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Wednesday, November 30, 2011

Reflections of a Curlew: New Relationship With Nature - The Government is g...

By visiting the  Blog shown below you can read a lot more about the Radio 4 programme and Mary Colwell's thoughts on the subject.

Reflections of a Curlew: New Relationship With Nature - The Government is g...: The Great Hall at the University of Bristol for the recording of Sustaining Life for Radio 4 Panelists J...

World population and nature

I listened to a poem written specially for the occasion and read out by the poet during the Radio 4 recording on Monday evening.   In the middle of a discussion about world population growth and its effect on nature it was a dramatic part of the whole evening. Listening to it live is probably the best way to experience the poets feelings for the subject. Below are some extracts from a transcript of the spoken word.The reading had more impact by taking place in the Great Hall of Bristol University. Its  a splendid venue.
You can find out more about the Radio 4 programme by going to my later posting.

Listen to the recorded programme on Dec 23rd on Radio 4.

Go for a walk run in the woods and breathe in
Mother nature till she fills your veins
Travel, view, as many beautiful landscapes
as you can until your imagination complains



Sit on top of a satellite see the world
and the lands on which we all live
Take it in and ask yourself what can I invent?
what can I not take? What can I give?


Trust her she continues to feed us
and give us all we need to drink
but she does more than that
She’s that essential creative link

You can do it, amaze yourself,
this place is all we’ve got
This is our home and our children’s
children’s, children’s home
What? Don’t tell me you forgot?

Read by the poet, Miles Chambers

Wednesday, November 23, 2011

Living Landscapes

Its always good to start with a great photograph and I think this qualiflies. Photo by John Bebbington showing a Large Elephant Hawke moth on honeysuckle. I include it because its a special image but also as a demonstration of the wildlife that the subject of this post is all about.

Its probably three years since I heard Diana Pound run a session at a Wildlife Trust  AGM. I liked the subject and format and kept in touch with her consultancy by email. Details of a big event next Feb have just been announced and the subject is very topical and very relevant to the world we find ourselves in. I hope that people will  enquire  about this event and I hope someone from Somerset will be able to attend. Living Landscapes are an important part of SWT strategy.

Click here for more details.

and if you want to see what the Somerset Wildlife Trust means by the term Living Landscape, click here

 Here is a brief extract from the flier for the event:

This event champions smarter thinking, co-operation and collaboration to help you achieve more with less across urban and rural landscapes and benefit people, places and wildlife.

Keys to success are effective partnerships, pooled resources, effective communication, good practice stakeholder participation, novel collaborations and social enterprise.

Tuesday, November 22, 2011

Orchid - night flowering

Our local orchids

Having a photo of a common pyramidal orchid on the header for my Blog I was very interested to see a news report on BBC about a new variety of orchid which normally only flowers at night. It was discovered in Papua New Guinea in an area authorised for logging!
Click here to go to the BBC web page. On the page is another link to  " videos, news and facts " about orchids both in the UK and world wide.
We have two species on our local meadow, Bee and Pyramidal.
On our local Wildlife Trust reserves we can find around half a dozen species. We are planning to organise a visit to all 15 or so reserves next summer and will record what we can find.

Thursday, November 17, 2011

Being a volunteer with the Wildlife Trust is almost a full time job and in another short briefing here are some of the recent activities I find myself involved in.

No sooner had I sent off my comments to my MP and the Gov on the NPPF ( see my earlier post) than I learn about the Neighbourhood Planning Bill  ( which I suppose I had heard about but not taken too seriously). It might be very significant and I've started finding out what its implications might be. I think there is a consultation period now so that could important but what should we say?

I might join the local history society to find our more about the history of the hedges round our village and fields. Some are likely to be hundreds of years old. It important from a wildlife point of view to be able to argue against any move to cut them down.

Attended a meeting of the local Area Groups a couple of weeks ago, which is a good place to find out how other groups are getting on . We can them make our views known to the Trust. We have some differences about how we volunteers would like more support  in trying to get better web site coverage and in making contact with our members. An ongoing discussion. Our Group had thought about having its own web site but that's on hold at present.

This week have had a local group committee meeting with two guests who might join our committee. The meeting as usual ranged over quite a few topics and might have been a little confusing for our guests. Talked about our future programme of events for 2012. More summer site visits to our local reserves perhaps. Tonight we have a talk about the importance of woodlands and how they function. Hope we have a reasonable turnout.

Yesterday spent most of the day at the HQ of the SWT. First in a meeting of the Private and Community Nature Reserves  Network . Its just a way for land owners with a few acres to get help in managing their land for the benefit of wildlife  and to be able to share their experience. with others.There are about 200 members. Discussed two field events next year with a Botany field trip included

Most of us stayed on to sit in on a presentation by the  manager of the local RSPCA rescue and rehabilitation centre. Its about 10 miles from here and I hope to arrange a visit to see their work and facilities. Very impressive.

Lastly a committee member is hoping to find more people to take a few battery hens from local farmers who are banned from keeping chickens in battery conditions from next Jan. A good idea , not wildlife of course and I don't think we could cope with looking after them. The Hen Welfare Trust will tell you more.

