Category Archives: conservation

Keeping it wild in winter

Millions of us will be tuning into Winterwatch this week as our TV screens are filled with natural winter treats. There is always a slight misconception that nature shuts down during the shorter days and as the temperature hovers around freezing. Yet there is still plenty to see and do; and its a great time to get planning as we move towards Spring. So in true list style here are five things to keep you occupied on the nature front.

  1. Visit a local nature reserve. You’re never that far from a natural wonder, where-ever you live. Organisations such as the RSPB, Wildlife Trusts and National Trust have some great places to explore and the winter time is no exception. You’ll see them in a raw state as they start to come alive with the turning of the wild clocks to warmer days. Repeat the visit during the different season and you will develop a special connection.
  2. Read a nature book. In the last decade writing about nature has boomed. And there is a treasure chest of classics that have been re-issued by publishers such as Little Toller. So pop to a local bookshop, library or browse online and pick a book or some poetry to transport you into the magic of nature.
  3. Get volunteering. Green places, such as City Farms, need people to help out. Spending some time helping to make these wonderful places beacons for wildlife is really rewarding and you can get to know some great local charities. There is always plenty to do what-ever the time of year. Or you can taker part in survey’s such as the RSPB Big Garden Watch at the end of January. Many conservation organisations run similar citizen science projects throughout the year.
  4. Watch the birdies. We all know about the wonder that is the Dawn Chorus; a sound that captures the heart and lifts the soul. But the winter can be a fab time to tune into local songbirds, whether the Dawn or Dusk Chorus. And with few leaves on the trees you can actually see them too.
  5. Go for a wander. If you take the time to look you can find nature in many surprising places. Take the time to go for a wander, either from where you live or in to the local countryside. There are plenty of great walking books or plot a route on an OS Map or online. As you walk look, listen and absorb. You’ll spot things that you would have never thought would be there and you’ll get so much out of it.

So if you love Winterwatch (and the BBC Watches more generally) use it as a way to get up off of the sofa and out into the outdoors. You won’t regret it.

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Time for a great British meadow revival

If you were a time lord and could travel back in time to say the 1950s the British countryside would be awash with a mosaic of meadows. They were a staple of the farming system which was full of wild life.

In the last six decades things have changed pretty drastically. Haymeadows have declined by around 90%; a common yet sad stat for many of our fragile habitats. The green revolution in farming (ie more intensive farming) and other changes in land use created the perfect conditions for a slow long decline.

And yet it doesn’t have to be this way. There is a gradual, very British, revolution taking place. Conservation organisations like the National Trust, Plantlife and the Wildlife Trusts (supported by lottery funding and public support), are at the forefront of introducing a change in the way that land is managed to re-introduce haymeadows. They clearly see the value of a habitat that creates a place for wildflowers and insects to flourish.

Visiting a haymeadow in the summer when its just about to peak is a wonderful experience. The plethora of grasses gently sway in the summer breeze, wildflowers add a splash of colour like a Monet painting and butterflies bask in the sunshine. Its one of those experiences that just captivates you.

meadows

A local meadow in Bath, helping to create rich habitats for local wildlife

This slow change in the way that we see the land has also arrived in our towns and cities. At a time of challenging budgets for local authorities creating a network of meadows makes financial sense and enriches the local green spaces. In Bath over the last couple of years mini-meadow projects have been popping up across the city.

These wild places are great for people living in urban areas to reconnect with the natural world. Often small patches of green, they add a vibrancy, and a sense of why nature is so important as a tonic for our busy screen based lives.

April and May pictures 074

At Bath City Farm, thanks to funding from Natural England, a haymeadow is being re-created on a steep sided hill. When you wander around the nature trail, you will in June, come across a field full of buttercups and with this new meadow project the diversity of flowers will only grow.

Meadows can have a slightly romantic feel to them; those sun-kissed days full of dappled light and the lush warm colours. And yet they provide a really important place for nature to call home. Its time that the Great British Meadow revival really took hold so that they once again become a common sight across our wonderful landscapes.

08.05.16 – Attenborough Day

Like millions of Britons I was brought up on a diet of Sir David Attenborough television programmes. Life on Earth introduced me to the wonders of the natural world. Brilliant filming combined with the Attenborough narrative left me spellbound and got me hooked on nature.

You can’t really underestimate his contribution to our national love affair with nature over the decades. He has helped to showcase the best of nature and its complex relationships and intriquing behaviour but also the massive challenges that wildlife faces in the 21st century.

Its his wondeful storytelling ability that has captivated generations of people; helping to deconstruct really complex ecological systems and allow viewers to understand what is happening . I like the fact that my kids love his programming as much as me and that we’ll sit down as a family to enjoy these epic on screen adventures.

At a time when people’s connection with nature on a daily basis has been diminishing I think that this year is the time to launch Attenborough Day – to celebrate Sir David’s birthday. The natural world is a fragile place and Sir David has told its story so beautifully over many decades and we should all spill out into nature on the 8 May to show what it means to us all.

When Sir David turns 90 on the 8 May wouldn’t it be brilliant if we could all take the time to look at nature and listen to nature where we live, connecting with the nature on our doorstep.  It would be amazing if people could commit to do their bit for wildlife where they live either by volunteering or supporting organisations that help species and habitats. Maybe it could be a good time to go on a family walk in the woods or find a local nature reserve that you’ve always been meaning to go to.

