Jim Densham, Senior Land Use Policy Officer (Climate), has been travelling to our reserves via green transport. Read on to find out how you can do the same!

Green Travel to Green Places

Have you ever seen a golden eagle in your garden? Have you heard a corncrake’s rasping call as you laid in bed at home? Do you wander through a nature reserve on your way to pick up the morning paper? I’ll bet the answer is no (but do reply if yes). Most of us in Scotland live in the Central Belt or in other cities far from Scotland’s iconic wildlife. But if you love nature and want to spend time enjoying it how do you get to experience it?

The obvious answer is to grab the car keys, jump behind the wheel and drive to a nature reserve. Easy, but is it the best option for the nature we are going to visit? Burning fossil fuels is the major cause of climate change and climate change is the greatest long-term threat to wildlife.  So if you desire to save nature, experience nature and reduce your carbon footprint what’s the alternative?

After 7 years hard work, the RSPB allows staff a month off to do a sabbatical - something a bit different to normal work. I am taking mine this summer and splitting it into weekly chunks. My hope is to find some solutions to the above problem – I am travelling to RSPB reserves in Scotland without a car, travelling by low-carbon transport only. While I am there I will be looking for examples of the impacts already being experienced on RSPB reserves because of the changing climate and what our staff are doing to help wildlife and people to adapt to the impacts.

I recently finished my first week of visits - all day trips within the Central Belt from Glasgow. I visited Baron’s Haugh, Lochwinnoch, Loch Leven, and Skinflats and the Inner Forth Futurescape. I travelled 246 miles by train and 50 miles by bike. Baron’s Haugh and Lochwinnoch are very close to train stations and Skinflats and Loch Leven only need a short cycle from the train. Bus links are also easy to all these reserves. So far I can say that, yes, you can visit nature and cut your carbon footprint.

Riverbank and path along the Clyde washed away at Baron's Haugh.

I have also found why it is important to travel by low-carbon means and cut your carbon footprint. I saw birds nests washed out by unseasonal flooding and high water levels on the Clyde. I was shown the work Loch Leven staff have done to store and manage water on the reserve to compensate for low summer rainfall. I walked along the banks of the Forth where sea-level rise is eroding the protective saltmarsh habitat and how reserve staff are working to create new areas of habitat for birds and to protect against flooding. I also heard about the movement of the nuthatch north through Renfrewshire. All these examples are consistent with what we know of the impacts of climate change and the further change we are likely to see in the future.

You might not have a golden eagle nest in your back garden or nature reserve on your doorstep but it’s good to know that you can experience nature whilst at the same time helping to save it.  If you want to discover more about my travels you can at http://greentraveltogreenplaces.wordpress.com/.