“...trail with daisies and barley
down the rivers of the windfall light”
Since my early childhood amidst the beautiful fynbos mountains of the fairest Cape, nature has been my inspiration.
My profession as a nature writer and environmental project innovator has led to my involvement with many inspired initiatives, each created to motivate closer connections with wild nature and the creatures that live alongside us.
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 United States, learning so much about the earth’s last wild places, and the desperate efforts to conserve them.
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, 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 my Reconnecting with Nature exhibit and, in partnership with the South African National Biodiversity Institute, installed these displays in the nine National Botanical Gardens of South Africa.
Since 2003, we have run our Oceans of Africa programme, working to open people’s eyes to the magnificence of the oceans and the cetacean diversity found along the southern African coastline. Over the years, we have worked closely with IFAW Southern Africa furthering their marine conservation work in South Africa. Our ‘Windows on the Oceans‘ cetacean panels still feature as an exhibit in the Two Oceans Aquarium, launched by Jonathan Oppenheimer in 2003. Our ‘Sacred Ocean‘ initiative, launched by Archbishop Desmond Tutu, still features throughout the aquarium.
Our latest book, Watching Whales and Dolphins in southern Africa was published by Penguin Random House, with a Foreword by our friend Mark Carwardine.
As a former trustee of the Baboon Matters Trust, I was involved in baboon conservation, looking at ways to live more harmoniously with these charismatic primates.
My deep interest in urban wildlife led me to launch my Wild Neighbours programme in 2010, which was encouraged through the support of urban wildlife specialist Dr John Hadidian and with funding from the Humane Society in the United States. My latest initiative can be viewed at https://belinda-ashton.com/this-land-these-creatures/
“Come forth into the light of things, let nature be your teacher…”
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.
I truly believe that living a simple life, connected to the land, mindful of our material impacts, walking that extra mile to purchase organic, upcycle, 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.
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.
Having taken a course in creative design at London City University, I empowered myself with the tools needed to create my own materials, and this design/writing/photography combination forms the basis of my work.