I was reticent about publishing my recent post, in which I pondered the existence of creatures such as fairies and other elementals. But I needn't have worried. The response, (with more than 1000 views so far), was overwhelmingly positive. It seems that people, even in this technology dominated age, still believe in magic and the discovery of wonder.
Some responded to the piece with accounts describing their own sightings of fairy folk or anecdotes from others who have seen and experienced these and other ethereal creatures. It would appear that there is still a widespread belief in fairies, even though we live in a time when one might assume that truths and beliefs are influenced and informed by scientific 'facts' alone. To find that this is not so is reassuringly refreshing.
Science has not yet 'proven' the existence of elemental beings but that doesn't unsettle me in any way. Science has yet to explain many things that we know exist, such as metamorphosis, one example being the process whereby a caterpillar transforms into a butterfly. Of course it can be described as a 'chemical reaction' and a 'rearrangement of molecules' but in fact (and here I do mean fact), we can witness it happening and see the incredible result of something that might - using regular science as a yardstick - be considered impossible. And imagine trying to visualise a butterfly if you had never seen one...
Recently I witnessed the incredibly moving sight of Damselflies in the British countryside. Fluttering playfully above a stream, vivid green-winged Elysian beings. The sight of these wonderfully bizarre and other-worldly creatures was a reminder that we do not have to look very far to find forms of life that challenge our preconceptions. If a Damselfly exists then surely it's not such a stretch of the imagination to believe in fairies.
My conclusion is that sometimes that which is deemed impossible is in fact possible. Though many may not have seen fairies and elves with their own eyes, they may well have seen other scientifically challenging forms of life. This amazing world is home to so many impossible and improbable creatures. So it is very likely to be home to elementals too.
Those who scoff at the notion of fairies are a little silly, one might even say smug. People with small minds, opinions based only on received knowledge, and with limited wisdom are never going to be the ones who change the world.
As children we know that anything is possible, we live in a state of fascination and discovery. But as we grow up, we are influenced by those whose remit is oftentimes to make us conform. Imagination is a quality that they try to drum out of us as we grow older. Independent thinking is frowned upon. But some of us refused to let them take our imagination away.
Truly, anything is possible in the bigger reality if one enters with an open mind, while conforming to a world of limited perception means missing out on a world of limitless possibilities.
I'd love to hear your own tales of encounters with fairies, elementals and other nature spirits.
Please contact me (you can remain anonymous if you wish) through my contact form or just leave a comment following this piece.
I've just returned from a few peaceful days in rural Wales where there was time to think and time to wonder, in the magical surroundings, about the magical things in life.
I recalled tales of supernatural beings, fairies, goblins and other species of little folk, that have intrigued me through the years.
It was easy to believe in the existence of these ethereal beings when I was small. And in this beautiful quiet Welsh valley, once again it seemed somehow possible. Indeed, in the isolation of this lovely place, one only had to take a small leap of faith to imagine the fantastical becoming 'real'.
Whatever 'real' is....
Although fairy folk have been documented since very early times, when there was widespread acceptance of their existence, they passed first into folklore and later into mythology before being largely banished into the realms of pure fantasy as people moved away from a connection with nature and instead embraced science, industry and technology.
Fairy folk were consigned to history and those who professed a belief in the supernatural beings became a source of ridicule.
Sporadic reported sightings of fairy folk were quickly dismissed as nonsense and gradually their memory faded.
But in 2014 a respected professor, John Hyatt, took some photographs which startled the world. Professor Hyatt had apparently captured images of fairies whilst photographing the Rossendale Valley in Lancashire. This was not a replay of the famous Cottingley sensation of the early 20th century when two young girls claimed to have photographed fairies, the resulting images causing a widespread fascination which lasted for decades until the whole episode was exposed as a likely hoax.
This time it really looked as though there might be irrefutable evidence of the existence of the little folk, photographed using modern equipment and by a renowned professor.
