Posted in Environment, Travel, places to visit, mini-adventures, Walks

A wander around the RSPB’s Sandwell Valley Nature Reserve

DSC_2871

The West Midlands, especially around Birmingham, has a reputation of being a built-up, urbanised sprawl – but there are some rather idyllic parts here too.

One such peaceful haven is Sandwell Valley Nature Reserve. I was lucky enough to visit here one sunny October day and here are some of the beautiful views I saw…

DSC_2856

DSC_2855

DSC_2869

As well as the beautiful scenery, wildlife we spotted today (mostly at the hide overlooking the lake) included heron, swans, coots, cormorants, lapwings and gulls.

My godchildren especially enjoyed the mud kitchen, making mudpies (yum, delicious!), the bat trail and a nearby children’s playground.

Even where there are large cities – this site is close to Birmingham after all – there is always natural beauty nearby.

Facts of the Day

1. RSPB Sandwell Valley was once used by the nearby colliery.

2. There are a variety of habitats including wildflower meadows, woodland, scrub, wildlife garden, ponds and lake.

3. The site is based around Forge Mill Lake and is part of Sandwell Valley Country Park.

4. The address is: RSPB Sandwell Valley, Tanhouse Ave, Great Barr, West Bromwich, Birmingham B43 5AG.

5. For more information on the RSPB, visit http://www.rspb.org.uk/

 

 

green tree
Photo by Alexander Kovalyov on Pexels.com

Five years ago, I took a six-month sabbatical from work. During this time, I tried out various activities and wrote my first blog. Here’s a post about the time I helped out with conservation work…

via May onwards – dirty work

May onwards – dirty work

Posted in Environment, Environmental issues

Our World: Threat to ancient forests in England

nature red forest leaves
Photo by Pixabay on Pexels.com

Quite rightly, the world condemned the Brazilian Government for destroying the country’s precious rainforests – home for indigenous people and wildlife alike. It is also a vital part of the planet’s ecosystem, which affects all of us.

The UK Government was among those voicing disapproval.

Most British politicians like to claim to be ‘green’ but, in my view, only when it suits. (I’m sure there will be genuine ones who care about people, animals and the environment but I can’t think of any, please let me know if you do).

There is much talk of climate change but what’s the point of discussing this topic if trees keep getting replaced with concrete?

I do think investment in public transport is a fantastic thing. We need fewer cars on the road but if there isn’t a viable alternative, why would people give up their vehicles?

people standing near train under shed
Photo by Skitterphoto on Pexels.com

So, when I first heard of of the HS2 project, it sounded a good idea. Investment in our train service? I’m all for that… Good for people, good for the environment…

Oh.

Maybe not.

The HS2 – which could cost £85 billion, £30 billion over budget – is supposed to make the train journey from London to the North of England quicker.

But it will be at a cost of 34 ancient woods, 56 hectares, along the London to Birmingham leg of the route. And that’s just the start of the destruction…. It’s thought more than 100 of these woods are under threat in total.

The contractors are due to start felling the trees next month, even though a spending review is underway and this expensive project may not even go ahead.

nature red forest leaves
Photo by Pixabay on Pexels.com

According to the Woodland Trust, if the woodland destruction goes ahead, this will wipe out all the barn owls ‘breeding within a mile of the new line, either by destroying their habitat or collisions with trains’. That’s more than 100 owls, ‘an estimated one per cent of the UK population’.

nature bird australia owl
Photo by mark broadhurst on Pexels.com

Another rare species is Bechstein’s Bat, which roosts ‘among the remnants of the medieval forest of Bernwood, now under threat’.

The intelligent thing to do would be to use the money to improve the existing railway and make public transport in general more affordable and reliable.

But I sometimes wonder about the intelligence of those running the country and unfortunately, while Brexit distracts the electorate, billions of pounds will be wasted and a vital habitat will be vandalised.

And for what? A slightly quicker journey to London?

