For those of you who follow us on Facebook or Instagram, you may have noticed that we have been fairly quiet recently. We'd like to take the opportunity to share with you all the wonderful reasons why this has happened and will likely continue for the foreseeable future. We have had some rather drastic - but all very positive - changes in our lives occur in the last few weeks and it is news well worth sharing, not only to explain our apparent absence online, but also to spread the news of positive change!
Before we get right into it, I would first like to briefly explain a bit of personal history of mine which will set the scene for the fantastic news we are sharing in this article. As I often explain to our guests who come on tour, my personal journey through conservation as a career has been difficult. When I was in high school in Canada, I was encouraged by many mentors and teachers to go into the profession of healthcare. I had expressed interest in animal care and veterinary medicine, but I chose the path of human biology and health instead. After achieving my Bachelor's of Science in Nursing, I went straight into the workforce and throughout the majority of my adult life, I have only known irregular shift work, twelve hour work days, missing out on most significant holidays, and putting the health of others before my own. I did of course pick up many skills, knowledge and expertise throughout my studies and work experience as a Registered Nurse and gained many positives from my career, but I always had a calling to do wildlife & habitat conservation. After much contemplation and years of volunteering, I have had one of the biggest changes in my life to happen since deciding to move to the United Kingdom.
There are many reasons why we have been a bit absent online, but the biggest one is the fact that I have recently been hired as the new Conservation Officer at the Museum of East Anglian Life in Stowmarket. I have been given the opportunity to work on and help improve the land and footpaths found down along the river valley on the museum grounds. But more than that, this position allows me to assist in various areas of the museum, where I am able to work with young people helping them developing their career paths. The position allows me to connect with community groups, other professional organizations, and help bridge the gap between agriculture and wildlife conservation. I am also able to deliver my knowledge and enthusiasm for conservation to the public by providing river walk tours as part of the museum's weekly programming. My new career has proven to be a dream job come to life, and this is the number one reason why our online presence has slowed significantly.
The next reason for why we have intermittently gone offline is related, but has also significantly impacted the content of our tours. As some of you may know, there is a farm beside our cottage which is home to some rare breeds of livestock including Red Poll Cattle, Dorset Down Sheep and Old English Goats. The first portion of our tour runs through the land on this farm, and in order to have access, I volunteer my spare time to assisting with whatever work needs to be done. It just so happens, however, that the farmer who owns the property next to ours is heavily involved in conservation, and has been a Suffolk Wildlife Trust consultant for many years. His livestock is used for the main purpose of breeding and conservation grazing, and I always glean loads of amazing information from him every time I pop out to help him and his family manage the farm. I typically spend my weekend mornings - even on tour days! - helping out with whatever needs doing, and I thoroughly enjoy every moment of it.
Whilst I am either out on the farm or working on projects in my new official career as a Conservation Officer, Ashley has also been busy with many changes in her life. As an artist, the past year has been difficult on her work from both business and personal standpoints. She has begun to reshape her work outside the tours and has been experimenting with new artistic mediums, business plans and exploring new spiritual paths and practices, all in an effort to overcome the negative effects that the pandemic has had on both her entrepreneurial pathway and personal wellbeing.
Likewise, we have made the decision to ensure that we do have time to spend with each other, our friends and our families. After this challenging past year, we have made the decision to always ensure that work remains secondary to the valuable time available to spending with loved ones and each other. This has, of course, also directly effected our social media presence and productivity.
We have found great success with our tours, and they of course are still going to continue, as we are passionate about sharing the wonders of nature with people, and exploring the deeper connections to the land than the average person typically considers. Our walks are always so inspirational to us, as we always get to witness the gears turning in our guests' heads as we demonstrate and discuss all the different aspects of the land around us; from what is available to eat, to changes in cultural perception of nature and agriculture through time, to simply learning that brining a flask of hot water on a walk to make a wild foraged tea can provide a simple and easy way to connect to the land. We will continue to post on our Facebook and Instagram accounts, and we will always reply to any e-mails and messages as quickly as we can; but if you don't hear from us straight away, now you will know where we are and what we are up to!