Growing up on the flat plains of Norfolk with a mum who had a thirst for the hills, our family regularly visited the Peak District for walking holidays where we trudged uphill and down dale in all weathers. Eventually our growing love of the Peak District led us to up sticks and move to Tideswell and I attended Lady Manners School in Bakewell. My mum worked as a solicitor’s secretary but after a while took on the Peak District National Park’s Ranger Training Course and eventually landed herself a job as an Assistant Ranger; quite the career change!
At 14 I spent a great deal of my weekends shadowing mum and learning the ropes. I particularly loved volunteering at ‘Action Stop’ at Millers Dale Station and Peak Park ‘Play Days’ and ‘Fun Days’, at Losehill Hall and Ilam Park, where young children and their families spent whole days immersed in nature-based activities. Children would turn up clean and excited and leave filthy, happy and exhausted; with little muddy feet and hands covered in paint, proudly gripping their masterpieces, weary from the sheer joy of being outdoors all day.
I consider myself lucky to have volunteered alongside some of the Peak Park ‘environmental education legends’ including Gail Griffiths, Jon Cree and Keith Clarkson. They inspired me to do what I do; to find ways to build relationships between people and nature. People are a part of the natural world and when they allow themselves to step away, even briefly, from the technological, fast paced, impatient and demanding world we are living, they find that connection. It is when they find their place within the natural world that they become in awe of it simply because it is beautiful and ingenious. When we are in awe of something and we feel it is part of us, then we start caring for it, and if we believe it to be threatened, then we take it as a personal threat and seek to actively protect it. That’s what we and the planet need, for people to realise the link between their wellbeing and the health of the planet.
I didn’t follow an environmental education career when I left school - I pretty much bunked the last year of school, left as early as possible and took a job in a transport café! It was a few years later that I returned to education to study countryside management at Broomfield College at Derby then Bishop Burton College near Beverley. I didn’t know if I wanted to be a ranger or the next Jon Cree! So, I applied for jobs in both areas and took what I was offered! I landed a job at Little Wittenham as an Environmental Outreach Officer visiting rural Oxfordshire primary schools to deliver outdoor education. They called me the ‘Green Lady’ which I loved!
Since then, I have travelled the country caring for places that are important for nature and people and in 2012, I found my way back to the Peak District to take up my dream job of caring for the Eastern Moors. It’s just such a beautiful place, high above Sheffield and Chesterfield with spectacular views, dramatic skies and atmospheric moors. What’s not to love? Every season paints a new picture; early summer cotton grass blankets the moors in white, turning purple as heather fills the air with the sweet scent of honey, followed by the autumn’s golden glow bringing a comforting warmth. The wildlife is so special too; blanket bogs lined with sphagnum moss, babbling books hiding secretive water voles, ponds dancing with acrobatic dragonflies, moorlands nurturing curlew chicks and woodlands sheltering red deer in winter. It’s a magical place.
I remained on the Eastern Moors for over 6 years, only moving ‘next door’ to work for the National Trust. In 2020, I was furloughed and my job became under threat of redundancy. I felt like my right arm had been cut off. My job is my life, it gives me purpose and without that I felt lost. I decided not to wait for my fate to be handed to me, and set up my new business, Bee kinder, “just in case”, with the ambition of connecting people with nature through social media, events, facilitation, and training for conservation professionals. Luckily, I kept hold of my job and am now based on the National Trust’s Longshaw Estate. However, I have continued to run Bee kinder, and this year have delivering a number of training workshops, some on-line, for conservation organisations around the country.
It was my love of writing that led me to finally put pen to paper and write my nature-based children’s book, ‘Roar on the Moor’, that and my love of fairies and the discovery that bodkins do exist! And where better to start than on my precious Eastern Moors and the spectacular annual red deer rut? As the first in ‘The Adventures of Wildwell Hollow’ series of nature-based stories, ‘Roar on the Moor’ follows Tilly Fairy & Bodkin Jack to Monarch Moor, high above their homes in Whispering Wood. Tracking the "ROOOAAR" coming from the moor, the endearing characters discover the King of Stags strutting his stuff during the red deer rutting season.
The red deer rut on the Eastern Moors is an annual phenomenon! Red deer are majestic creatures, and the rut is when the herd is at its biggest and most active. It’s a very exciting time! As Britain’s largest native mammal, this iconic species is a common but incredible sight. Thought to have once been escapees from Chatsworth’s domestic herds, the red deer of the Eastern Moors now roam wild. During autumn, male stags compete for the attention of females hinds, with one aim, to mate with them! There are dominant stags who often have the largest group of hinds, known as a harem, but younger competitors will challenge them and try to steal their hinds. There’s a lot of testosterone being thrown around at this time of year! Stags bellow or roar; an incredible sound that echoes across the moor, and use their size to prove their dominance. If neither stag steps down antlers may clash and stags can get hurt. But they’re intelligent creatures, they don’t want to fight if they don’t have to. A lot of the battle is won by show!
Whilst working on the moors, my colleague Kim spotted the annual Bolving World Championships held in Exmoor and together we decided, ‘We could do that!’ Bolving is the art of imitating the roar of a red deer stag during the rut, to see if you can get a response. We went on to run the annual Eastern Moors Bolving Championships. It’s wacky and it’s wonderful and ran every year on the moors until Covid struck. We hope it will begin again next year, bringing more families out for a great time on the moor learning about the deer and experiencing nature at its finest whilst having a gloriously daft time together!
‘Roar on the Moor’ is jam packed with beautiful illustrations by the creatively talented Rob Page and was published in the safe hands of Fi & Books at the end of September. The response has been amazing! We sold out of the first print run in three weeks and had to print again. Local shops have been supportive and it’s now on sale in the Peak District National Park visitor centre shops too. I recently spent a week visiting local primary schools reading the book and delivering craft and creative writing sessions. It was the highlight of my year watching children wearing their hand-made antlers and roaring – a whole herd of stags roaring in the classroom. Just brilliant!
You can order your copy of Roar on the Moor by visiting www.beekinder.net/roar-on-the-moor where you can also book a free author visit to your school.
Follow @KatherineClarke_WildwellHollow & @BuzzyBeeingKinder on Instagram and Facebook for updates.