Is for zo­ol­o­gist

With one foot in tra­di­tion and one in in­no­va­tion, how does Som­er­set in­spire its work­ers? VIK MARTIN takes a stroll through the al­pha­bet to find out

Somerset Life - - THE A TO Z OF SOMERSET -

Nes­tled in the Mendips, with panoramic views over the Som­er­set Lev­els, Priddy looks like some­thing from my child­hood draw­ings - the kind of place granny would live. You barely need to scratch the sur­face though, to find it’s ac­tu­ally way cooler than that. I pop in the pub for direc­tions and the staff are wear­ing t-shirts that read ‘Priddy. Like The Archers, but on acid’.

Zo­ol­o­gist Jen Nightin­gale (when I fi­nally find her, cud­dling a pet rab­bit out­side her cute stone cot­tage) con­firms my sus­pi­cion. “It’s such a se­cret, but it’s a magic place,” she tells me. “It’s a fan­tas­tic com­mu­nity, with many like-minded peo­ple.”

Af­ter in­tro­duc­ing me to her pets, Jen takes me into an out­build­ing where there are tanks full of tiny, lob­ster-like crea­tures which, she ex­plains, are baby white-clawed cray­fish - our only na­tive species of fresh­wa­ter cray­fish. At this point, I no­tice, she re­ally comes to life.

“I’m on a com­plete per­sonal mis­sion here; you could say I moved to Som­er­set to save cray­fish. We bring fe­males in with their eggs to give them a bet­ter chance of sur­viv­ing - and we’ve learnt how to breed them. We’ve got the only hatch­ery in the coun­try. We’ve set up nine ark sites across the county, as safe havens for them. One of the big­gest threats is the Amer­i­can sig­nal cray­fish. They prey on ev­ery­thing and they carry a nasty dis­ease called cray­fish plague. It’s com­pli­cated to find the per­fect site, but there’s one at Vob­ster dive site. Not that they’re lob­sters...but I did think that was a funny co­in­ci­dence and that it would re­ally en­gage the divers. They get ex­cited when they see cray­fish, which is great, and they also un­der­stand the con­ser­va­tion mes­sages.

“When I moved to Som­er­set it all came to­gether for me. I had no idea how mag­i­cal it was be­fore I lived here. You may think I’m just a bunny hug­ger, but there’s noth­ing bunny hug­gery about me at all.”

We look at each other and snig­ger.

“Ex­cept for that bunny you were hug­ging when I got here...”

“Oh yeah, well there was that, but cray­fish are so much cooler!”

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