So maybe it isn’t just the Brazilian Government which is guilty of environmental vandalism and crimes against precious forests…

For more information and to sign a petition, please visit https://www.woodlandtrust.org.uk/hs2

 

Posted in Environment, Travel, places to visit, mini-adventures, Walks

A Day on the Dunes

DSC_2547

Saltfleetby-Theddlethorpe Dunes, near Louth in Lincolnshire, is a very peaceful seaside spot. Instead of sandcastles, ice cream and sunbathers, there are mudflats and ponds, salt marshes, wildflowers and sand dunes.

DSC_2516

Natural England manages the 556-hectare National Nature Reserve section, while Lincolnshire Wildlife Trust manages the remainder of the area.

When we first entered the reserve, we walked along a path through wildflower-rich grassland, encountering ponds en route. This walkway took us to the dunes and saltmarsh.

DSC_2515

It is an important site for wildlife. We didn’t see any Natterjack toads but did come across many insects, including grasshoppers, butterflies and dragonflies.

DSC_2545

By holding out a stragically placed stick, Simon rescued a struggling dragonfly who was in danger of drowning in one of the ponds.

DSC_2573

We also came across two discarded dragonfly larval cases – they weren’t dead, they were skins of two nymphs (juvenile). Once the juvenile is ready to become an adult, they cast off their old skin. They are well prepared for this life-changing event, with a new skin underneath.

DSC_2576

As well as nature’s dramas, the remnants of military history can be found on this reserve, in particular the beach… Today we can still see a corroded Comet tank and a ruined pillbox, dating from the Second World War.

 

The Air Ministry bought the site in the 1930s and old vehicles, that had been driven onto the beach, were used as targets. The dunes were mined and pillbox built during the Second World War as an anti-invasion defence.

DSC_2555

Being here reveals how the landscape changes over time. It is thought that the dunes began forming in the 1200s after large storms blew sand and shingle and, even now, the tides and wind is changing the landscape slowly but surely. New saltmarsh and dunes are still being created today and Simon told me he saw a difference from the last time he was there.

At certain times of the year, seals can be found with their pups along the coast. The adult seals don’t look as cute as you might think, being big and clumsy and even a little violent with each other (the males at least). The babies are very cute but, of course, it is advisable not to go near and disturb them.

In July though, there are no seals but we did come across this poignant sight… A seal’s skull.

DSC_2560

DSC_2578
A purple orchid

It is a lovely quiet area, I even came across a comment on an internet beach forum saying it was an ideal place to go for a naked walk and skinny dipping!

DSC_2580

For more information on The Wildlife Trusts, visit http://wildlifetrusts.org

Posted in Environment

An encounter with wild honey bees

DSC_2503

There is a place near Ollerton, Nottinghamshire, called Thoresby Park, which includes the Victorian Thoresby Hall Hotel, a craft centre and pleasant riverside surroundings to meander around.

It was along this river that Simon spotted a tree with unusual residents – honey bees.

I tend to associate honey bees with bee keepers, who keep them in hives and collect honey. If I had the time and a bigger garden, it is something I would like to do. There are bee keeping courses but is there a point if, at the moment, it is just a little ‘Good Life’ daydream?

Now wild honey bees is something I hadn’t come across before and for some reason, when I saw these bees I thought of Winnie-the-Pooh and his love of the sweet stuff. Wasn’t there a story of him ‘stealing’ honey from wild bees?

honeycomb insect bees honey
(Not my picture but a photo by Pixabay on Pexels.com) 

Even where I was standing, I could feel one in my hair. Not a nice sensation (!) but I edged away carefully and thankfully the bee realised I was no threat and flew away.

From Larousse’s Pocket Guide Wildlife of Britain and Europe, it says: ‘Most honey bees live in artificial hives, but wild colonies live in hollow trees and similar places’.

The Woodland Trust adds that the honeybees have been domesticated for centuries and, although they are commonly found feeding on flowers, ‘ it is rare to find a truly wild colony’.

So we were rather lucky to see such a colony. 🐝🐝🐝

DSC_2499

 

 

 

 

Posted in Environment, Environmental issues

Our Planet: The Amazon Rainforest – Fiddling while the planet burns

rainforest during foggy day
Photo by David Riaño Cortés on Pexels.com

Gathering tweets is part of my day-to-day job and sometimes I come across events and news that haven’t been given full attention by the mainstream media.

