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About the Nature of Dorset

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To aid users of mobile devices as well as those with a mouse or laptop finger pad this site uses a simple image-based menu system. Virtually every picture you see (images and photos) are links to more information arranged in a sort of top-down structure. See an image, click or tap on it to open a new page.

Some background to the Nature of Dorset and how to use it

This article actually is not about me, there is no reason why I should bore you with the detail of my life. No, this article is about four people who influenced my life and how that has ultimately brought about this website. I write this in the hope that it helps explain where this is coming from and I write it, too, as a tribute to those four people.

I was brought up in the countryside in Hampshire in the 1950's but I was never really that bothered about nature. That said, I still remember things I learned at the village primary school in nature study lessons! It was not until 1977 that I got bitten by the nature 'bug' when a lovely small bird appeared on a bush outside of the kitchen window at our holiday cottage in mid-Wales. Not knowing what it was my wide and I headed off in to the nearest town, found a bookshop and bought a field guide to British Birds. All was revealed, it was a bullfinch. We spent the rest of that holiday looking for more birds to identify, we were hooked.

Wanting to know more we signed up for an evening class on bird watching in Southampton and that is where the first of the four key figures, Roger Jackson, came into our lives. In just ten weekly sessions Roger taught us so, so much and it changed how we thought about birds. No longer were we trying to match what we saw to pictures in that field guide we had bought; we were now thinking about habitat, season, time of day, movement, sounds, jizz, the whole life style of birds and how that affected what we were seeing and that helped us identify what we saw.

Although still only interested in birds, in 1986 we decided on a holiday on the Isle of Skye and chose a small guest house in Waterstien where the owners ran it as a field studies centre. Sadly, I cannot remember the name of our leader, the second key figure, but that week was a revelation as we learned about everything from otters to lichen. Skye is so rich in nature; it is quiet, unpolluted and is a stunningly beautiful place. 

We returned from Skye full of new enthusiasm for the natural world. Now, looking beyond birds, we joined the Southampton Natural History Society where we met David and Madge Goodall. David and Madge were the Society really; there may have been 120 plus members and there were some very knowledgeable people amongst (including Chris Packham) them but David and Madge were something else!

We quickly became friends with David and Madge. They took us 'under their wings' and we would go walking together. Between the two of them there was very little they did not know. David was a walking authority on mammals, insects, mosses, and fungi. Madge was a supreme botanist and knew just about every plant we encountered (including grasses and other obscure things!). I chipped in with the birds. It was the enthusiasm and desire to share their extensive knowledge with others that impressed. They were not in the slightest show-offs, they just had to share their love of nature with anyone and everyone. They spent virtually every waking moment organising events, giving talks, writing letters and magazine articles, attending committee meetings and anything else they could cram in.

Sadly, David and Madge have both now passed away but they live on in the way they enriched the lives of the people they came into contact with, including ours.

I have now reached the end of my working life and I am finding a little more time for my hobby and I have even taken to photography of wildlife. Over the now many years that I have been interested in nature I have gathered together some knowledge and skills and now it is my turn to be a Goodall or a Jackson. If I can pass on just a little of what they taught me to others who are starting out on the same journey then I will have a very happy retirement indeed. I do not do what I do for personal profit; indeed I seek no income from the project at all. I happily bear the running costs and make the websites available free of charge so everyone has a chance to benefit.

I hope you find what I do helpful and informative and that you come back and pay another visit soon.


Peter Orchard