That'll do for this week.

PS Don't forget that the IPCC is meeting this week in Kampla between 18th and 19th. We should hear their latest news and views on climate change.

Reflections of a Curlew: People and Wildlife - A Shared Earth - BBC Recording

You might find the programme referred to in the link of interest. Just click on the words above. I've reserved three tickets and as far as I can see tickets are still available. ( checked today 20.11.11). 
This is a BBC recording on November 28th at 6.30 pm for a Radio 4  programme  debating world population issues and their effect on Wildlife.The programme will be broadcast on 23rd Dec 20.00 hrs and repeated on the 24th
Its part of a series which I regret I havent picked up on before called "Saving Species"  and this particular programme is titled Population and the Natural World.Its produced by Mary Colwell who amongst other things writes the Blog at      or

Sunday, November 13, 2011

High speed train plans are off the rails | The Wildlife Trusts

 A friend who lives near the proposed route of the new  HS train asked me to do what I could to help their campaign to reduce the irreversible damage which will be caused to many environmentally vital areas along the route. I used to be a member of the local Berks,Bucks and Oxon Wildlife Trust (Visit their campaign page, here,  for full details of the wildlife which will be damaged or lost). It  covers much of  the Chilterns so I  feel personally the damage which will be done even though I now live over 100 miles away.  I'm showing below what the Royal Society of Wildlife Trusts has said about this project.

High speed train plans are off the rails | The Wildlife Trusts

High speed train plans are off the rails

Thursday 16th June 2011

Stephanie Hilborne OBE, Chief Executive of The Wildlife TrustsStephanie Hilborne OBE, Chief Executive of The Wildlife Trusts
"The Prime Minister will be heading ‘off the rails’ if he doesn’t withdraw the current HS2 proposal and fully consider the role of high speed rail in England.
At The Wildlife Trusts’ annual conference, held this week, chief executives of 36 local Wildlife Trusts signed a letter to David Cameron, in which they express shared concern at the “very serious damage to wildlife and the countryside that would result from development of the preferred route for the proposed high speed railway line from London to the West Midlands (HS2 Phase 1).”
The letter continues: “We recognise the need for an efficient and sustainable transport system and support moves to a low carbon economy. But as your government has recognised, nature also has great value both to the economy and to the well being of society. To develop built infrastructure at such cost to wildlife contradicts the principles at the heart of The Natural Choice: Securing the Value of Nature – a white paper we called for and greatly welcome.”
“We believe a fresh look is the only way for this Government to leave a positive legacy and to live up to its ambition"
Stephanie Hilborne OBE, Chief Executive of The Wildlife Trusts, calls on the Prime Minister, on behalf of its membership, to withdraw the proposal for High Speed 2 Phase 1 until there has been fuller strategic consideration of the role of High Speed Rail in this country.
She said: “The last Government initiated these proposals in the absence of this and the current assessment of options is in our view flawed. It has failed to take proper account of alternative approaches to improving the speed and capacity of train routes north from London, or even alternative routes for HS2.
“We believe a fresh look is the only way for this Government to leave a positive legacy and to live up to its ambition, expressed in the white paper, of ensuring that ‘this generation is the first to leave the natural environment of England in a better state than it inherited’.”
The Wildlife Trusts have a total membership of more than 800,000 and is the largest voluntary organisation dedicated to conserving the full range of the UK’s habitats and species."

I feel obliged to write yet again to our "Green " government.

Thursday, November 10, 2011

National Planning Policy Framework ( NPPF ) Reply to my comments.

I was pleased this morning to receive in the post a letter from the Under Secretary of State replying via my MP to my comments on the NPPF.
I was intending to include it in this post but I have a problem with my scanning so hope to add it later.
I take it to mean that whilst it doesn't say that they agree with me, of course, it might show a glimmer of hope that the Govt is listening to the public and all the other organisations who have criticised the proposals.

I've copied it to our Wildlife Trust so they can see that we volunteers and doing our bit to support their more official efforts.

We have a committee meeting next week so I'll be able to show the results of my comments. We also have our next public meeting with a talk on the importance of woodlands. Woods are often one of the elements of our countryside which suffer with housing and commercial developments.

With some help I can now attach the letter. Just deleted my address.

Wednesday, November 09, 2011

Spider. Smallest and oldest

BBC News has the story behind the presentation of a 53 million year old, 1mm spider found in a piece of amber in France.

Click .here

Friday, November 04, 2011

National Planning Policy Framework ( NPPF )

The Kingfisher Project introduces primary school children to wild life out on the fields of a local farm.

Here they were examining owl pellets to identify their food and then being shown a beehive.

There is a great deal of work going on in many ways to educate our children in environmental matters.

But I've just written to my MP! I am commenting on the consultation process which has been held recently about proposed changes to planning law. This is a personal view not necessarily the views of our local group.

David Heath CBE MP, House of Commons, London SW1A 0AA

Dear David Heath MP,

Thank you for your letter dated 13th October on the subject of the NPPF.
I did also send my comments via the web site for comments.

