Change-Maker 3. Wildlife Champion – Marcus

NFE’s Founder, Rachel Parsons, has been out and about meeting some of the New Forest’s most inspiring local legends… aka ‘Change-makers’…in today’s interview, Rachel met with Marcus…

Eco-tourism leader. Naturalist. Self-taught scientist (birds, moths and butterflies my particular interests). Early starter (most summer days are 3am to start field work). A humble, gentle and all-round inspiring man.

NB from Rachel: Marcus and Russ also managed to get through mountains of red tape, in lockdown, to set up this (so far unique) community-interest company up. Sadly, it’s the only UK nature-education business in any UK National Park!

  1. Q. What do you do now?

I am one half of Wild New Forest, a small community interest company. We show people how amazing nature is, by taking people off the beaten track on guided walks. We also deliver scientific field work studying rare species that are trying to live here in the National Park.

Eco-Tourism here isn’t easy. The environment is very protected – the area has SSSI, SPA and Ramsar status, on top of National Park status. That means it’s a real red tape journey to get people involved in any physical ‘doing’ – so we focus on inspiring and educating instead. Our focus is to create a long-term love and respect for nature so people can integrate that into their day to day living. I’ve loved birds in particular since I was 4. For example, the Common Tern migrates through here. We ringed as a chick at Normandy Marsh in June last year was recorded in Senegal in April this year having travelled 4099km, it should be back to breed in Lymington next spring. 

Our walks include the New Forest nature and Commoning, the birds that live and migrate here, river habitats, the fungi. My special interest is Pine Martens and Hawfinch’s and Russ (my business partner) is an expert on the Curlew – a red-list species bird, under massive pressure here.

  1. Q. Why do you think that what you’re doing is normal?

  2. Because it isn’t! Your passion and drive is admirable, and your knowledge and love of sharing is a pleasure (we know, we’ve done quite a few walks with the NFE team). I love what I do and I know understanding nature brings people so much joy. It makes a difference to people, and the area. It helps open their minds to the world around them.

Q. What change do you want to see in the future?

I would like to see the people of Britain give the natural world a better respect and understanding. We’re trying to be part of that by reigniting and rekindling people’s love. That’s why we welcome everybody, all ages, and like my grand-father did to me, really try to share the info in a way that can be absorbed for that person, on that day.

Q. What annoys you?

Red tape. Politics. Permissions to do something simple, or grant funding. It’s very frustrating because I’m basically a naturalist, but to be a successful business, and deliver our purpose-goal, we need to market ourselves, get funding in, there’s a lot we want to do but our focus to date has been on field-based activities. I am dyslexic, so writing slows me down. It’s hard work sometimes. When I have to write scientific reports for example. I can do it. But it’s not easy. Which is why I don’t have a degree. I’m totally self-taught. You can get a long way by paying attention. Dyslexia, learning styles. It shouldn’t be a barrier.

Q. Can you give us one idea that would make a big difference?

The Wildlife or Natural History GCSE. It should have been running since I was a kid. It’s a brilliant idea. When I was a kid all naturalists were old men with grey beards. Thank goodness that’s changing. Mary Colwell, a veteran of the BBC natural history unit, is a friend and we really support her with her goal of getting the Natural History GCSE into schools. How did you get here, in this place, in the world, today? My first memory was on a family holiday on a barge on the Norfolk Broads. I woke up early one morning and watched a pair of Great Crested Grebes doing their courtship dance nearby the boat. I was transfixed. Hooked. My grand-father helped that connection grow. He took me out and showed me the world around me. He gave me time. I see the world under threat. By showing people how special the natural world is, I hope to protect it better.

  1. Q. How do you get downtime?

  2. It’s tricky! I love my work so much that I don’t really split the two out. But since you’re pushing me, I love to walk, it gives me time to process. I love nature, new wild habitats; Dartmoor for example. I watch a tiny bit of TV but get restless. Walking clears my head.
  3. Q. Give us a tune for your change-maker vibes. Something to inspire us.

    1. Pearl Jam – Alive
    2. Emile Sande – Read All About It (not my usual style but I listen to this when I have aI LOVE music. (Marcus got quite excited here folks). I’m an old rocker. Here’s my top 3 for getting me active and up for a new day: tough day ahead it motivates me – I am an introvert so speaking out doesn’t come naturally to me)
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