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Page last updated at 16:01 GMT, Wednesday, 30 September 2009 17:01 UK
Autumnwatch: Get closer to nature

Get involved with nature this autumn

This autumn, pull on your trendy, chunky knits and head out to enjoy an adventure with nature where you live.

To help inspire you, Autumnwatch's Martin Hughes-Games has made a series of films that show how we can all get more involved with local wildlife.

"You may have put up a bird box or dug a pond, but I've been finding out how we can go much further in helping and learning about wildlife," said Martin.

Autumnwatch 2009 runs from 2 October to 20 November, Fridays at 9pm on BBC2.

From bat detecting to discovering the ancient knowledge of medicinal plants, there are hundreds of conservation and wildlife volunteering projects that can spark our interest and lead to an autumn adventure with nature.

Not only can these bring us closer to nature but they may just help us make a difference to science or conservation efforts aimed at helping our native wildlife.


As part of the Autumnwatch How Do I series, Martin gave up his usual Friday night curry to spend the evening in a bat-mobile with the Bat Conservation Trust.

There are 17 species in the UK, but the bat population has declined dramatically over the last century due to the loss of natural habitats.

Autumnwatch: Local bat surveys

The increase in the use of pesticides have also reduced the numbers of insects the bats feed on.

Across the country volunteers are helping with bat surveys and this plays an important part in their conservation.

To get involved with a bat group and survey in Cambridgeshire visit:

If spending an evening surveying bats is too much adventure after dark, there are plenty of wildlife activities you can take part in at a more sociable hour.

Wildflower walks

Earlier in the year BBC2's Grow Your Own Drugs series inspired many of us to think more about the medicinal properties of the flora in our gardens and countryside.

What you might not have considered is that by learning more about the medicinal properties of plants, not only can you help yourself but you will also enjoy more time with nature.

Of the 1500 wild flowers growing in the UK, around 400 are thought to have medicinal properties

"Hundreds of years ago we couldn't just pop into the chemist for a cure so we had to learn how to make them from nature. It's an age-old practice but the ingredients are still all around us," said Martin.

Natural remedies help us and the wildlife

Herbs create a brilliant habitat for wildlife. Not only do they bring wildlife to your garden, but the wildlife also uses them to fight against parasites in the nest, or to treat illnesses.

"For thousands of years it's been observed that wildlife uses herbs and flowers to treat conditions and make life easier, just as humans have used herbs to increase their quality of life," said medical herbalist Christina Stapeley.

Herbs and flowers have offered us food, medicine, dyes, fragrances and so much more - but don't just pick from Mother Nature's larder without learning about it first.

"Please be very careful. Just because you can pick a plant, don't assume you can use it in a remedy," said Martin.

"Some plants like the foxglove can kill you. It's a very complex science - so take part in one of the many guided wildflower and herbalism walks and learn from the experts."

To find out more about a wildflower walk in Cambridgeshire visit the county council countryside events website. Further advice and information is also available from The Herb Society.

Be a nature volunteer

Some of the best ways to learn more about nature and how you can help it is by assisting one of the many wildlife or conservation projects that are taking place in the UK.

One of the largest projects is the bird ringing scheme run by the British Trust for Ornithology (BTO).

Bird ringing
Bird ringing allows us to track the movement and numbers of birds

Involving more than 2000 trained volunteers, a small, uniquely numbered metal ring is fitted on the legs of more than 800,000 birds.

By indentifying them as individuals we can start to understand changes in the survival and movements of bird populations.

"Ringing allows us to follow the birds' movements and, more importantly, understand what might be causing changes in populations - what we call demography," said Mark Grantham of the BTO.

"Anyone can get involved, and the best way is simply to keep an eye out for ringed birds. This might be a blackbird in your garden or a barn owl down the road - all are important! If it's ringed, report it online or via the BTO," he added.

To become a bird ringer in your area visit the BTO website to find out where your nearest ringing trainer.

However you decide to get involved with nature this autumn, enjoy being out in the fresh air, enjoying the wildlife and experiencing nature where you live.

Watch Autumnwatch from Friday, 2 October to Friday, 20 November, 2009 at 9pm every Friday on BBC Two followed by Autumnwatch Unsprung at 10pm.

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