“Would you be happy to call your relationship sustainable?”: birdwatching without trying in Australia.

As the sky over Phillip Island darkened a hush settled on the crowd. A ranger, speaking before the penguins emerged, gave me pause in my thinking. After acknowledging the original human inhabitants of this area – the Bunurong – he explained why the boardwalks and low fences were necessary. He also asked us to reflect on sustainability: wondering whether we’d be happy to describe our personal relationships as merely ‘Sustainable’.

In a green place: Hebers Ghyll, Ilkley

It’s a strange thing to walk into someone else’s memories; especially those that have been woven and tangled about a place. A place that you’ve heard about, but never visited. Somewhere that means a great deal to the person who told you about it, but for you, who’s never been, it retains the status of a rumour.

A place on the shelf 2: The Great Ghost Rescue

For the young me, the ghost stories and folklore of Britain had a powerful effect. Odd to think of it now, but reading about the dead as a child, brought the wider world to a rich and vivid life.

Out there, it seemed, was a land, far older, stranger and deeper than my limited experience. A world where multiple layers of history could still be seen, or felt, not only in old houses, ruined castles and abbeys, but also in and around more ordinary sites such as shops, factories, pubs and suburban streets.

Wandling Free?

Surrounding the wall, stubby ash and elephantine coils of Cherry Laurel gave a writhing border to the site, which, just for a moment, became an abandoned sacred grove. For some reason – the unnatural quiet perhaps – the spot felt like a Celtic ‘Thin Place’, or more accurately a broken thin place, as here it seemed, any doorway to the eternal world had been blocked by litter and forgotten.