People and nature

Andy Ford – Head of Conservation, Cairngorms National Park Authority

The standard go-to quote when thinking about how much we need nature in our lives seems to be Joni Mitchell’s “you don’t know what you’ve got ’til it’s gone’. But in this extremely unusual situation, maybe, “you don’t know what you’ve got ’till you really need it’ is equally appropriate. Although, admittedly I’ll never make a songwriter!

The pandemic has turned thinking on its head as to who, and what, is truly valuable to society.  Our weekly appreciation for frontline workers is a clear demonstration of that.   So, is nature now seen as one of the ‘essential services’ we rely on? Of course, it’s an artificial divide to try and rank what is more valuable, or more essential. I do think though that more of us are more aware now of how access to nature is one of the many things that make us healthier and happier.  

I’ve also been reading quite a lot about how lucky some of us are to have nature on our doorstep. Now, don’t get me wrong, I am very grateful to be able to get out into nature and am well aware of how incredibly difficult it must be for people who can’t. That’s one of the reasons why we thought the 10 days of Cairngorms Nature at home was something we should do as even a virtual link with nature can boost our mental wellbeingBut, is it just luck to have nature on your doorstep? Or is it a conscious decision made by policy makers and land managers? Is it something that we have to pay for with higher house prices or longer commutes? Or something that we each have a right to? 

National Parks were created partly to make sure that everyone has access to nature. They are one way of ensuring that essential service is maintained. When restrictions are lifted, I have no doubt that we will rush to the countryside for relaxation and to refresh our souls. The responsibilities that come with our rights reinforce that this is a partnership. People and nature together. The two are woven together in what makes a great place for us all to live and work.  

Lockdown has reminded me just how much I need nature. Maybe one of the new normals will be we all love and value nature just that little bit more. I hope so. Nature has been there for us, let’s hope we’re there for nature. 

Over the last 10 days, I have thoroughly enjoyed hearing and seeing some of the outstanding people and places in the Cairngorms. All those iconic species and wild landscapes brought to my living room. The stories of so many people working together brought to life. Of land owners, famers, volunteers and organisations all playing a part in conservation. And of course, the comments and stories from everyone tuning in and loving nature. Expressing and sharing how much nature means to you. A chorus of voices for nature far bigger and wider than ever before. The Cairngorms National Park will be here for everyone to enjoy in person in the near future. In the meantime, thank you everyone who has played a part. It’s been emotional! 


Blog People and Nature Virtual
Location: Cairngorms National Park Wide Date: May 24, 2020 Time: 9:00 am - 11:59 pm