I made the point that I have had some contact with planning laws over many years, first in my work in the construction industry and more recently as a member of a local village society in Buckinghamshire and very recently as a volunteer with the Somerset Wildlife Trust.

The words “presumption in favour of development” jumped off the page in the draft document and I can’t believe they are meaningless or should be read to mean nothing has changed. The whole exercise is designed to change what had gone before.
To say that nothing has changed since the 1940’s is, I’m afraid, a sad reflection on our failure to respond to the huge advance in Climate Change science which will be no doubt reviewed again in South Africa shortly.  Biodiversity loss is yet another related major issue.

The opening words in the document should have said that there is a presumption to ensure environmental sustainability before any development is approved.  The future of our one and only planet is quite important.

I notice that even our military leaders recognise that running an aircraft carrier is unsustainable. That is new!

I notice you refer to protection afforded to national parks, AONB’s and SSSI’s. I am involved in the conservation of a Local Wildlife Site and they are important too.

Your enthusiasm for The Localism Bill is worrying. To remove carefully worked out national directives which have the benefit of scientific guidance will leave local councillors very much in the dark in trying to decide which developments are sustainable. There have been plenty of local examples of pressure being applied to get council approval for suspect schemes, some within your own constituency.
It is a concern that the South Somerset District Council has only one Ecologist employed and then only part time.

I can only hope that you and your colleagues will exercise your own due diligence in making sure you don’t preside over a damaging new law.
Yours sincerely,


Starlings at Dawn!
Here is a good reason to join the Twitter family. Somerset Wildlife Trust provides a lot of news items this way and I recommend you sign up to Twitter and follow Somerset Wildlife Trust. I've copied the Tweet information which may give you a link to this particular photo. If you are already on Twitter then it should be straight forward.

I'm pleased to see this photo taken at dawn as the overnight roosting birds leave to to go back to their "day job" I fully intend to make the early visit myself soon.

Som Wildlife Trust

Cracking photo of the starlings leaving Ham Wall - early morning magic ^JA

or try this:

Starlings | Flickr - Photo Sharing!

Wednesday, November 02, 2011

Local news

I think I should Blog about some of the small stuff going on in my small part of Somerset. We're getting on with our programme of public meetings. Talks so far on Beavers and then on Rattle Snakes I missed the first which whilst an important conservation subject only attracted a small attendance. Snakes were a more popular subject. We need a certain number paying our very reasonable charges just to cover the cost of the speaker and the hire of the hall.
Last Sundays walk in the Beer Wood was excellent and discovered a rare species for this part of Europe. That was a bit special for the group and a good addition to the record. We must look again next year to see if it will reappear.
Here is a picture of the moment of discovery! Identified as Battarrea phalloides or also  known as a Sandy Stiltball. Followed by the Group gathering round to see what all the fuss was about.I should add that the specimen was well into the cycle of dispersal of spores but the specimen was left in place as a sensible practice. 

I came across an old small booklet recently on the subject of hedges. Their  history is very much tied up in social history going back to the Enclosure Laws which allowed land owners to make it impossible for the general public to have access. It included articles on methods of dating hedges based on a survey of the numbers of species of shrubs and trees that had appeared over time. I've made contact with a local History Society to see if they can help in any way with identifying local ancient hedges.

  This photo is of our newly planted hedge three years ago which contains seven species of hedge plants. According to the theory if you found a hedge with such a number of species it would be several hundreds of years old. That might be confusing at some time in the future! Here is a picture of a worthy volunteer doing the planting by fitting canes and  plastic guards to stop the rabbits from eating the young  plants..

Last Monday I attended a regular meeting of Chairs of Local Area Groups and had a very stimulating discussion about how we all function and how we relate to the parent body , the Somerset Wildlife Trust. Amongst many points raised was the need to review and update a 5 year old document which laid down rules and guidelines for the work we all do as volunteers. On the basis of the old rule that anyone who speaks out on such items gets asked to be involved in the job of doing the revision. So I've got a nice little project for the next 2 or 3 months.

Meanwhile of course our own small committee has its next meeting in a weeks time when we will need to review our future programe and work out what our priorities are. We are very limited in volunteer resources and need to attract more help.

Tuesday, November 01, 2011

Fungi Foray

We had another fascinating day in Beer Woods and the weather had been kind to us by raining during the week but giving us a dry day for our search.

I've just received a preliminary listing of the fungi spotted by the 14 members and friends who spent over two hours looking for specimens.

We are lucky that we have records of previous forays starting with 2004. A check on the numbers of different species seen shows a wide variation.
2004: 36; 2005:25, 2006:42, 2007:42, 2008: 48;  and now in 2011 a total of 23,  maybe with a few more awaiting identification.
Most fungi enthusiast in this area reckon it has been a bad year weather wise for fungi and our count reflects that.

Our group got quite excited by the discovery of a single specimen of Battarrea phalloides also known as Sandy Stiltball.  A rare find here apparently and a Red Data Book listing. When you have spent hours looking for the Holy Grail I think its reasonable to get a bit excited.