Next on our list, we have the wonderful Bethia of Nethia. A local lady with a worldly perspective. 

Being a student of science, it seems that writing creatively is no longer something that comes naturally to me. My imagination has been stamped out by facts, figures, and doomsday statistics. So when we were told to write introductions about ourselves, I pictured a short and to-the-point paragraph – name, background, why I’m excited to start this position, and maybe a mention of what our favourite animals are alongside a less than flattering photo of yours truly.

Then low and behold, my colleagues produced wonderfully eloquent pieces detailing their journey not just to Abernethy, but within conservation and nature in general. I, therefore, ask you wonderful readers to stick with me while I attempt to do the same. Things may either be a little more to the point or a little more rambling, and there will definitely be fewer poetic moments, but hopefully, as time goes on, I will find my feet…or fingers!

My name is Bethia, and while I am not quite a born and bred local (my origins firmly lump me into the category of Yorkshire lass) my family regularly holidayed to the Cairngorms National Park each year - and ten years ago we made the permanent move to ‘The Forest Village’ of Nethy Bridge (Drochaid Neithich). Here I spent my adolescence fostering my love for nature and the outdoors. Birdwatching from the garden feeders, regular dog walks, dabbling in wildlife photography and taking the occasional trek on horseback across the hills. I had been a Wildlife Explorer with the RSPB for many years, regularly visited the Osprey Centre and kept a close eye on the dramatic tale of EJ and Odin.

Five years ago, I said a temporary goodbye to the Highlands in exchange for city life; moving to Glasgow to complete my degree in zoology and gaining a wider perspective on many wildlife, conservation and climate issues facing Scotland and indeed the entire world. I have travelled to far-flung corners of the Bolivian savannah, studying all things exotic, developed a particular affection for bumblebees thanks to my dissertation. I discovered just how interconnected we all are – animals, humans and landscapes alike. I have also spent time on several Scottish islands and very quickly came to realise where my heart truly lies. The challenges we face protecting our environment and our wildlife is a global one, but I will always feel the greatest pull to protect my home.

So I was filled with happiness and excitement when (once the post-graduate winter job hunt was over - an unfortunate rite of passage for every budding conservationist) I found myself returning to the place where it all began: a place where eagles soar, where the mountains shine in the snow and the heather blooms in the sun. And yes, where I hug old granny pine trees like the hippy I am!

To share the wonders of Abernethy with you all as a Visitor Experience Officer - within our brand-new Loch Garten Nature Centre, within one of our oldest forests – seems so incredibly fitting. One of the best ways we can protect our natural world is by inspiring others to protect it too; using our united voice to ensure future generations will be able to experience all the things we currently do.

But life is full of unexpected moments and it would seem that, at least for now, it may be more apt to call myself a Virtual Experience Officer. We must all act responsibly - and so, for the time being, I will no longer be able to smile and greet you all in person, nor will I be able to run with you to the hide window or click to the online camera when our ospreys return! All of our lives have been put on hold somewhat, and I know many of you will be struggling with this. But I assure you we are all still here and planning various ways of remaining in touch with you throughout the season, thinking up novel ideas to engage with everyone and keeping ourselves occupied by doing so.

There is so much of our reserve to share, we will just have to be a little more creative in how we share it! Keep safe, keep in touch - this is not forever, and the forests await your return.

P.S. I can’t even answer the question as to what my favourite animal is anyway - they’re all amazing!