'I want to push boundaries, embrace new conservation methods and help people to connect with nature again'

Stephen Le Quesne

By Stephen Le Quesne

FIRSTLY, I just want to say thank you for all the kind comments I received regarding my column a couple of weeks ago.

It is a privilege to have the opportunity to write here and to know that some people do read this is lovely. It has been quite a struggle to write lately as my depression has returned to say hello for a bit, which has taken me by surprise.

I have written about my history with poor mental health a few times, but the past few years have seen huge personal breakthroughs and lightbulbs, especially with the help of a regular therapist. I suppose it is a reminder that you need to be proactive with mental health and not reactive, because the darkness takes no prisoners, especially with the things you hold very close.

I know where the triggers come from, and one large trigger is the expectations and demands I put on myself and how I compare myself to others. This may come across in my writing, and a sense of doing good and doing the right thing for people and for animals is important to me.

I suppose I am writing this because, whenever I start to come out the other side of a bout of depression, there are two things that are a constant. One is that I am mentally exhausted and the other is that I think deeply about who I am and what I would like to do in life. It is a time of self-reflection (and lots of cups of tea).

What I am trying to say is that I have a vision in my mind that will not go away, and that is to create something that is different from the direction we have now when it comes to protecting nature, connecting people to it and improving our mental health.

The topics that I have written about over the past 12 months and before this are all inter-connected and linked. Nature conservation, rewilding, nature connection, reversing biodiversity loss, regenerative agriculture, wellbeing and our community health service. They all link to each other, but only if we allow them to.

I have a vision, a blurred one, but an idea nonetheless, or maybe you could call it an ethos or an annoying image that keeps knocking on my door. I want to see a place where all the subjects I write about come together in a positive way for the benefit of everyone. For people and for nature. You could call it a community nature centre or a communal community farm.

The idea would be to create a place for nature and for people, where courses and mental-health services could be based but also where rewilding and regenerative agriculture were present. A farm would be the ideal location, a farm which helps people, could provide food for the most vulnerable and a safe place for individuals and families who are struggling. An initiative that is positive and welcoming, where boundaries are pushed, and new nature conservation practices are embraced.

Historically, Jersey was the home for water voles and hares, let’s bring them back and get community involvement. Let’s not stop there, though. How about yellowhammers? And cirl buntings, as well as more space for barn swallows, swifts, house martins and many more migrant species. How amazing would it be when people walk into the reception, or café, and immediately see bird-nest cameras just like those on Springwatch?

There could be a space to bring in lecturers and international speakers on key societal issues, and also individuals who offer sessions to schools, families and children. We could also work into this initiative nature prescriptions, nature therapy and programmes for disillusioned and vulnerable children of both primary and secondary ages.

How about the teaching of traditional skills? Bushcraft? All to connect people with each other and the world around them. It could save millions for our healthcare services for its preventative and proactive focus.

I know this is big and I have not even begun to speak about funding and the hoops that would need to be jumped through. I really crave something different, something out of the box, because it is obvious that things are not quite working now, or, to put it differently, society is a bit hostile, a bit angry and a little distant.

We are told about the problems we face daily, and this idea has the potential to help tackle a multitude of them. Things are not all bad, but there are solutions that are staring at us directly in the face. The main issue is that they have never been done before, never tried, never tested, so let’s do that now.

I would like to try and make our countryside full of life again as well as bring people together. What do you think? Thoughts?

  • Stephen Le Quesne is a naturalist, conservationist, forest school leader and nature connection advocate.

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