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Cause & effect – five walks that changed my life

Many of us who love the hills and wild places are finding solace or keeping sane at the moment by reflecting on our most treasured outdoors memories. Here Ben Dolphin reflects on five walks that changed the course of his life. Every walk you take contributes to your knowledge and experience, whether you’re aware of it or not. Most of the time the learning is subtle but it’s there nonetheless, happening quietly in the background. But there are also walks that go way beyond mere enrichment of your walking experience and, although it might not be apparent at the time,

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Posted in Features, Magazine

What does a ranger actually do?

I’m currently in my seventh ranger season. I say ‘season’ because I’m a seasonal ranger. We get employed during the busier, warmer months when more folk are flocking to the great outdoors, whether that’s urban green spaces, Country Parks, or the wider countryside. And across those seven seasons the question I’ve probably been asked most is….what does a ranger actually do? Well, let’s set the context first. Countryside rangers have been around for 50 years in Scotland, the first having assumed their post in 1969. The impetus for this landmark event was the expansion of leisure time in the 1960s

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Posted in Access issues, Features, Magazine, Nature

Can I take it home? Nature’s collectibles and the law

In my last column I wrote about my innate urge to collect natural objects and my growing unease with how that hobby sits within the whole ‘leave no trace’ ethos. The question I considered was an ethical ‘should I?’, but in this column I’m considering a different question – a very matter-of-fact ‘can I?’ Collecting natural ‘stuff’ and even taking photos might seem the most inconsequential of pursuits, but it isn’t as straight-forward as you might think. Some things might need landowner permission before you remove them. Other things are generally okay to take but only if you are sparing

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Posted in Features, Magazine

Nature: Take it or leave it?

I come from a family of hoarders, and much of my childhood was spent slavishly furthering that great tradition – toy buses, coins, Dandy comics, badges, postcards, stamps, those utterly useless wee sheathed pens you used to get at every visitor attraction across the land, and much more besides. Thankfully, unless you count Munro-bagging as collecting (it’s difficult to take a mountain home thank goodness!), my urge to collect dissipated into my teenage years and I naively assumed my collecting days were long behind me. But 30 years later, when I clean the inside of my car before taking it

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Posted in Features, Magazine

‘Insect apocalypse’: my waking nightmare

Like anyone with more than a passing interest in the environment I keep a keen eye on the latest headlines from the natural world. There’s plenty of good news to celebrate…

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Posted in Features, Magazine, Nature

Blooming snowdrops!

I personally know a great many people for whom a carpet of snowdrops is the only white carpet they want to see in January. Not me!

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Posted in Features, Magazine

Discovering the natural world – to infinity and beyond!

My fleece trousers and woolly hat insulated me from the first icy breath of winter but it was still cold at the loch’s edge. I’d been sitting there for an hour, having deliberately got up before sunrise to see some geese. That probably sounds underwhelming but these were pink-footed geese. I’ve written about them before so won’t go into the ecology, but suffice to say they spend winter here in enormous numbers and their daily morning exodus is worth setting the alarm for. While listening to the geese waking up and readying themselves for departure, the first rays of sunshine

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Posted in Features, Magazine

Lizards on Parade

Although I’m someone who enjoys photographing wildlife, I tend not to head out on walks actively looking for specific creatures in the kinds of places they’re likely to be found. I much prefer the spontaneity, surprise and randomness that any walk can provide, which means that when I do encounter something interesting I’m often caught off guard. I therefore have a growing list of elusive wildlife subjects I’d like to write about in this column, but haven’t felt able to because I wasn’t quick enough or fortunate enough to snap a photo to illustrate them with. Lizards have long been

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Posted in Features, Magazine

Wild swimming: Where have you been all my life!?

I always enjoyed messing about in water when I was younger but I’m not sure I ever truly enjoyed swimming in it. I certainly wasn’t a bad swimmer, in fact I took part in inter-school competitions, but I think it was more something that I HAD to do because it might save my life one day. And as I got older and completed the various levels of swimming proficiency awards, culminating in swimming up and down a large pool fully clothed and then treading water for what seemed like hours whilst simultaneously self-inflating my pyjamas (seriously!)… the interest waned. I

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Posted in Features, Magazine

Seeing past the wasp sting

A wasp found its way into my flat and settled on my windowsill recently. Being the snap-happy nature nut that I am, I don’t discriminate with my lens and therefore seized the opportunity to get a close-up photo of this much-maligned interloper, and then posted it on my blog with the accompanying blurb: “They’re really rather beautiful, if you can just see past that sting” The sentiment was genuine. That stark contrast of colour, with intricate black markings set against the bright yellow of its back, legs and head, and not to mention those cute wee club-like antennae. Yep, wasps

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Posted in Features, Magazine


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Walking can be dangerous and is done entirely at your own risk. Information is provided free of charge; it is each walker's responsibility to check it and navigate using a map and compass.