Background

“...trail with daisies and barley, down the rivers of the windfall light”

DYLAN THOMAS

Since my early childhood amongst the beautiful fynbos mountains of the fairest Cape, nature has been my inspiration. My profession as a nature writer and environmental project innovator has involved working with many diverse programmes, each created to motivate closer connections with nature and the natural world.

As a project innovator / curator, my role involves conceptualising the core programme components and then undertaking all elements of the creative, writing and project management processes, including securing project and funding partners.

I have shared some of my work experience below…


Over the years I have worked within marine, wilderness and urban wildlife conservation, as well as publishing an award-winning environmental publication Cape Envirolink which was supported by WWF through The Table Mountain Fund.

My lifelong interest in wilderness preservation led me to working with Dr Ian Player, who graciously wrote the Foreword to my book ‘Connections with Wilderness.’ I was especially touched when he wrote that “Laurens van der Post would have loved this book because it has the right feel.”

I have also had the privilege of working closely with Vance Martin of The WILD Foundation in the US, learning so much about the earth’s last wild places, and the desperate efforts to conserve them. Our Wilderness Visionaries display was launched at the WILD9 World Wilderness Congress in Mexico.


My path has taken me on spiritual journeys to Kenya and Tanzania, as well as deep into the remote landscapes of the Kalahari desert, where I carried the songs of the San in my heart. And then long trips into the faraway mountains of the Cederberg brought me into contact with ancient Stoneage rock art sites, which had a profound influence on my work. These experiences inspired a small collection of poems that was published by Mallard Publishers, and launched at the Iziko Museum.


Through our Mapungubwe Revisited initiative, in partnership with WWF-SA, launched by SANParks CEO Mavuso Msimang, we spent time with the original gold rhino from the ancient African kingdom of Mapungubwe, immersing in the extraordinary antiquity of this historical piece, and raising funds for the conservation of this iconic species.


A few years ago, inspired by the transformative qualities of a nature experience, I created the Reconnecting with Nature exhibit and, in partnership with the South African National Biodiversity Institute, with funding from the Hans Hoheisen Trust, oversaw the installation of these displays in the nine National Botanical Gardens of South Africa.

Last week I had the pleasure of reading your display at Kirstenbosch. Word for word I connected with what you are expressing there! It was wonderful to connect in that way – these moments are pockets of inspiration and hope.” Chanèl Rossouw


Since 2002, my husband and I have run our Oceans of Africa programme, focusing on the magnificence of the oceans and the whale and dolphin diversity found along the southern African coastline. Over the years we have worked closely with IFAW-SA and The De Beers Group, and our ‘Windows on the Oceans‘ cetacean panels, launched in 2003 by Jonathan Oppenheimer, still feature as an exhibit in the Two Oceans Aquarium. Our ‘Sacred Ocean‘ anti-whaling campaign and public debate, launched in 2008 by Archbishop Emeritus Desmond Tutu, also features throughout the Aquarium. ‘Journeys in Search of the Whale‘ and ‘Close Encounters with Cetaceans‘ were two of our public presentations that took audiences below the ocean’s surface and into the mysterious world of these extraordinary leviathans of the deep.

With Dr Patrick Garrat and Archbishop Desmond Tutu Working together for wildlife…”

Our latest book, ‘Watching Whales and Dolphins in southern Africa’ was published by Penguin Random House, with a Foreword by our friend Mark Carwardine.

I have known the Ashton’s for many years and have always admired their intimate knowledge of the region, their passion for its wonderful whales and dolphins, and their remarkable efforts to drum up urgently needed support for conservation efforts to look after them.” Mark Carwardine, Zoologist & BBC Presenter


As a former trustee of the Baboon Matters Trust, I met Dr Jane Goodall and was deeply moved when she spoke about becoming a voice for those who cannot speak out for themselves; this inspired a growing interest in urban wildlife.


My interest in urban wildlife led me to launch my Wild Neighbours programme in 2010, with the support of urban wildlife specialists Dr John Hadidian and Dr Andrew Rowan in the US, and funding from the Humane Society US. Wild Neighbours became a Wild Cities Champion in 2013.

swallow-png-4

“Come forth into the light of things, let nature be your teacher…”

WILLIAM WORDSWORTH

In more recent years, I have been drawn back to Wordsworth’s pastoral England and am now based near Tetbury in the Cotswolds.

Having grown up in a home where my parents have a great love for classical music, I too fill my life with music and the soft touch of poems and written words.

In my spare time I also paint, and my work is essentially abstract interpretations inspired by nature.

I have recently completed writing my first short novel and will share more information shortly.

As I watch the little birds going about their lives in my garden, I marvel at the lightness of their touch, how little they impact on the world, and how, through the gaiety of their song and gentle being, they bring light and joy into our own lives.

I truly believe that living a simple life, connected to the land, mindful of our material impacts, walking that extra mile to purchase organic, reuse, restore and recycle, adds a significant depth to one’s life that resonates with the knowledge that we are living in harmony with the wider living world around us.

Lunch on the farm with Michaela after having packed up our home in Cape Town and moved to the Cotswolds