Even so, many scoffed at the very notion, ridiculing the pictures and dismissing them as showing nothing more than dancing midges.
But others believed.
And as images of the mysterious beings were shared around the world through social media, the professor was inundated with photographs of fairies from all parts of the planet.
It seemed that the existence of the mystical creatures might not merely be wishful thinking or the imaginings of a few romantics. It suggested, at the very least, that there was a strong desire to believe in something otherworldly, perhaps magical - and maybe even confirmed what many of us have always known, that there is more to life than that which first meets the eye.
Professor Hyatt told the Manchester Evening News that his images were "genuine and have not been altered in any way". He added "The message to people is to approach them with an open mind. There are stranger things in life than fairies, and life grows everywhere".
In some countries the belief in, or should we say 'knowledge of', supernatural beings has never been disputed. In Iceland, for example, elves (another species of fairy folk) are entirely accepted as real by more than half the population. Anthropologist Magnus Skarphedinsson told the South China Morning Post "There is no doubt that they exist. In other countries, with western scientific arrogance [and] the denial of everything that they have not discovered themselves, they say that witnesses are subject to hallucinations.”
I've never given up on my belief in things magical, the type of magic and mystery that exists in the unfathomable beauty of nature. And if that encompasses a willingness to believe in fairies and other supernatural folk then I'm very comfortable with that.
I'm in good company after all. Many respected people are humble enough to know that we don't in fact know it all.
And when I stand amidst the staggering beauty of a mysterious remote Welsh valley, accepting the reality of the supernatural is actually the most natural thing in the world.
It was depressing to read the news of yet another UK local council hell-bent on felling apparently healthy trees this week; part of a trend, it seems, that involves concreting every last inch of our towns and cities, often under the guise of health and safety 'to protect pedestrians from uneven pavements'.
As an excuse for hacking down a healthy tree, that one is a bit rubbish.
This time the tree felling is taking place in South Shields, whose residents are furious at the wanton destruction of their street trees by a council who appear to be oblivious to the concerns of the people they were elected to represent. The good folks of South Shields are afraid that their town will suffer the same fate as the now infamous city of Sheffield, whose sad claim to fame is that of being the tree felling capital of the UK, thanks to its reckless council. In spite of mass protests, that city has become synonymous with all that is wrong with local government.
Lessons from other countries...
While it doesn't help the growing problem here in the UK, it is nevertheless heartening to read that in other parts of the world, there still exists respect for green spaces, especially in urban areas. If only we could follow their lead.
India is a good example. Recently the high court in Mumbai acknowledged what all thinking people already know - that the felling of even one single tree will have a direct impact on the local ecosystem. Justice Abhay Oka told the court that "when permission is granted to fell [even] one tree.....the tree is permanently lost - and the loss of even a single tree can have an adverse impact on the environment." Justice Oka also reminded municipal corporations of their obligation under local Indian laws to carry out a census of existing trees every five years.
Can you imagine something as environmentally responsible as a census of trees taking place here in the UK? At the rate local councils here are cutting them down, I doubt it would take them very long to count any trees that remain. Not that many councils are noted for their competence with figures...
We can learn valuable lessons from cities such as Mumbai where clearly they have a better understanding of the essential role trees play in keeping our environment healthy and vibrant.
But alas for the distressed people of South Shields, their council appear to remain unenlightened. Worried locals have set up a group to monitor and act on tree felling in their locality. Their Facebook group, South Tyneside Tree Action Group (STTAG),
explains that they don't want to be the next Sheffield although they say that they have been encouraged by the noble battle residents of that city have been fighting: "inspired by the campaigns in Sheffield, this group has been set up by local people in South Tyneside to monitor and take action on tree felling and the revoking of Tree Preservation Orders in the local area."
