A day in the life of an environmental consultant – May 2017

Carol instructing on frappingMay continued to be packed with breeding wader surveys on 13 farms across North Kent.
This year it seems that some of the farmers had really cracked it when it comes to water and grass management.
In what has been an exceptionally dry spring some farmers have managed to hold water onto their land and this, along with grazing meant that we saw birds breeding on sites where they hadn’t been in twenty years. Even sites which are located amid industry and powerlines can produce results if the management is right and the site of lapwings swooping amid a backdrop of supermarkets and car plants on Sheppey filled me with joy.

a tree with high potential as a bat roost

A tree with high potential as a bat roost

Josh and I also attended an excellent course on Bats and Aboriculture run by the Bats Conservation Trust in Richmond Park . Over two days we learnt about the law regarding tree work and bat roosts, how to identify bat signs and use an endoscope. Josh, a qualified aboriculturalist, and I hope to use this work Autumn to identify potential bat roosts and advise land owners on correct management.
In the middle of the month I spent a day out on Chislet Marshes with Rhino plantJW and Jamie removing parrot's feather controlling parrot’s feather on behalf of the River Stour IDB. This invasive plant has colonised an extensive area of ditch on the marshes and will take many years to control. Due to the extensive water vole population management it is important to not remove too much marginal vegetation and, following extensive survey work and advice, it was felt that the best approach was a strong weed cut in the autumn with booms placed in the channel to prevent fragments floating downstream followed up with hand weed pulling on the margins throughout the spring and autumn.
A bird survey of the channel identified areas where it was safe for the guys to work and John Waller and team worked hard to remove each small fragment of the plant. Later this year I will be working with the Kentish Stour Countryside Partnership volunteers to continue this work.
Peter and clive with bermLastly the KSCP volunteers did some excellent work at Port Rill where the IDB have undertaken enhancement work installing woody debris in the channel. This work was completed in the winter and the improvements have been excellent. A previously sluggish and silty channel has begun to assume a more natural profile with meanders and riffles forming and the wide berms are becoming colonised by a diverse range of plants. The volunteer team worked to install faggots and smaller woody debris to the existing berms to create more micro habitats of benefit to fish and aquatic invertebrates.

On the Marshes – Tour

I am going to be out and about this summer promoting my book, On the Marshes. Catch me in the following spots.


Saturday July 15th
1.30pm – 2.30pm
Wealden Literary Festival, Boldshaves Garden, Woodchurch, Kent
I attended the first Wealden Literary Festival last year and loved the location set in these beautiful gardens. Come and join me and the marvellous Ros Coward in a yurt where we will attempt to entertain you.

Wednesday 30th August 2017
Waterstones, Canterbury
I will be doing a Q&A and a reading at Waterstones this evening. Hopefully in the company of my former boss, Alan Johnson, South East regional conservation director for the RSPB, whom I look forward to bantering with.

Whitstable Literary Festival

Whitstable Literary Festival

Last weekend I attended the Whitstable Literary Festival where I had the good fortune to be interviewed by Guardian Journalist, Ros Coward, met an enthusiastic audience, sold out of books and learnt that literary festivals are rather like rock tours. A place to try out ideas on an audience and see what grabs them.

Thanks to Whitlit for having me. Ros for all her help, MLP for photos and the lovely audience for supporting me and buying my book.

photo 1

photo 3 Ros C and I laughing at Whitlitphoto 5 audience shotphoto 6 engaging with the audiencea long queue to sign books

A baby leaves the nest

blue tit baby tooSo here we go. That day of the year when me and all the neighbourhood stress out. The day that the blue tits fledge from my nest box.

This year there appears to be only one. One precious chick that the parents have worked their socks off to get this far and now flops around the garden, calling, calling and attracting every predator in the area to come and investigate.

I am out there early on cat watch but I can’t stay out all day. My neighbour is out in the garden enjoying a rare glimpse of warm sun and trying to read a book.

“I have to go in and clean the house,” I tell you. “You have to take over.”

She calls in the help of Blue, the Chihuahua. “You have work to do, Blue,” she tells him. See off the cats.”

I go inside to try to get on with my weekend chores but all the time one eye is on the garden.  I try to do the washing up. A Jay arrives. I am torn. Jays have babies to feed too and my blue tit chick would make a good meal. I can’t interfere in the natural order, not really but I convince myself I am going out to check on the washing on the line and it flies off.

All day this will go on. The chick will call and seem unable to fly and I and all the neighbours will fret.

“What happens at nightfall?” My neighbour asks. “You can’t just leave it. You will have to take it in and feed it.”

I tell her that nature has to take its course. I know it has to. I know that the blue tit baby must learn to fend for itself or die but it is hard not to interfere when something so seemingly helpless is under your care.

Gill Moore – an inspirational women.

21 Gill Moore at CliffeToday I learnt the terribly sad news that Gill Moore, one of the founding members of Friends of the North Kent Marshes, died yesterday after collapsing while returning from a trip out to the marshland near her home.

Gill was an inspirational, fearless and knowledgeable campaigner, who threw herself into protecting the countryside and wildlife she loved. She was a fundamental part of the No Airport at Cliffe campaign and more recently the Estuary Airport campaign.

Her huge contribution in protecting the marshes was recognised by the RSPB who awarded her and her fellow FONKM members the Presidents Award.

I think everyone who knew Gill is shocked by this news and feels her loss. We need Gill to help us in the continuous fight to protect this area . We know she would have been a huge asset in the defence of Lodge Hill from the plan to develop the SSSI for housing.

We need Gill and we need many more people like her. People willing to tackle politicians and raise awkward points at meetings and be on the front line in raising awareness of the importance of not only the marshes but all our wild places.

Gill appears in my book On the Marshes, doing what she did best. Spreading her message to everyone she passed. Telling them how important the area is for wildlife and what they could do to help protect it.

“We love the marshes quiet and peaceful,” Gill once told me, “but we know that people will only care about it is they visit and see how special it is for themselves.”

The best I can do for Gill Moore today is to continue to do just that. Tell people about the North Kent Marshes and encourage them to visit and value it. We lost an ally yesterday but the fight goes on.