Begin again (September 2017 article)

Reverend Lydia Smith writes

One thing I love about living here is the proximity to the saltmarsh areas of Essex.  A walk along the sea wall takes you in a few steps away from human habitation and into another world.  Admittedly it’s tinged with reality in the looming presence of Bradwell power station on the other side of the Blackwater, along with the sound of halyards clanging against the masts of boats moored at Mersea.  But it’s connection with the natural world that really does it for me.  As you walk along the path in midsummer, there’s the constant sound of crickets, a sudden flurry of butterflies and occasional distinctive birdcalls.

I am no ornithologist but I do like to identify what’s around me when I’m out for a walk.  So last time I followed the path from Salcott towards Old Hall Marshes, I was delighted to come across a pair of avocets.  These elegant black and white wading birds are the emblem of the RSPB.  And for a good reason – from the 1840s they were driven to extinction in the UK, by hunting and egg collecting and loss of their coastal habitat.  Yet since they reappeared about a century later, supported both by legislation to protect wild birds and efforts to provide suitable conditions, avocets have become a more common sight on our shorelines and salt marshes.  Now even rubbish birdwatchers like me can spot them.  Their story is one of the great successes of the bird protection movement in this country and reminds us that we can make a difference.  The avocets are living proof that conservation works.

And perhaps in terms of Christian understanding, we could see their reappearance as an echo of the new life at the heart of the gospel.  What was lost returns: avocet life has been restored in this country, especially in our region.

September brings some new beginnings for many of us: first days at school or college or university … a return for clubs and societies after a summer break.  As we look forward to this fresh start, let’s watch out for opportunities to discover new skills and make new friends as term begins again.

Best Wishes

Lydia

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