South Tyneside Council claims that it will replace the lost trees in South Shields with new ones "nearby in a more appropriate location" (whatever that means) but locals best not hold their breath. Liverpool City Council 'promised' the very same thing when they felled more than thirty healthy Plane trees last year to make way for a huge multi storey car park. The new trees are yet to materialise, although as I write, the council is pushing ahead with a plan that involves cutting down yet more trees in the city centre.
The mind-set of those who propose urban tree felling is baffling to many of us. But maybe we shouldn't be surprised. Stupidity is on the increase and there's not much you can do when faced with that.
I recall an old saying that might possibly apply to some local councillors, perhaps the ones who make the decisions to cut down healthy trees in Spring....
Ignorance can be educated. Crazy can be medicated. But there is no cure for stupid.
Terrible news from Scotland this week with the revelation that thousands of 'protected' ravens might already have been culled under special licences granted by Scottish Natural Heritage.
SNH has approved licences which permitted the mass killing of more than 3,000 of the ravens since 2016, and has given its blessing to the extermination of 1,082 this year alone.
The distressing news comes after 100,000 people signed a petition calling on SNH to rethink its proposal last month to cull hundreds of the protected birds on a single estate in Perthshire for 'research' purposes - but many people have been deeply shocked to learn that thousands of Scottish ravens have probably been killed already.
Following a series of Parliamentary questions, it emerged that licences had been routinely issued for the mass killing of the birds, in spite of their protected status under the Wildlife & Countryside Act .
The news which was highlighted by Scottish animal welfare charity OneKind, has been greeted with horror by conservationists.
OneKind's director Harry Huyton said of the revelation "We are shocked to find that so many ravens are being routinely killed across Scotland. Ravens are supposedly a protected species, recovering after a long history of persecution. Yet instead of celebrating the recovery of these intelligent and charismatic birds, it appears that they are being routinely killed, with the approval of Scottish Natural Heritage......it is about time Scottish Natural Heritage explained why they are content with the mass killing of these creatures."
And with Scottish Natural Heritage now refusing to reconsider the proposed cull in Perthshire, in spite of massive public outrage, it seems that even the demands of an appalled public cannot save the ravens from the callous SNH.
People who feed pigeons are mentally ill: claim by Liverpool City Council, 2012
When some pen pushers at Liverpool City Council suggested that people who feed pigeons are mentally ill, it highlighted the problem that arises when ignorance takes over from understanding. That was 2012 and since then the irrational prejudice against birds and other wildlife - and those of us who care about their welfare - has increased.
I know many have questioned the importance of my campaign in support of people who feed wild birds. I know some will sneer and suggest that there are more noble causes in the world.
What about curing diseases, feeding people, 'saving the planet'....?
Yes, indeed. But my campaign is not only about allowing people to feed birds without being landed with a fine or threatened with violence.
It is about defending our right to express free will and encouraging our freedom of expression. And it is about compassion.
Feeding wild birds is as natural as feeding ourselves. Those who enjoy throwing food to gulls and pigeons will know the profound joy it can bring, a sense of connection to other sentient creatures, of oneness and of well being. It's all of those things and more, collectively one might call it empathy. And as far as I can see, a lack of empathy and compassion is at the root of all the problems in this world. Compassion promotes healing, both in ourselves and others, empathy allows selflessness to take the place of selfishness, which in turn leads to consuming less and having more awareness of those in need.
More tolerance. More love.
I recall a time when feeding birds was encouraged, a joyful interaction with nature. We were taught that it was a wonderful thing to do. As children, our parents and grandparents would take us to the park to feed ducks, we would go to the seaside to feed gulls and we would go to town squares to throw seed to the pigeons. It was joyous. And onlookers shared in the joy and smiled.
Now you go to a town centre and see people kicking pigeons, you go to the park and get physically attacked by thugs for feeding ducks. And councils are handing out fines to people caught feeding gulls at the seaside, acting on complaints from fools, the same fools who happily wade through mountains of litter that their fellow humans leave in their wake.
Humans are the ones destroying the planet, not gulls, not pigeons, not ducks.