I’ll be taking my kids to Folly Farm, an amazing Avon Wildlife Trust place, to get some wild time, and spend time immersed in the beauty of spring.

The day is the perfect chance for people to commit to make a difference and share the stories of success in the world of wildlife; giving us all the hope that we can reverse the decline that we have seen in the last 60 years and showing that #Attenboroughday is one where hope shines bright.

We don’t want a rubbish coast

There is something very sad about seeing a beach littered with pink plastic bottles. Last week Poldhu beach in West Cornwall became the latest victim of stuff floating around in our seas. Yes this might have come from a container that disappeared over the side of a ship but it’s symbolic of our often casual attitude the oceans.

poldhupollution Steve Haywood

After an overnight high tide last week National Trust staff and volunteers were met with hundreds more pink detergent bottles washed up at Poldhu and Gunwalloe in West Cornwall. Over a thousand were cleared from Poldhu beach this morning, and the local opinion is that numbers are increasing not tailing off. The pink bottles are now also being found in Mount’s Bay, to the west of Poldhu.

Marine waste is a big issue. Our seas are full of the stuff. And the impact can be felt in terms of how our beaches look and the wildlife that calls the seaside that we all love home. Think of the last time that you were at the coast and some of the disregarded rubbish strewn along a beach. I remember being on a beautiful beach in south Pembrokeshire which was full of disregarded fishing nets; not a great experience for families and potentially lethal for seabirds.

A few years back the Head Ranger on the Farne Islands tweeted a picture of a seabird that he’d found tangled in a balloon. For this bird it would get a second chance but for many others they don’t. The picture quite rightly provoked a lot of concern about what is happening along our coastline.

Teams of coastal Rangers and volunteers help to keep our beaches clean. Their tireless efforts mean that we can enjoy beaches free of litter and sometimes potentially nasty surprises. The beach cleans that happen on a regular basis are a good indicator of the sheer volume of rubbish and the scale of the problem.

We can all do our bit to make sure that our waste footprint along the coast is zero (if there are no bins just take it home and don’t casually chuck your rubbish somewhere that people might not see it). And there needs to be more of an effort by Government to make sure that marine litter is reduced and that shipping and boats think about how they deal with their rubbish.

It really is rubbish to find a favourite beach or a spectacular stretch of coastline blighted by litter. Loads of people are keeping our coast special by helping to clear it up and we need to make sure that we’re not adding to the problem.

 

Nature Open Days…coming to a town near you

Heritage Open Days is a great idea. It’s a chance to open up a window on the cultural heritage world that people don’t normally get to see. For the last twenty years every September it showcases the best in those places that you always wondered what was behind those doors or gates.

In similar vein there is also the national gardens scheme open garden weekend every June where passionate gardeners open up their pride and joy to local people.

These open days are great ideas – giving people access to places behind bricks and mortar or garden gates.

A footpath along the River Avon in Bath; a haven for nature framed by the trees.

A footpath along the River Avon in Bath; a haven for nature framed by the trees.

So, how about creating a green space and nature rich alternative for our villages, towns and cities?

Nature open days could be a great way for people to find out more about the green spaces on their doorsteps and find new green spaces that they never knew existed. Eighty per cent of us live in urban areas and this is the perfect chance to open a window on the wildlife on buildings, pavements, garden walls and patches of ground.

Many of us spend large chunks of time commuting – I know that I do. And with those days out at weekends or catching up with jobs around the house there is little time to explore your local neighbourhood.

Nature open days would be a great chance to bring together passionate experts and people that love the natural world with communities to go on a journey of discovery. Local natural history societies or conservation groups could get involved in helping people connect with local patches that are good for nature.

You could either have a walk around a local green space at a specific time. Maybe as a dawn chorus or following a route along a river or into some woodland.

Or it could be a longer citizen science style event when people can help record all of the different species. This could be short slots for families or over longer periods of time.

All of this would happen over one weekend across the urban areas of the UK.

Either way its about helping to the story of these places and look at how we need to link up our urban green spaces.

And like the other open days it would be free to get involved or perhaps a chance to raise money via donations for local wildlife projects.

Roadside verges, green spaces, back lanes and patches of woodland are all waiting to be discovered in urban areas. And the great thing is that you don’t need to be an expert to listen to birdsong, wonder at moss on trees and enjoy beautiful wild flowers.

Lanes behind houses can be great wildlife corridors for mammals, insects and in the summer come alive with wild flowers

Lanes behind houses can be great wildlife corridors for mammals, insects and in the summer come alive with wild flowers

The act of wandering around using your senses is a great way of connecting the health and nature agendas. Local GPs or healthcare centres could encourage people to join the walks. And it would be a great way for families to spend time having a wild time with kids collecting stuff or taking pictures of what they see.

The open days could be held in late May or early June, over a weekend, as spring becomes summer; perhaps linking in to BBC Springwatch as its beamed into the homes of millions. It would allow people to walk to nature where they live rather than having to go deep into the countryside.

Hopefully these days could become a catalyst for people to come together to look after these every day nature spaces metres away from where they live. There is something rather appealing about walking to see nature and seeing nature en route, without having to travel to nature reserves; you never know what you might find.