Thinking Globally, Acting Locally was the theme of the week I signed up for at Othona, Bradwell-on–Sea this summer. It was led by Malcolm Hardy, a Trustee of Essex Wildlife Trust and a biology teacher at a sixth form college in Hackney. He is a wildlife enthusiast and a keen conservationist.
The week was split between talks about wildlife, excursions and practical activities. On the first day we had a guided walk around the environs of Othona, looking at the reed beds where waste water is
filtered and looking at the habitat of the Shrill Carder Bumblebee, which is the rarest bumblebee in the UK.
In the evening we had a talk on the birds and insects of Othona which was very informative.
The next day some of us began making bird and bat boxes and I attempted making a bug hotel with some difficulty!
In the evening we had a talk on the Marine Environment around Bradwell, which may be affected, if plans for a new nuclear power station there go ahead.
The folllowing evening Tim Sapsford, from Essex Bat Group, came to talk to us about bats and then took us on a bat walk which was exciting. We heard lots of bats flying overhead near the car park and in a woodland area. They made quite a loud rattling noise and flew so quickly I only saw one, I think. Most of them were pipistrelles, although there are ten species of bats in Essex.
Our final excursion, the next day, was down to the seashoe where we identified plants which can live in that salty environment and checked the different types of seashells on the beach. We also looked for male and female shore crabs under rocks and found lots of them!
I learned so much about wildlife in that week and how we must care for the environment.
One of the things I enjoy most about being at Othona is going to St. Peter’s Chapel twice a day to attend the services led by different people. There is no electricity in the chapel, so in the evening it is lit by candles, and walking there in the evening, watching the sun set with a panorama of sea and sky all around is amazing.
Inside the chapel, founded by St. Cedd in 654AD, there is a beautiful crucifix designed by Francis William Stephens, installed there over sixty years ago and St. Cedd is depicted at the foot of it, holding his bishop’s crook.
Three stones are set into the altar, one from Lindisfarne, where St. Cedd was trained as a monk, one from Iona where St. Columba founded a monastery and where the Celtic mission of St. Cedd began.
The third stone is fom Lastingham, where St. Cedd died of the plague in 664AD.
It is over seventy years now since Revd. Norman Motley set up the Othona Community, hoping to promote reconciliation between German and British people after the Second World War. He encountered considerable opposition and derision, but he was a very determined person and his vision bore fruit with many German people still coming to spend time at Bradwell each year along with people from many other countries.
While I was there there were seven VAPS (Volunteer Action for Peace) students from France, Spain, Italy and Mexico who helped out with various tasks during their two week stay. They all got on very well together considering they had never seen each other before.
Another of the good things about being at Othona is seeing old friends and making new ones, meeting a diverse mix of people, old and young, able and disabled and gifted in different ways.
If you have never been to stay there, or even to visit for a day, I would recommend it. You can check the website at www.othona-bradwell.org.uk to find out more about the community and its
programme of events.