The woods are lovely, dark and deep but I have miles to go before I can sleep easy over this one.
Great news yesterday that the planning application which proposed 5000 houses on one of the best nightingale sites in the countryside has been withdrawn.
Lodge Hill, a SSSI woodland and former MOD site is a fabulous local resource for wildlife and people. Purple emperor butterflies have recently been discovered breeding there and early purple orchids grow along the damp shady paths.
Despite all of this the site was earmarked for development. A position championed by Medway Council. 12,000 people protested, spearheaded by the RSPB’s Save Lodge Hill campaign and now the developer, if not the council, has listened to local people and withdrawn its plans.
This is great news but we all know the way these things go. Tomorrow I fear will come another application and then another and another. One ‘No’ is never enough. Developers attempt to wear people down. Planners have no fight left in them even when they know developments are wrong and the government does nothing of any real worth to protect our countryside and resolve the housing issues by capping prices in London and making sure all new developments are 100% affordable.
Shame on Simon Jones Medway Council’s leader for condemning the developer for pulling out. For once common sense has prevailed and today at least Lodge Hill is safe.
August was a busy month with river surveys for the River Stour Internal Drainage Board.
The Board manages a huge variety of channels from small natural wooded streams, to wide drainage channels across former marshland to urban rivers.
Some of the channels offer ample opportunity for enhancements such as at Buxford Dyke in Ashford, a channel which traditionally supported white clawed crayfish. Fencing cattle from streams, removing weirs and installing cobbles in the channel could all help manage silt and provide hiding spots for crayfish.
cattle can cause issues with silt downstream
Sometimes the easy part is knowing what could be done to benefit the river. The harder task is persuading authorities and landowners that the work will be beneficial and not increase flood risk.
Traditional management practices sometimes involved drastic measure such as setting fire to channel banks and widening channels by dredging. These practices often were disastrous for wildlife and stored up issues for the future as widening narrow streams allows more silt to drop out in the centre of the channel creating a fertile ground for weed growth which blocks channels and may lead to flooding. More work needs to be done to show river managers and landowners that natural management techniques, such as allowing woody debris to remain in the channel can be beneficial.
Urban channels have different issues and Pumping Station Dyke, also in Ashford, suffers from fly tipping, invasive species and terrible bankside management by local businesses. Surveying a channel such as this it is easy to despair at the disregard many people show to their local areas and the low status of rivers in towns. With a channel such as this joined up thinking is needed for local bodies to work together to tackle issues such as fly tipping and misconnected sewers.
The month ended with a visit to Bourne Dyke, a beautiful channel set amid wet woodland with some fantastic old pollarded trees. Here the landowner has shown an interest in making improvements for wildlife and it is easy to get enthusiastic at the opportunity this could provide for restoring the natural wetland areas of this valley.
looking to the future
New Nature is an online magazine aimed at people under thirty who care about wildlife and the countryside. This is exactly the audience I would most like to connect with and be read by (although I’m delighted to be read by everyone) but I do place all my hope in what follows me. Many thanks to Ben Eagle for his great review which you can read here
photo: Simon Houstoun
Great night at Waterstones in Canterbury on Wednesday. Many thanks to Martin for a great interview and all the staff who looked after me. Thanks also to everyone who came and to those who bought a book.
photo: Simon Houstoun
Enjoying a great summer read
Many thanks to Countryfile magazine for picking On the Marshes as one of their great summer reads. Read the review here
Not content with destroying our wildlife rich brownfield sites and scrublands, developers are now after our community woodlands. A company called Gleeson Strategic Land Limited is proposing a development of 121 houses on Bloors Lane Community Woodland an important site for wildlife and local people.
If developments like this are allowed to go ahead then it will green light a raft of proposals to develop local nature reserves and country parks.
The company claim the woodland is under used. Under used by who? It is a valuable resource for hedgehogs, field voles and woodland birds struggling to survive as our countryside and their routes through it are swallowed up by concrete.
Medway Council should do the right thing and stop this proposal before it even has the chance to get started.
This month I am interviewed by Countryside Voice, the magazine for CPRE. Sorry about the fuzzy screenshot, we all know I am hopeless with technology.