Posted in Environment, Environmental issues

Our World: Threat to ancient forests in England

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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?

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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.

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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’.

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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

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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.

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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.

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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.

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

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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!

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

Posted in Environment

An encounter with wild honey bees

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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?

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(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. 🐝🐝🐝

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Posted in Environment, Environmental issues

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

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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. 

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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

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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…

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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. 

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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.

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Posted in Environment, Gardens, Gardens, lifestyle, self-sufficiency, environmental issues, adventure

A robin’s nest

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Earlier this year, a couple of robins – who usually wouldn’t go anywhere near each other – decided to set up home together and raise a family in a bird box in my garden.

It was a rather attractive abode, hand-made by Simon and painted a duck blue by myself. Last year, great tits lived in a different nest box in Cosy Garden but this was the first time The Blue Cottage would come into use.

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I noticed one, if not two, of the robins every day it seemed. They were very busy, flying, eating from the feeder, perching on a garden table, surveying their territory.

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And then one day, silence.

I didn’t notice right away. I assumed they must have been doing their business when I was out at work or somewhere else. Also I expected the mother to be sitting on the eggs so I didn’t expect to see her.

But still…

I continued to avoid the top part of the garden so I wouldn’t distract the pair.

The days went into a week and then another week passed by. Perhaps the eggs had hatched and the chicks had flown when I wasn’t around?

Eventually, I gave a little peek. Something I avoid doing as new and expectant mums hate being disturbed.

But there was no one there except five tiny eggs.

So what happened? To this day, the robins have not returned. Possible explanations I have heard were the adults were ‘killed by a cat or car’ or ‘the eggs were never going to hatch, they weren’t fertilised in the first place. So they left’.

I hope the robins weren’t killed, hopefully this time it just didn’t work and they will be back with more eggs and a successful outcome.

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Photo by Pixabay on Pexels.com

 

Posted in Environment, Environmental issues

Our World: A dangerous one for badgers

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I’ve never seen a live badger except in photos or television. Being shy, retiring and nocturnal animals, it’s unlikely I will ever just bump into one on the off-chance but I did see the curious sight of a badger sett. At least that is what it looked like.

Simon and I were out for a walk along a wooded path, in Lincolnshire, when we came across a mound of earth on a sloping bank. I was about to walk on, not thinking anything of it, but Simon wanted to investigate further. Behind the mound was a large hole, much bigger than a rabbit’s or even a fox’s.

We believe it was a badger’s sett.

I have heard that setts (badger homes) tend to have large spoil heaps outside, which this one did.

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Unfortunately the British Government appear to be on a mission to kill badgers because of tb fears for cattle. The fact there is a vaccine available for cows and a vaccine available for badgers appears to have been ignored. Tb may even be caused by cows moving around – maybe increased, temporary bio-security measures may be the answer?  

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Photo by Pixabay on Pexels.com

I do have sympathy for farmers and cattle but I’m sure there must be a better way of combating this issue.

I feel it’s wrong, especially when there are other solutions, and how could it ever work? There will always be badgers, unless the plan is to decimate the entire population? (Surely that would be highly immoral!)

And what if there are other causes and all these badgers have been killed and still tb continues?

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Even worse is the issue of badger baiting. This is thankfully banned but unfortunately undesirables (I’m sorry but there is no other way of describing them) are still baiting the poor creatures with dogs.

Yes, unfortunately even in this ‘enlightened’ age, this happens.

This is barbaric and cruel, both to badgers and dogs.

Maybe one day, the world may be a kinder place for these creatures. I hope so.

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Facts of the Day

1. Badgers live in large family groups.

2. Setts are mostly in woodland, near to open areas and often on a slope.

3. Badgers are relatives of the weasel.

Posted in Environment, Walks

Ainsdale Sand Dunes

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I first encountered Ainsdale Sand Dunes a couple of years ago. Simon and I paid a visit to Formby, therein you can see red squirrels, a scarcity in Britain. Near to Formby is Ainsdale and here is another rarity – natterjack toads.

