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Monday, June 09, 2008

Save our wildflower meadow

Here are some photos of a Bee Orchid and two specimens of Broomrape found in the meadow in the last few days and actually only discovered after the letter shown below had been written.

I am reproducing this slightly abbreviated letter sent to our local council as part of our campaign to get the ecological value of a meadow recognised before decisions are taken that could destroy the impressive
diversity of the flora and fauna. I hope that this letter and other submissions will be sufficient to win the argument. If we don't succeed the field will become just like any other recreation ground and, by comparison, virtually a green desert.

Dear ,
re: future use of the 4 acre field
I have recently had discussions with David German (Chair: Heart of the Levels group, SWT) about the above-mentioned subject.
My own interest in this is as an academic biologist who has had extensive experience in ecological research and fieldwork in the UK and African countries. I have been resident in South Somerset since 1988.
I have had a recent opportunity to examine the field in question and I have known the adjacent plot for about a year. At present both effectively form a single ecological entity which is an excellent example of an increasingly rare habitat in England. The species-rich meadow on the adjacent field has been found to harbour over 100 higher (flowering) plant species, including grasses and two orchid species: it is virtually certain that a similar composition exists in the field subject to debate.(Report by EJP Marshall, 2006).
My further comments in this letter will focus primarily on the field now proposed as a nature reserve. When seen on 8 May this field was impressively wildflower-rich, which emphasised the striking botanical biodiversity of the site. No doubt, the animal biodiversity will be similarly rich, particularly with respect to the insect life. For example, it is known that the nationally rare Brown Hairstreak Butterfly is established there and the nationally very local Marbled White Butterfly also breeds on the site, along with many commoner species.
The Natural Environment and Rural Communities (NERC) Act 2006 states that "Every public body must, in exercising its functions, have the purpose of conserving biodiversity". The Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs (DEFRA) indicated in its Guidance for Local Authorities on Implementing the Biodiversity Duty (2007) how local authorities can be assisted in fulfilling their duty in this respect.
A local authority can demonstrate that it has fulfilled its Duty with regard to biodiversity aims in several ways. For example, it can show that opportunities have been taken to integrate biodiversity considerations into all relevant service areas and functions, and in particular, to have ensured that biodiversity is protected in line with statutory obligations. Also, the local authority needs to raise awareness of staff, managers and elected members about biodiversity issues, and to demonstrate a real commitment and progress in relation to key local biodiversity initiatives, such as the field under consideration.
Full ecological protection and management of the field is urgently required in my own view as a professional biologist and ecologist. The Council is indeed fortunate to possess such a wonderfully diverse ecological site, the like of which, unfortunately, does not exist in my own parish. In order to conserve the structure of the flower-rich meadow it is important that the greater proportion of the field should not be altered significantly in any way. One or two pathways across the field could be mown to allow access so that the public can better appreciate the plant and animal (especially insect) life through the seasons. A track winding around the perimeter of the field would allow walkers and joggers to follow a fitness trail and would also encourage the inspection and appreciation of the hedgerows bordering the field. For example, searching for, and finding eggs of the Brown Hairstreak butterflies on blackthorn twigs in the winter would be a fun activity for children and families. And, a competition could be organised to find the first recorded sighting of an adult of the same species of butterfly on the hedgerows. They are incredibly difficult to find, even though they may be numerous in a particular area!
I hope these comments help you in deciding on the development and management plans for the field. If you have any general or specific questions I will be happy to try to answer them.
Yours sincerely,

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