The intolerance expressed by those lacking in compassion - the ones who complain about the birds and the people who feed them - that intolerance is a symptom of a broken society.
More tolerance means more empathy and understanding towards the wider world. The people who feed birds know that. They are doing something from the heart. Without a connection to other forms of life, we eventually lose the connection to each other. Insular attitudes become ever more prevalent, self absorption and greed amongst them. Intolerance of other people, other races, other ideologies and beliefs. A total lack of awareness of other animals and the natural environment. It is the recipe for a hopeless future.
Until people embrace compassion and tolerance there can't be more empathy. And it follows that without empathy there can be no hope.
So, my Feed The Birds campaign is as much about encouraging compassion as it is about feeding pigeons and gulls. It's a metaphor if you like.
We live in an age when they are trying to make it a crime to feed the birds. It's incredibly sad and it's a reflection of just how detached society has become from a natural world on which we are, all of us, entirely dependant.
Amongst those who loved and cared for pigeons and other wild birds were Audrey Hepburn, John Lennon, Elvis, Monet and Picasso. Influential, enlightened and compassionate people indeed.
In comparison, think of the ignorant people who have told us it's wrong to feed the birds, like the shady London politician Ken Livingstone who signed the death warrant for Trafalgar Square's legendary pigeons, and those pen pushers at Liverpool City Council who in 2012 suggested that people who feed pigeons are mentally ill.
Do you identify with the enlightened or the ignorant? The enlightened see the truth. The ignorant can't see their idiocy because they are dazzled by their own self importance.
The enlightened seek to change the world, the ignorant will destroy it as they pursue their futile climb up the ladder, signposted obsessive ambition, that ultimately leads nowhere.
So, when I say Feed The Birds, I am also saying defend your freedom to feed the birds, don't let the fools stop you. And express that compassion in your heart that tells you to feed them. It's important. It's your right.
And it's the same compassion you will need if you are going to change the world.
Please sign my petition HERE. Thank you.
Here in the UK, from where I write, we are very used to the scourge of wind farms.
But, even with the knowledge of just how much environmental damage they have done, and are doing, over here, it is still a shock to hear of a sinister plan to industrialise one of the most breathtakingly beautiful and remote parts of Europe, the Pindos mountains in Northern Greece.
Locals there are dejected about the plan to populate their beloved, unspoiled mountain range with huge wind turbines, threatening a fragile and immensely diverse ecosystem in the process.
In an open letter to the Greek government published in the Parapolitics newspaper, a group of organisations and citizens opposed to the development say "The two large wind turbine installations are to be built on the unspoiled peaks of Agrafa [in the Pindos mountain range] at the highest altitude for wind turbines anywhere in the world, 1600 to 2000 meters, in a clean and protected area, which will have incalculable negative consequences.......this first series of wind turbines will cover 80% of all ridges from Evritania to Argithea..."
The area is sparsely populated and has little infrastructure, and so a huge cause for concern is that major roads will have to be built to transport the materials for the industrial development together with the construction of high voltage overhead electricity lines to feed the turbines - these will cut swathes through pine forests and untouched alpine meadows.
The desperately worried citizens point out that this will have a catastrophic effect on the rare flora and fauna of the area.
Pelicans and spoonbills are amongst the birds that live here in large colonies while mammals include wolves, jackals and bears.
All are likely to be threatened by the installation of the wind farms affecting their habitat.
The locals, whose desire is to promote eco-tourism alongside traditional farming, are horrified at the plans to develop their treasured countryside, they are calling it "criminal destruction driven by a thirst for investment".
Those of us in the UK, who comprehend the damage that wind farms have brought to our shores, stand firm with the people of the Agrafa region and we understand their anger and frustration.
We hope they win their battle.
Destroying wildlife and landscape in the name of 'green' energy is a disgrace and will be viewed with shame by future generations.
