Sunday, 31 January 2016


I recently came across a blog/hashtag/initiative started by Twitter & Instagram inspirers @silverpebble & @_emmabradshaw encouraging the revival of the Nature Table  (see Emma Mitchell's blog here: and Emma Bradshaw's blog here:

The Nature Table, do you know what we mean, remember having one, perhaps in the corner of the schoolroom? 
My Mum has often mentioned one that her Primary school class had, and how 'Nature Study' was her favourite lesson there. Must be where I get it from!
In my own childhood, these museums of mystery and marvel, these displays of delight and memories, carefully curated by small fingers and the guiding hand of a sympathetic teacher, gradually disappeared almost completely as my generation became more and more disconnected from the natural world and the nature table's space was required for the latest computer. 

I was lucky, my parents always encouraged or at very least gently allowed me to continually develop a fascination with all things nature, whether I was picking up feathers, pointing out flowers in the hedgerow or even torturing woodlice and snails I found around the garden in the name of 'farming'. Books were my other big fascination at this age, and they in turn fed my passion for nature. Many of these books still inhabit my shelves. 

One book in particular that made a big impression was "The Complete Amateur Naturalist" by Michael Chinery (Bloomsbury Books). The spine is a little faded, and one or two pages such as the ones on preserving small mammals or making insect collections may be a little out of kilter with today's world, but I am still enthralled by a flick through its chapters. The book came into our house via a GG-Aunt, the wisest person I have known, and whom, despite sadly passing away when I was approaching 9years old, has always been a valued mentor. 

My favourite of all the chapters in this book was the one titled 'The Nature Table'. This suggested many items, and the various ways of displaying them, that might be included from fossils to tadpoles in a fish tank to feathers and flower presses. The 'Nature Detective' chapter also held great appeal, showing how and where to look for signs and clues of wildlife, and how to interpret them. 

Although I don't have a grand display, or even a nature table as such, there are to this day a few feathers propped in the corner of my windowsill, along with a jam-jar filled with seaglass and shell, and a lichen encrusted stump of windblown stick. This childhood habit of collecting things has remained with me, although it has now evolved so as the items are more often photographs (although I am frequently known to put my hand in a coat pocket and discover a conker or crumpled leaf). 

'Nature detective' has metamorphosed into 'Naturalist' but the essence is the same - a curiosity about living things, or the signs and evidence they leave behind, and for figuring out how they are all connected and work. 

I am inspired to reinstate a nature table at home; I can't wait for my next adventure, perhaps I will find more treasure to bring home and put in pride of place to remind me of the wonder of nature.

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