Country diary: A quiet place that nurtures both people and wildlife | Mary Montague

by 24USATVMay 10, 2024, 9 a.m. 23
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A dunnock is burbling from the tangled hedgerow. Across the field, a blackbird serenades. My mind turns to a snippet from an old book … “Look at the birds of the air”. A croak startles me back to the visible world, and I look up to see the raven winging towards Glynn Woods. My gaze drops to the cerulean waters of Larne Lough as Nuala points to the button of land that supports a tern colony. Behind us, Geoff and Martin are scrutinising species of solitary bees on the dandelion-spattered lawn. Then Matt, who coordinates Jubilee Farm’s Wildlife and Wellbeing Project, strolls across the yard to lead us on a walk.

Inspired by the creation care movement, this farm is a living commitment to the inseparability of caring for people and caring for the environment. The organisation’s ethos is Christian, but it welcomes allcomers. In 2019, it established this community-owned farm, where it sells its organic produce, hosts a farmers’ market, and offers training in traditional farming practices. Jubilee’s mission includes reaching out to disadvantaged groups, such as refugees and adults with additional needs. Following the wisdom that we can only protect what we love, and only love what we know, Jubilee hosts science-based events like bioblitzes, while also seeking to connect through the arts. I was invited here to give a workshop on birds and poetry.

After a morning indoors, it’s good to be out in the sunshine. Passing an open-air chicken run, Matt stops to lift an escaped hen back to the other side. We cross the grassed-over ridges of “lazy beds” (an old method of tillage), and a pregnant ewe, possessed of the confidence that only hand-rearing can give, rushes to greet us. The path descends to a fast-flowing stream. As we scan for the resident dipper, Matt remarks that a combined bird hide and meditation space might be placed in this meadow. People murmur appreciatively. Indeed, ornithomancy – the reading of omens from bird behaviour – was once thought to convey messages from the gods.

Today, however, quiet contemplation seems an inadequate response to our assault on the natural world. Then another snippet of verse comes to me. The part where a tiny seed grows into a tree that is large enough to shelter birds.

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