Our walk took us through woodland – where we came across two metal detectorists. They told us about the varying equipment and costs and how it was possible to discover curious finds.

Of course, what they really wanted was to find treasure.

Our journey took us from woodland into the sand dunes. Sometimes the dunes themselves are not the easiest to walk on, having such a soft ground.

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We heard a reed bunting. A flock of black-headed gulls made a racket near a pond, we hoped that they wouldn’t eat any toads that may be around.

Pippets and buff-tailed bumblebees were also spotted.

The dunes took us to the beach. Yet another type of habitat. Unlike many seaside resorts, this beach is incredibly quiet. It can feel as if you are the only one there.

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We saw a boat wreck and wondered at the story behind it… And discovered a starfish sheltering under the wreck.

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Fish egg casings and an array of shells – razor, cockle and so on – were curiosities we came across on the beach.

The biggest discovery was natterjack toad spawn in one large pond.

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The last time we came was a little gloomy in that, while the weather was glorious for us humans, there were signs that the heat and sun was not such good news for our amphibian friends. Yes, we saw many natterjack toads that summer day. Depressingly, they were all dead because there was not enough water in the ponds because of the drought.

And in a way, I guess we did find treasure of a different sort that day, hope for a rare species of toad to survive and thrive in this peaceful wildlife haven. 

 

 

 

 

Posted in Environment, Walks

Masons Wood

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Just over a month ago, I had the delight of exploring a patch of woodland called Masons Wood in Lancashire, England. I used to live five minutes walk away from this little piece of paradise and I truly believe my love of nature as a youngster was sparked by frequent dog rambles in this vicinity. When you wander along the path, it’s easy to forget that suburbia is just a few minutes away.

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The walk took place in April, a good month to gaze upon the bluebells and smell the wild garlic.

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The path took me down to a river where a wonderful sight greeted me. It was a vivid brightness sitting on a tree stump or a rock in the middle of the water. Unfortunately I am no photographer and I don’t have a proper camera – also I was scared to get close in case I scared the vivid blue away – but, in the third picture below, you might, just might, see a tiny bright cobalt-blue shape in the centre. That, I believe, was a kingfisher.

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And this is what a close-up of a kingfisher looks like (picture not my own).

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Photo by Pixabay on Pexels.com

My thanks to The Woodland Trust, who help to protect British woodlands, including Masons Wood.

https://www.woodlandtrust.org.uk/

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

Major Oak and the Legendary Sherwood Forest

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I may not have met Robin Hood but I did encounter another famous citizen of Nottinghamshire’s Sherwood Forest a few weeks ago – the Major Oak. This elderly and magnificent tree is at least 1,000 years old, has a 10m trunk and a canopy of 28m. It is so large, old and, unfortunately, vulnerable, that it has to be propped up and fenced in. But it is a truly grand sight indeed.

The Major Oak may be King of the Forest, but there are more than 1,000 ancient oaks in this woodland, making them ideal habitats for wildlife. To my eyes, they so looked like works of natural art!

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We saw many hollow oaks, the heartwood is decayed by fungi such as beefsteak fungus and chicken of the woods. These hollow oaks are excellent habitat for wildlife, including insects.

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To age a tree, one needs to count its annual rings. For the old trees of the forests, the Rspb, which manages the nature reserve in a partnership, looks at tree girth or diameter at breast height so the oaks don’t need to be felled. The above tree was over 100 years old, a mere youngster in these environs.

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As for Robin Hood, the most famous man of Nottinghamshire? It is believed he lived in around 1200 – at least, this is when the stories start – at a time when the forest covered 100,000 acres. He is seen as a heroic outlaw, avoiding the clutches of the Sheriff of Nottingham and robbing from the rich to give the poor. It is hard to tell whether he really existed, whether the character is based on a real man or if there is no basis in fact. Whatever the case, Sherwood Forest definitely exists, even if it feels as if it belongs in a beautiful legend. And the ‘Merry Men (and ladies) are its stunning oaks and accompanying wildlife.

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