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Roger Ballantine

Roger is a 69-year-old ex-teacher of Design Technology who has lived in Somerset his whole life. He is an avid bird watcher, who regularly enjoys photography, football and cycling.

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Tell us about yourself

Can you tell us a little more about any outdoor activities you love in particular, and how you got into them?

I enjoy photography and have had several pictures feature on Points West weather. I have always been a footballer and very much enjoy the five-a-side on Mondays with SASP.

I co-founded Retired Riders back in 2014 with ex-teachers. We ride every Thursday, one week I route master from Bridgwater, and the next week another rider route masters from Burnham. These rides are social and take most of the day to ride between 35 -45 miles. This arrangement has allowed us to enjoy and appreciate areas of Somerset we’ve not seen before in both areas. We do have away days such as the Exe trail, Millennium Trail S Wales, Tarka Trail, and even to France in 2018. As we cycle around I point out the wildlife I see and most are now interested and familiar with the native birds.

I first started birdwatching when I was young and took our dog for walks around the fields of Taunton. Seeing all the birds but not knowing what they were made me want to know so I use the Observers book but the needed binoculars. Luckily my brother was in the Navy and brought home a pair and I was hooked. I usually go alone but do meet up with other watchers, as I’m not good at identifying certain species. Even seeing a Chaffinch in the field can be exciting and seeing one in my garden gives me a thrill.

We are so lucky in Somerset with the variety of habitats to see birds. I love the Quantocks coombes, Steart Marshes is incredible and of course the Levels. All these places provide birds all year round. At the moment I concentrate on my own patch in the fairly new Stockmoor Country Park. Seeing it develop and recording sightings is very rewarding and the community are getting involved. I am a member of the Somerset Ornithological Society and contribute to its annual report. I have set up a bird sighting Facebook page for our local Country Park.

What advice would you give to people who want to get outdoors more?

Many people take their dogs for walks but do not see what is around them, many are on their phones. Our countryside has so much diversity in sights and sounds, throughout the Pandemic many more people have been out and about and have got to know their area. Hopefully they have seen the buds and the wildflowers emerging, the arrival of Swallows and heard the birds singing. Surely that gives a boost to our mental health and opens our eyes to how lucky we are. Don’t just walk the dog look around yourself and notice the changing seasons and what it brings. Binoculars are an asset but not essential, how good is it to look up and see a Buzzard soaring above you, or a Heron rise up in front of you.