I first fell in love with the natural world at a very young age. To this day I recall the excitement I felt when lifting up a brick in the back garden and unearthing a colony of curious crustaceans scurrying away among the cracks in my mother's raised flowerbed. There was something thrilling about the thought that our little London garden, right in the heart of that polluted monstrosity of a city, could be home to such a wealth of life and an abundance of critters. And it wasn't just the woodlice that caught my eye! Wriggling earthworms, heaving themselves with surprising strength into holes in the packed earth below the flowerpots! Earwigs, scuttling away much too fast for me to catch them. And garden snails, gathered in clusters and glued to the bricks by their epiphragm - a layer of solidified mucus used to seal themselves within their shells while they overwintered amongst the cracks and crevices.
It seemed only natural at the time, given my considerable curiosity for this realm of creepy crawlies, that I collect a few samples to conduct my own research. So I snuck off into the kitchen and commandeered all the empty jam-jars or lunchbox containers I could find. I poked a few holes in the lid (rendering them quite useless for storing leftover pasta), et voilà! I had set up my own laboratory for observation and research, neatly stashed away beneath my bed.
Of course, this lasted only until the stench from a jar of stink bugs collected from mum's fuchsia plant began wafting out into the hallway... it's safe to say the jig was up!
Thankfully, I had very supportive parents who not only let me keep my insect collection but even bought me a set of proper bug-collecting jars, complete with magnified viewing windows. Even if this was just to keep me from raiding the cupboards, you can imagine the excitement I had at feeling like a true explorer at last!
From there, this passion for wildlife grew and grew, and I quickly became obsessed with finding out everything there was to know about as many animals as possible. When I wasn't outside tearing up the brickwork in pursuit of beetles, I was sat wide-eyed on the sofa watching David Attenborough talking about something far larger in some distant country. That's when I wanted to see it all for myself. The great migrations of Africa, the icy deserts of Antarctica, the wonderful colours of corals basking in the sun. The way this man spoke... with such assured performance, such unbridled passion, and communicated so effortlessly the intricacies of the lives of these creatures, it made me want to be him. To do what he does. It seemed only natural that I give it a go. With the help of my older brother (a self-described tech genius) on the 8th of August 2012, I released my first ever video. A fact file about hermit crabs. Natural World Facts was born, and the rest is history.
A decade since that first foray into science communication, I find myself in a peculiar situation. My YouTube channel rose to relative online fame thanks to my Deep Sea Wonders series - a collection of *ahem* deep-dives into the deep ocean and its otherworldly ecosystems - which I started making as the Covid-19 pandemic prevented me from heading out of London to film in the wild places I so adored. The series took off, and my channel became almost exclusively deep-sea content. But I began to feel like I'd pigeon-holed myself. As thrilling as it was (and is) to examine the life of this hard-to-reach, surreal realm of curious creatures, I had lost that crucial connection with the local wilderness which once filled me with so much joy!
In late 2021, after moving cities to begin studying Marine Biology at University, I found myself living quite near a place known as the New Forest - an idyllic national park, home to ancient woodland, open moors, and wild heathland. Once a week, I'd head into this wild wonderland, at first as an escape from lectures, but I soon I found my passion reignited. It was hard to resist. As I set out among the open fields of grazing wild ponies, waded through the winding streams and endless marshes, I felt that childlike wonder return to me at last.
Here's where this new project comes in. The Nature Boy Journal, named after a little-known TV show from the year 2000 that captured my imagination as a child, with a nature-obsessed main character I felt I could relate to more than any other. You can watch it online here if you're interested (there are 4 episodes in total). The aim of this journal is to channel my love of both wildlife and writing, and give me a space to share with you the joys of simply stepping outside and enjoying the natural world on your doorstep.
Despite my deep-sea fixation, I retain just as much admiration for terrestrial ecosystems, and derive as much pleasure from walking in the woods as I did when I was a child. What faded was my drive to document and share it, I think because the attention my deep-sea content received gave me a false sense that people simply don't have an appetite for seeing the more everyday wildlife. Perhaps I thought it too mundane. But I think I misunderstood the signs, for it's more important than ever that I use my platform to highlight the often overlooked perspective of seeking out the wild places and falling in love with nature. So that's what I'll do with this new project - create a simpler, more intimate collection of writings, photographs and videos in the wild places local to me, and hopefully convince you that absolutely anyone can be an explorer! No ecosystem is too small, and certainly none are too dull! It's about finding that unique perspective on the world that allows you to seek out and appreciate nature where you perhaps least expect it, or often forget to appreciate it. There's so much beauty in nature that's all too often overlooked.
Stay tuned to tag along with me on my adventures here in the wild places of the UK. And for a bit of fun if you want to join in, share your own pictures, videos, and writings as you head out into the wilds yourself and connect with nature close to you, posting with the #natureboyjournal on any social media. Climb trees, roll down hills, and get muddy. I can't wait to take a look at your adventures!
View the homepage of the Nature Boy Journal here for more upcoming posts, and accompanying observations, photo libraries, and videos.
Best of luck fellow explorers,
And to finish, here's a little video I made in the New Forest, with a few words at the end about a brilliant project taking place during the whole month of May called BackyardBio which all of you can get involved with! Find out more info here.