Here we go again. Back on the merry-go-round that is the current planning system as another development company propose to destroy a wildlife rich site home to endangered species.
Gleeson Strategic Land are proposing to build 121 houses and the normal associated roads and car parks over a site which is currently home to the UK’s fastest declining bird, the turtle dove. This bird, already threatened with global extinction, will come one step closer to it once the site in Berengrave Road in Rainham, Kent is stripped of the scrubland the birds need to breed.
The site is currently a tapestry of native woodland, grassland and scrub and home to slow worms, common lizards, bats and badgers but, as always, this means nothing to the men who wish to tear it up for a quick profit.
The site is in the perfect location to provide a natural corridor for our native wildlife, adjacent to a community woodland and close to SSSI’s. It could provide a much needed green lung for our every expanding towns. It could be managed as part of the community woodland and provide a resource for local schools. Or it could, as is happening at a every increasing rate, be ripped apart to create yet another ugly housing estate with a minimum of affordable houses for local people.
Medway Council must take a tougher stance and say no to these developments if we are to have any green space left. It must put housing in town centres. It must make development 100% affordable for local people. It must make developers pay long term for local amenity and countryside management instead of being allowed to throw up badly designed houses, inconvenience everyone with roadworks and clog up roads with traffic.
It must give more protection to our fast declining wildlife not just turtle doves but sparrows, hedgehogs, bullfinches and bumblebees, all of which will suffer from this development. If the council does not begin to reject these developments and all the subsequent appeals then more of our wildlife will slip off the face of the local map.
October has been a busy month, working with farmers across Kent to improve marshland and rivers for wildlife.
The North Kent Breeding Wader project is gaining pace helped by a grant scheme administered by Kent Wildlife Trust. This funding scheme gives grants to landowners to undertake work on their land for the benefit of wetland wildlife. Almost all the farmers I worked with applied for the grant and, while the land is still dry, they have been busy creating scrapes, restoring rills, fixing pumps and improving water control.
Mid month I joined farmer Mr Wood and contractors Taylor Bros near Conyer to scrape back rush from an overgrown rill in order to create bare earth ideal for lapwings to feed on.
Surveys carried out by KWT had shown there were no water vole present and so we could use the opportunity to create a shallow sloping edge. Good visibility is important for ground nesting birds so they can see and drive off predators. Crouching down at the water’s edge, I tried to look at the world from a lapwings point of view in order to get the correct bank profile.
This month also saw the completion of the first round of parrots feather removal from Chislet Marshes near Birchington on Sea. The River Stour Internal Drainage Board worked with Kentish Stour Countryside Partnership volunteers to remove every fragment of the plant from 500m stretches of the upstream reaches of three channels which the plant has colonised.
Volunteers from KSCP search for Parrot’s feather on Chislet Marshes
In future years we hope to work slowly downstream pulling out the plant from the margins as it is hopefully eradicated from the upper reaches. This approach has been chosen so that we can remove the invasive without damaging other marginal flora .
Officers from the EA and IDB discuss improvements for white clawed crayfish.
Lastly this month I met with white clawed crayfish experts from the Environment Agency to talk about management of channels which are proving strongholds for these endangered creatures. Working with the landowners and the IDB we hope to cut the weed from the channels in a way which will help maintain connectivity between isolated populations and add cobbles to the channel to give the crayfish places to shelter under.
Lapwings in Kent: A good news story.
It is hard to be positive about nature when everything seems so bleak.
Here in the South East of England I find that some days the only way to stay happy is to get through the day with blinkers on. Drive through a pretty Kentish village, ignore the mini red brick city springing up on its fringes and instead focus on the golden light of autumn leaves. Ignore that you have been stuck in yet another traffic jam for an hour and marvel at the spindled beauty of winter twigs against a marbled sky. Look at the good news story not the bad.
Some people are the opposite. Some people just want to focus on the negatives, declare the world black and that we shouldn’t even try to change things. This kind of defeatist attitude just swallows up hope and effort and good will.
Here in North Kent we are being overwhelmed with ugly housing estates and traffic but we also have some fabulous farmers who are working their socks off to improve their land for waders. Yes, because they are paid by the government to do so but also, I truly believe, because they want to see lapwings plummeting over their fields almost as much as I do. Because lapwing flight brings joy and, together we are helping to spread that joy to more and more land in Kent. This is good news.
I stand by rivers and see the trout run down gravel streams and sometimes I find it hard that I am not able to do more to reconnect those streams with their flood plains but I also have to remember that this stream is on the edge of a city that once supported a tannery industry that polluted the rivers to the point that no fish ventured there.
I have to remember that once the sheep grazing the fields would have been dipped in chemicals so powerful that they would linger in the food chain and kill off otters. I have to remember that I have heard a rumour that otters are hunting the shallow just downstream again.
I have to remember that we are in a battle to protect the wildlife of our country and in battle there is no room for defeatism.
The Upchurch Raven is almost a mythological bird. I had begun to doubt it’s existence but today I finally saw it, sailing over the marshes and giving it’s trademark cronking call.
Sidney Cooper Gallery, 22-23 St Peter’s Street, Canterbury
I am delighted to be taking part in the Writing Comes Alive festival run by Canterbury Christ Church University. Come and see me get enthusiastic over the marshes. on Tuesday 7th November between 6.00pm and 7.30pm
The woods around Canterbury are dotted with the tents of people sleeping rough but BBC One’s Inside Out programme chose to visit two really interesting examples of enterprising people living outdoors. Homeless is a label that covers a huge range of circumstances but this report shows that, for some people, outdoor living is a life choice.