The loneliness of the long distance curlew runner

Richard Negus

By Richard Negus, GWCT Member

Have you noticed how one’s most poignant memories are often soundscapes? The discordant clang of the Horse Guards clock chiming the quarters transports me to younger, military days and preparation for duty on Queen’s Life Guard. Lapping waves, laughter and shrieks and I am whisked to childhood holidays in North Devon.  The haunting whaup, whaup whaup call of the Curlew conjures up Reydon marshes...it’s a sound that, to me, means home.

Having recently taken a trip to ‘The Smoke’ I took a detour via Horse Guards and can happily report the clock over Wellington’s office continues to clank every fifteen minutes, children are still as raucous on beaches, yet sadly the plaintive call of the Curlew was absent from the Reydon marshes as I ran through one of its reed lined tunnel like paths last weekend.

It is that missing echo of home that led me embark upon my own effort to raise money for and awareness of the GWCT’s Curlew Appeal. How could such an evocative sound, such an iconic part of my life have just gone silent? The news that there are less than 300 Curlew south of Birmingham is tragic, yet thanks to the research undertaken by the GWCT it appears that this decline can be halted and reversed.

Of course to get this information out to land owners and managers, and the Conservation tools they need to utilise costs money. If I was a wealthy man I would simply open my cheque book, write out a suitably generous donation and return to my life. Sadly, a career spent largely enjoying myself in the countryside has caused ongoing atrophy of the wallet. I am blessed however with good health, a pair of legs that work and lungs that, despite too many years smoking too many cigarettes, seem to combine and help to propel me over long distances.

My positive physical attributes therefore have been put to the use of the GWCT. I have set myself the task of running the Northumberland Coastal Path Marathon in February next year. For those of you unaware of St Cuthbert’s way I will, along with 300 or so other lunatics, be running 27 miles from Alnwick to Bamburgh through sand hills, soft dunes, wide expanse of beach, shingle, marram grass and, seeing as the race is in February, howling North Easterly winds and a fair smattering of sleet squalls.

I ran the London Marathon eight years ago in aid of the Jockey Club’s Charity, Racing Welfare but the Capital’s slog will be a breeze compared with this “extreme race”. My training thus far sees me running around 30 miles per week mainly across country and I will start winding that up as the nights draw in (wildfowling commitments permitting!)

If like me you wish to see the Curlew return to our farm and wetlands and would be kind enough to support my fundraising efforts for the GWCT’s Curlew Appeal I will be eternally grateful. I have set up a Just Giving page for those of you who are happy to donate online or you can send a cheque directly to the Charity but please mark your envelope with Curlew Appeal. I try to update my progress via Twitter @troopersnooks or through The GWCT website. Thank you.

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Note: Richard Negus is 46, a former Household Cavalryman, he spent 20 or so years ‘wasting time’ selling horses and learning to lay hedges before ending up riding a desk for the Jockey Club. Four years ago he realised his long term ambition and set up his own business designing and building wildlife friendly gardens and landscapes. He lives in Suffolk with his wife and young son and is a member of a small Breckland walked up syndicate and The Gt Yarmouth Wildfowling and Conservation Association. 


Curlew Appeal

at 17:46 on 30/08/2017 by Tracey Scotthorne

My heart lifts to read stories such as yours Richard. You are absolutely right, for myself it was skylarks over the cornfields in summer. I am transported back to my childhood instantly. I was fortunate enough to grow up on the edge of the Peak District National Park and walked many miles of moorland as a youngster. I too can remember the haunting call of the curlew. All the best, let's hope your venture makes it onto Countryfile, maybe.....

Curlew Running

at 17:32 on 29/08/2017 by Frank Stevens

Good on you Richard. My old legs couldn't cope now.....but I love the sound of curlew and 60 years ago I loved the taste of them! Let's hope they recover their numbers soon/sooner.

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