suscribe to BBC Wildlife magazine with iTunesI’ve been writing a personal column (currently entitled ‘A Brush with Nature’)for BBC Wildlife Magazine on and off since 1986. It ranges from a domestic trivia to political wrangles . (See a collection of the pieces from the past 25 years in a Brush with Nature) .

February’s ‘Brush’ is about one of the big issues of the moment, ash die-back, likely to become even bigger as the ashes come into leaf in the spring, and we begin to glimpse how  badly our own trees  may be hit. Here’s an extract : “Ash die-back may have first arrived here because of sloppy controls on imported saplings. But we mustn’t be complacent about our home-grown responsibilities. We’ve made many of our woods as conducive to virulent epidemics as hospital wards. The trees are too genetically uniform, too even-aged, too densely packed.”


March’s is closer to home, about what to do about rats when you have ethical issues.

“Polly’s reminder, stuck to my desk, was brief and bleak. “The Ratman Cometh on Monday”.  It was a visitation I’d been expecting – and dreading – for the last 8 years. Living in an old farmhouse, with a big chemical-free garden strewn with ramshackle outhouses, compost heaps and various choice rodent condominiums , brown rats are the mammal we see most often, after muntjacs. I confess I’m one of that small company of eccentrics that likes them, for their impudence and geeky intelligence. Polly is less enamoured, but by some shamefully sentimental pleading, I persuaded her to accept a deal whereby they would be tolerated while they kept to the garden, but not if they crossed the threshold.”

From October 2013

Anyone with a taste for conspiracy theories must be wondering about the government’s covert agenda for nature in the UK. The last 6 months have seen the authorisation of the badger cull, the green light for fracking, licenses granted for the destruction of buzzards’ nests and for stone quarrying in ancient Kentish woodland, and the quiet dropping of environmental protection from the national curriculum. It is beginning to look less like indifference than a campaign of outright hostility. The Blair regime’s inclusion of song-bird abundance as an index of “quality of life” now seems like a dream from cuckooland.