Anyway, yesterday I came across something which made me freeze in horror – the destruction of the Amazon Rainforest in Brazil is happening at a faster pace than ever before and the damage can even be seen in space…

Fires are up by more than 80 per cent compared to last year says Brazil’s space research institute.

This isn’t a natural forest fire but one perpetuated by humans obsessed with making money.

cascade creek environment fern
Photo by Pixabay on Pexels.com

I’m not a scientist or a knowledgeable naturalist, but I believe we are all part of this planet.

My spiritual view is that we’re meant to look after it, be its caretakers if you will.

My practical view is that we are all part of the ecosystem – we damage it, we damage ourselves.

Some months ago, the beautiful medieval Notre Dame Cathedral in France was on fire. The world was horrified, there was much media coverage and billionaires flocked to donate money to save it. 

And rightly so. It was and is an important part of history, religion, architecture and culture.

rainforest during foggy day
Photo by David Riau00f1o Cortu00e9s on Pexels.com

But when a beautiful, ancient, natural part of the world is burning – one that is home to a diverse range of wildlife (including rare species) and indigenous tribes alike – the world seemingly turns a blind eye.

Where is the media coverage? Where are the celebrities? Where are the donations to save it?

If Trump says (not even does) something controversial, it will attract worldwide attention straight away. 

It seems the Brazilian President, who wants to develop the rainforest, is immune to such scrutiny.

scarlet macaw
Photo by Tim Mossholder on Pexels.com

If the company Amazon went under, it would be big news.

But the rainforest burns and no one notices.

It affects many animals and the tribes who live there.

The wider Brazilian population will suffer.

Ultimately, we will all reap the consequences of this terrible decision. 

bird flying zoo beak
Photo by Skitterphoto on Pexels.com

There is a saying, ‘Fiddle while Rome burns’, which means to do something trivial while an emergency is taking place.

According to legend, the Roman emperor Nero played his violin while Rome burned all around him.

I can’t help thinking of this phrase when hearing about this catastrophe taking place right now.

I hope it stops before it’s too late…

 

 

Posted in Environment, Environmental issues

Our World: Watership Down

close up of rabbit on field
Photo by Pixabay on Pexels.com

Many, many years ago, I started to watch a film called Watership Down. It was a cartoon and, as a child, I assumed it was a children’s film. But I found the beginning traumatic and subsequently didn’t watch the rest of the film. I’m sure it featured rabbits being killed and, as an eight year old with rabbits of my own, it wasn’t what I particularly wanted to watch.

Fast-forward many years later and I bought the book in a charity shop. It’s about a group of rabbits whose home is lost because of, you guessed it, humans and their ‘need’ to develop fields.

Now I find Watership Down a sad book in a different way. Whenever I see the countryside being built on, I wonder about the wildlife that may have used that land to live, feed…

clouds cloudy countryside farm
Photo by Pixabay on Pexels.com

And yes, before I am called a ‘nimby’, I accept that we all live in a house once built on green land and people need houses to live in.

My issue is not the building on some green fields but the extent of which it seems to be taking place today.

There are so many brown field sites, once built on and now standing as an eyesore, and empty, derelict buildings. These could be revamped, making our towns and cities a more vibrant and pleasant place. Win win for humans – and wildlife. 

abandoned abandoned building architecture brick
Photo by mali maeder on Pexels.com

If I had power, when it came to building on green belt land and rural areas, I would make it a law that housing developers would have to set aside, not just an recreational open green space for people, but a sizeable additional area as a nature reserve. Why take away homes for wildlife when creating houses for people?

Why does it have to be an either/or scenario with wildlife inevitably losing out? It’s well known that much of Britain’s wildlife is decreasing because of habitat loss.

Living in a greener, more natural environment is good for people’s mental health too.

Yet another win/win!

And as for Watership Down? I haven’t finished the novel yet, but I’m hoping there is a happy ending and the rabbits do find a new home, away from the threat of the bulldozer.

15578181667261551389792