Mark Avery Blog review of On the Marshes

my book in paperbackMark Avery and I swapped books at the recent Kent Ornithological Society conference where we were both speaking and has kindly put a review by Ian Carter on his blog. Mark’s book, Inglorious, is next on my reading list and no doubt I will return the favour.

Read the view here

 

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Shop local, be happier.

Terry's grocers

Terry’s Greengrocers, Upchurch. Gone but not forgotten

I was bought low a few weeks ago when I found out my beloved greengrocer, Terry’s of Upchurch, were closing. I can honestly say that my cycle through the lanes to the neighbouring village to shop there had been a highlight of every week. Not only was the cycle healthy and I felt I was ticking many green boxes by not taking the car and shopping local but I got to know the shopkeepers.

Each week we had a chat and a laugh and, for someone who works for themselves, such contact can be a highly useful support system. The food was excellent too. Local fruit and veg, sometimes so local that Terry went and pulled it out of his garden and I received it sprinkled in dirt with snails still chomping on it. I loved this, far rather a few snails than something sprayed in chemicals, clinically wrapped in cellophane and imported from a far flung outpost.

I was so so sad to see this shop, which had existed in the village for 40 years, close. Tina told me how the mums used to come to collect their kids from school and queue for their veg, now they jumped into 4×4’s and headed for the supermarket. Terry’s health was bad, it was hard work to get the food back from the market, long hours, no holiday, little financial reward. There son didn’t want to take over and so they were retiring and shutting up.

For weeks I have had a hole where this shop had been. The greengrocer in my own town had long since closed and the local farm shop, where I had once gone, had given over it’s shelf space to luxury jam and biscuits with actual real ingredients reduced to a small and highly expensive selection.

Then today I saw a sign. I must have passed it many times but it pointed an arrow to local veg and free range eggs. I followed the arrow, down a country lane and there it was. Grange Farm Shop. Inside was a great selection of local, free range veg, loose and not tied in annoying bundles of ten or sealed in yet more plastic. The greengrocer took my order. He had a chat, he threw in a free comice pair which he said I should try. I can cycle along the river to get there. Goodbye ASDA, TESCO and all other supermarket plastic wrapped veggies, my life is a little brighter once more.

Support your local veggie shop. You wont regret it.

A day in the life of an Environmental Consultant – October 2018

A day in the life of an Environmental Consultant – October 2018

Redshank

Redshank will only survive on farmland if we get our agricultural subsidy system right. 

At the beginning of October responsibility for Countryside Stewardship payments was transferred from Natural England to the Rural Payments Agency, in a move which sadly further undermines Natural England’s viability.

The recent ‘People’s Manifesto for Wildlife’ branded Natural England, ‘unfit for purpose,’ a sad indictment of an organisation, which was once seen within the industry, as a bastion of expertise and good judgment.

 
Many of the remaining staff still have that expertise but much of their power and any independent thought has been stripped away. The loss of Countryside Stewardship administration is seen as punishment for late payments to farmers but as Natural England have been subject to funding and staff cuts then it’s hardly surprising that mistakes and delays have occurred. Natural England are unfortunately being used as a political football in the debate about the future of our agriculture subsidies.

 
The Agricultural Bill, making its way through parliament, is central to decisions over where our public money goes. What should we pay farmers to do? Should we subsidise them to grow food or should the market pay for this? Should supermarkets be forced to pay a fair price to farmers and, if so, are we prepared to pay higher prices for our food? Should we reward farmers for providing ‘public goods,’ the things which benefit us all; good soils, clean air and water, biodiversity and countryside access?

 
Away from Westminster and out on the fields it is a time of frustration and confusion. No one knows at this moment quite who’s in charge and where the money’s coming from. Farmers and, for that matter, self employed consultants, tend to be self sufficient and flexible types and therefore we will look for ways around these problems. Many farmers in North Kent are more than willing to make changes to their land to benefit wildlife and I aim to harness this enthusiasm by planning a programme of rill and scrape restoration on farms across the area.

re-profiling rill 2017

Funding is needed to restore our wetlands.

Creating new wetland areas is the next step which will allow more birds to successfully breed on our farmland and ultimately mean that the money we currently pay farmers to manage their land for wildlife is not wasted. Without this extra work then many of our farms, currently receiving breeding wader stewardship payments, will never reach their potential. If grants are currently not available from the government then we will just have to look for outside sources of funding.

 
In the meantime work continues to move ahead with plans to work with hovercraft and jet ski users to reduce disturbance to breeding and wintering birds on the Medway and Swale estuary. The project has received support from Birdwise North Kent and the RSPB and we are now firming up a project proposal prior to seeking funding.

 

Thames litter pick 1 pickers
Finally this month I also joined Belinda Lamb, Medway Swale Estuary Partnership Guardians of the Deep officer and RSPB volunteer, David Saunders on a litter pick on the Thames foreshore. The amount of plastic bottles on the beach was particularly shocking and a deposit return scheme can’t come soon enough. However the ultimate solution lies in using less plastic products in the first place.