This week, I had the most amazing day.
For those who don't live in the UK, Tunbridge Wells is generally seen as a place of money, elegance, big shiny cars and Buckingham Palace accents, so what was I doing there? Just a few miles out of Tunbridge Wells, hiding in the country, is Folly Wildlife Rescue. Have a look at their website at www.follywildliferescue.org.uk, but don't turn up on their doorstep, because you can only visit by appointment, and I feel most privileged that I was able to go there. I was ushered up to a quiet room where the amazing Annette was patiently bottle feeding fox cubs.
That's what they do at Folly. They take in sick, injured and abandoned wild animals and birds and help them to reach the stage where they can safely take their place in the wild again. That's why it isn't open to the public - they are focused on the animals, and sick animals don't want human noise around them. (Would you want to be gawped at if you were in hospital?) When I say 'they', Folly is run by a husband and wife team, two staff, and whole hosts of volunteers who are willing to spend an afternoon cleaning up animal poo just for the love of the creatures. They are on call 24/7. Please, please, look at the website and be inspired.
I asked Annette about important things to pass on. Respect the animals, she said. Of course. But respecting the animal doesn't just mean caring about it. I would suggest it means remembering that they are not here for our entertainment, and to remember that, ultimately, the animals know what's best for them.
And if you see an abandoned baby animal or bird, it probably isn't abandoned at all. Mother is almost certainly watching. Leave it alone. Keep an eye on it, but don't intervene unless you have reason to think that it's sick, injured or distressed. And don't try to deal with it yourself - take it to a vet or a wildlife rescue centre. You may even be lucky enough to live near somewhere like Folly.