Our #CloserToNature series of blogs aims to keep us connected with nature this summer while staying at home. David Killip, Chair of the Guild of Manx Registered Tour Guides, writes about his own appreciation of nature and his pride in showing off our Island to visitors:
Having had a father who was very keen on hiking the hills, valleys and coasts of the Island, and been his companion on these treks from a relatively early age, I would have said that my exposure to all that nature has to offer on the Island occurred quite some time ago.
But reflecting on my love of nature now and how I arrived at this point, I see that, perhaps, like a good wine, it has been a number of years in the making and has occurred, sometimes unconsciously, almost by osmosis.
Once I was able to drive myself, I could explore coastal locations and more hidden points previously undiscovered, and a teenage love of fishing, often combined with camping, took me, and friends, around the Island’s rivers and coasts, generating an interest in birds, plants, and insects along the way.
But an added, surprising, and hugely enjoyable facet to my appreciation of all that the Island’s biosphere has to offer, came about as a result of qualifying, in 2017, as a professional ‘Blue Badge’ tour guide for the Island.
Not only did I realise that my knowledge and understanding of, for example, wildflowers, butterflies and moths, shall we say needed work - and indeed remains a work in progress - but it gave me the opportunity to understand relationships between geology and plant life, the evolution of the landscape into the form in which it exists today, and the obligations that we all have to protect and sustain our incredibly diverse Island biosphere.
Perhaps the most Damascene moment within all of this, was when I started to see the Island through the eyes of those who visit it and who therefore seek more information, but also provide their own commentary, thoughts and feelings about what they experience when they are closer to our nature.
Not only does this embrace the widest possible canvas in terms of responding to visitors who wish for more knowledge, but it also, time and again, highlights just how sensational our visitors consider the Island’s rich landscape, flora,and fauna to be.
Helping them to understand and enjoy it provides a richer and deeper experience for me, even though I have embarked on my seventh decade among what I considered to be a familiar environment.
Within the past few days I have, whilst driving home, seen a Hen Harrier gliding lazily above the Braaid crossroads; sat on a crag above the coastal footpath just north of the Sound intoxicating myself with the scent of the Gorse and admired, through my bedroom window, the skill of a glorious patterned thrush retrieving his breakfast worms from my lawn, whilst I sipped my first cuppa of the day. These are simple pleasures but beyond price.
It happens that, as I write this, the finishing touches are being put to the next training programme for aspirant ‘Blue Badge’ guides.
I look forward to being able to aid our new students to view the Island afresh, as through the eyes of visitors - and we are all champing at the bit to welcome that species back in a post-Covid world - but you don’t have to study for our professional qualification to simply take a step back, consider whether you really know the biosphere in which you live and revel in what it has to offer when you realise that you don’t!
Get out there!
facebook: Isle of Man Culture Tours