My countryside heaven and hell – Stephanie Hilborne

In the first of a new series, the chief executive of the Wildlife Trusts revealed her rural heaven and hell


My countryside heaven
Wilwell Farm Cutting nature reserve in Nottinghamshire is a hidden pocket of land saved, from landfill and road building, by passionate people. It is somewhere totally off the beaten track but teeming with unexpected life. 
It is a place hidden from the glare of angry eyes and the pressures of day-to-day life, somewhere I can go alone to reflect as I look down the long line of silver birches. 
I can watch my kids run along the narrow paths through the anthills, knowing the field will soon be filled with green-winged orchids. It is a place where my son can cover his hand in ants and my daughter can balance on a broken bough, realising that nature unites them, so that they can forget the separations imposed by society.


My countryside hell 
The M25 between Surrey and Kent is somewhere we have ruined. Driving along an ugly, noisy motorway built at a time when we played join the dots with SSSIs to map new road routes. It scars our glorious countryside. 
I realise I am taking advantage of the very tarmac that destroyed places where I used to ride my bike as a child, that cut through an outdoor swimming pool that reminds me of my grandfather, that destroyed my brothers’ school grounds. It makes me think of The Beatles’ lyrics from In my life: “There are places I remember, all my life, though some have changed. Some forever not for better, some have gone and some remain.” I’ve learnt to cope with other changes in the countryside but never with road building on this scale.
Stephanie Hilborne has been the chief executive of the Wildlife Trusts since 2004.


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