Shocking destruction of ancient hedgerows and trees has been discovered in a remote and beautiful part of North Wales.
The appalling devastation was found by keen walker Karen Roden last week as she revisited one of her favorite parts of the area, the Berwyns, a quiet and unspoilt range of upland moors and hills.
Describing the heartbreaking scene she encountered as she walked along a historic drovers' path leading up into the hills, a dismayed Karen said "The familiar beautiful hedgerow and mature trees had been completely cut down to the ground, leaving the wild bluebells and primroses exposed and forlorn."
Yet More Damage Found Nearby...
Similar damage has been found at nearby Rhos y Maerdy where, as the photographs show, yet more thriving trees and hedgerows have been hacked down, leaving a sterile fence in their place. This precious habitat would have supported a variety of wildlife, including many species of birds, wild flowers, perhaps elusive animals such as the Polecat and countless varieties of insects.
As Karen sadly points out "This hedgerow should have been covered with blossom now. In the autumn it was an oasis for the birds as there were berries bursting from every branch. All gone now."
'Protected' Area Of Conservation
Such habitat is entirely irreplaceable, a delicate and unique ecosystem wrecked.
It is especially outrageous that this could have happened in an area most of which is officially 'protected'.
The rugged and little known Berwyn range of hills and moors are a designated 'Special Area Of Conservation' and are home to a wide range of rare and endangered species, in particular several threatened species of birds such as the Peregrine Falcon and Hen Harrier as well as Owls, Plovers and Buzzards. Much of the area is also a National Nature Reserve.
Wanton Wrecking Of Our Countryside
It is believed that farmers were responsible for removing the trees and hedges though their reasons for doing so are unclear. What is certain is that the terrible extent of their reckless destruction demands answers. We must not allow this kind of vandalism, of a type that is all too common in our towns and cities, to spread to the countryside, the last refuge for our most precious flora and fauna.
When it's gone it's gone.
If those who carried out this disgraceful act thought that it would go unnoticed then they were mistaken. But, however angry we might be over this, the fact is that these ancient hedgerows are lost and can never be replaced. This particular deed might be done but we cannot let wanton wrecking of our countryside continue, nor let it happen in our name and that is why we must speak out, individually and collectively, and object.
If we don't, then as Karen points out "We're going to end up with so few natural habitats that our children and grandchildren will not see the range of species we grew up with - except in a zoo."
How dreadful- and shameful - would that be......?
Reports from St Andrews in Scotland suggest that two gulls, protected by law due to their endangered status, may have been killed by a pest control company with the permission of Scottish Natural Heritage, the same organisation that recently caused outrage when they proposed a cull of hundreds of ravens, much to the alarm of conservationists and the general public.
According to St Andrews University student newspaper The Saint, the gulls had taken up residence close to the bicycle stands near the university library and were a familiar sight to those using the library - but complaints were received from a few people who claimed to have been 'attacked' by the birds.
Regular readers will know that I question accounts of gull attacks and consider that, more often than not, they are a result of human misunderstanding and intolerance of these incredible birds.
So anyway, after the university had apparently exhausted all other methods of persuading the gulls to leave, Scottish Natural Heritage gave the go ahead to proceed with the gulls' removal due to the dramatic (some might say over-dramatic) nature of the reported incidents.
Though it has not been confirmed, it is believed that the gulls were in fact exterminated by a pest control company acting under authority from SNH.
As a protected species, gulls can only be culled in exceptional circumstances where there is "a significant risk to public health or safety".
Personally I doubt very much that the two gulls at St Andrews posed such a risk and I imagine that their (assumed) demise is a result of the usual hysteria that the presence of these wonderfully resourceful birds often provokes from overly sensitive humans and those ignorant of the birds' natural behaviour.
Scottish Natural Heritage claim that part of their mission is to promote and care for the country's wildlife but frankly if they are intent on killing it then there won't be quite as much wildlife left in Scotland for them to 'care for'......
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