. Greys and yellows are beautiful, of course, but even the pied wagtails which seem to follow me around are lovely little birds: all that bobbing up and down that gives them their name.”
‘Pied wags’ as the birders call them are technically woodland birds, but they’ve adapted to all sorts of urban environments, including town centres, sewage works, and of course car parks.
Martin’s final shout was for the goldfinch: not often seen in Hagg Wood, or Martin’s own garden where has feeders out, but we’d been discussing the concept of ‘wildlife spectacles’, and Martin agreed with me about the plumage of a goldfinch: “now that is spectacular.”
Daphne Pleace – Volunteer Whittle Reporter