You might be more organised than me in the whole matter of Christmas present buying (I only let this annual festival of frenzy start to perculate into my brain on Stroud’s Goodwill Evening), but if you’re still searching for a present that’d be really valued by someone who’s keen on wildlife, I’ve put together some ideas in the selection below. I, personally, feel that ‘experiences’ or presents that last well beyond the festive season are a much nicer anyway, and the profits raised get ploughed back into helping protect our local wildlife.
Stroud Valleys Project (www.stroudvalleysproject.org)
If you haven’t visited Stroud Valleys Project’s shop in Stroud’s town centre already, then I’d urge you to pop along to Threadneedle Street where you’ll find it opposite Carphone Warehouse. It’s a treasure trove of all sorts of eco and wildlife friendly products and gifts: from socks made out of bamboo, things to help you garden more naturally and eco-cleaning products, to jigsaws, games, books, greetings cards and plenty of fun things to pop into Christmas stockings. From expensive to a few pence, you should be able to find the gift that suits your budget as well as the lucky recipient. Stroud Valleys Project’s eco-shop is open Monday – Wednesday, 10am – 5pm, Thursday 10am – 4pm, Friday 10am – 2pm, and Saturday from 10am – 3pm. If you want to phone ahead to check anything, their number is 01453-753358.
Help a Hedgehog Hospital (http://www.helpahedgehog.org/)
Rescuing and caring for orphaned, injured, stray and sick hedgehogs all over the Stroud Valleys, the ‘Hospital’ is actually a network of volunteers who do the actual nursing and care of one of the nation’s favourite wild animals at home. Other than putting out the cat food and saucer of water in the garden, you can help lots of hedgehogs by buying a membership for the lucky gift recipient and making them a Friend of Help a Hedgehog hospital at £15/year for adults, £12.50/year for seniors, £7.50 for those under 16, and £25 for families or couples. Their website also has greetings cards for sale and a 2018 calendar containing photos of these creatures that couldn’t look bad in a photo even if they tried.
Gloucestershire Wildlife Trust (https://gloswildlife.myshopify.com/)
My favourites from the Trust’s selection are the adoption schemes – you can choose from a barn owl, hare, stag beetle, hedgehog or otter. Don’t worry, you don’t find one turning up on your doorstep! When you adopt, the Trust sends a gift pack containing a soft toy of the animal (or in the case of the stag beetle, a model to cut out and make – I call that ‘beetle-ist’. I’m sure even a beetle could be cuddly!), fact sheets and colouring activities, an adoption certificate, and a photograph to pin onto the wall. These are great for cultivating an interest in a particular animal or bird that a child, or maybe even an adult, has. There are also annual membership packages available so you can enjoy the many activities offered by the Trust and contribute towards caring for over 60 nature reserves which protect a whole host of animals, birds and plants. The gifts page on the website has a few other offerings such as a calendar and a Top Trumps game.
The Wildfowl & Wetlands Trust (https://www.wwt.org.uk/support/adopt/)
The Wildfowl & Wetlands Trust also offers a range of animals and birds to adopt but these are a bit more exotic! Bewick swans, flamingos, cranes, Hawaiian geese (possibly the friendliest goose in the world), ducks, and otters (of course). Adopters will receive a cuddly toy of their chosen species, an information pack about it, the Trust’s twice yearly membership magazine, and a ticket to visit for free one of the Trust’s nine centres around the UK. You could even adopt a piece of Slimbridge! A special map on the website lets you choose a square of this internationally important nature reserve to support. If you adopt a swan, you can choose from one of four swans with their own names and identity just to make it more personal. Years ago, the Trust’s scientists discovered that each swan has an individual bill marking, like a fingerprint in humans, and started naming all the ones that over-winter at its centres.
Annual membership packages (for individuals, families or couples) are available which give you free entry to all nine centres and a members’ magazine twice a year. If you fancied a bit of relaxing Christmas shopping, the Slimbridge centre has a large gift shop with all sorts of items from books to games and ornaments. The shop is open during the same hours as the centre (9.30am-5pm) and if you’ve got kids, they could even visit Santa between 18th – 21st December.
Dursley Birdwatching Society (http://dursleybirdwatchers.btik.com/Membership)
This is a great group to join for anyone seriously interested in watching and discovering more about birds. I’ve been a member for so many years I’ve lost count, and enjoy going out on their regular birdwatching trips as I learn so much from other members who have encyclopaedic knowledge between them. The annual events programme is mainly concentrated around Gloucestershire but often goes further afield into south Wales, Somerset and Herefordshire. Occasionally, there are residential trips organised to another part of the country. Wherever the location, it’s certain that it’ll be brimming with birds and often other special wildlife like orchids.
During the winter, a programme of indoor talks keeps the interest going whilst there are fewer outdoor visits (though there are still some, just not as many as during the rest of the year, obviously, as a lot of birdlife has sensibly headed south). Annual membership is a bargain at £13 for an individual, £18 for families, and £7 for students. Members receive a monthly newsletter containing details of upcoming events and news of bird sightings in the area.
Glos Naturalists’ Society (http://www.glosnats.org/)
If you want to give a present to someone who’s mad on wildlife generally or who has a specialist interest e.g. plants, butterflies or mammals, then a year’s membership to the Glos Naturalists’ Society will be ideal. This is a group of very knowledgeable and enthusiastic volunteers who scour the county searching for, and recording, the nature that’s growing and living here. Their work is valuable for helping other organisations such as Glos Wildlife Trust know where to direct conservation work and in dealing with planning applications. The Society members have often found rare species and re-discovered ones that were thought to be extinct in Gloucestershire. Membership only costs £15/household and for that, you’ll receive a quaterly magazine with latest Glos wildlife news, a copy of the county’s annual bird report and copies of the ‘Gloucestershire Naturalist’ which contain more scientific articles about local wildlife.
Oak & Furrow Wildlife Rescue Centre (https://www.oandf.co.uk/)
This wonderful centre, which boasts Pam Ayres as its patron, takes in any and every injured or abandoned bird or animal from a wide geographical area around its Cricklade base, including Stroud (my daughter and I took in a wood pigeon that she’d rescued from a cat). They have a purpose-built hospital which is manned by a tiny number of staff plus lots of volunteers who give up their time to clean out endless numbers of cages, feed patients and generally give lots of tender, loving care. The centre is going through a funding crisis currently, so buying a membership from them would be a win-win for them and your ‘giftee’. You choose how much you’d like to donate as a membership fee, though £10 is the minimum amount suggested.
I hope these ideas provide some last minute inspiration to keep the wildlife fans in your life happy at Christmas. And don’t forget to feed the birds during the festive break! (though I’d go easy on the turkey and stuffing, unless you’ve got a family of foxes who regularly visit your garden like a fortunate friend of mine)
Have a Happy Christmas and a wildlife-filled 2018!