Leading article: Up close

No one who saw it will ever forget the sequence in David Attenborough's The Trials Of Life where a killer whale, a terrifying six-tonne monster, bursts out of the sea on to a beach in Patagonia to grab a lounging, unsuspecting sea-lion pup. If that pup was shocked, so were we. A killer whale! On dry land! It was an image to stamp indelibly on our minds the wonder of the natural world.

Yet that wonder is not only to be found in terrifying monstrous dramas on faraway beaches, nor is it only to be witnessed in television documentaries; it can be found all around us in Britain, and it is best experienced in personal encounters.

It is in that belief that today we are publishing the first of our Nature Club forums, where readers can share their more distinctive sightings of our wildlife, their more unusual meetings with our mammals and birds, our reptiles and amphibians, our flowers and insects.

We know that for the people involved, these encounters are often memorable; we hope they will be for you too, even if killer whales bursting out of the water are unlikely to be encountered at the edge of a pond in Somerset.