I was gifted some products to try from Porch Honey, and want to tell you a bit about it – the gifts were a delight, and Porch Honey themselves are really interesting. Porch Honey are an ethical beekeeping company, a family bees-ness that manages bees on some wildlife-rich sites in Essex. I was lucky enough to receive two types of honey, plus something from their cosmetic range (I let Natasha try that out!).
On Monday (16th October) I travelled over the river to attend a CMA study day in the South East region. The setting was an unusual one, based at Bluewater Shopping centre in Kent, and it promised to be a really interesting day looking at how the “environmental asset” of the site is managed to enhance biodiversity.
The aim at Bluewater is to balance needs of the wildlife and the expectations of guests to access the habitats for recreation. We started off the day with an introduction to the site, its history and its wildlife. Phil Bolton of Wildthing wildlife consultants explained how the Biodiversity Management Strategy is used to manage and enhance the biodiversity of the site. This system was a factor in the shopping centre winning a Green Apple Environment Award in 2009, and the site has also won the Green Flag award in 2016 and 2017.
Formed in 1966 the CMA is the largest organisation supporting the work of conservation, access and recreation professionals in the natural greenspace and countryside sector throughout England, Wales and Northern Ireland.
A veteran tree is hard to define; generally speaking it is a tree with great value due to its life history – this often includes old-age characteristics, but the tree itself may not be ancient.
This is the most commonly accepted definition nowadays: a veteran tree is a tree which has markedly ancient characteristics, irrespective of chronological age. The term ancient is applied specifically to trees that are ancient in years (Lonsdale, 2014 – VETree website).
We have a fantastic collection of veteran and other ancient trees in the UK. Veteran trees are still scarce in the landscape however. Many of the species that live on veteran trees, such as dead wood specialist (saproxylic) beetles, are rare themselves and vulnerable to extinction – locally or completely.
Violet Click Beetle – “Found only in the heart of decayed ancient trees” (wikipedia)
When managing for veteran trees, we should consider carefully whether work on the tree itself is necessary: it might pose a risk to the life of the tree, and can also be expensive and dangerous work. This video “Common sense risk management of veteran trees” from the VETree project explores this idea a bit further.
We should think about the management of the land around veteran trees too. This could mean looking to the surrounding trees that might shade a veteran tree out now or in the future, or considering the rooting zone and either instating a root protection area or increasing the area that is protected.
If you are interested in veteran trees, there is a lot of information on the Ancient Tree Forum website or you could consider attending a course on Valuing and Managing Veteran Trees.
I was lucky to be featured a guest on the podcast series The Park Leaders Show recently. “This is the show for Park Rangers, Park Managers, and leaders who want to have an impact,” states the show’s synopsis. The show’s creator, Jody Maberry, interviews a variety of professionals to talk about their work in parks or to share their expertise from the business world with those working in parks. Although based in the US, Jody has also looked beyond to bring perspectives from Canada and Australia (and yes, even the UK). There is now an extensive library of past episodes to listen to, with topics including “Innovating ideas in parks” and “10 Steps to get the most out of working with volunteers”.
This article appeared in the Countryside Management Association’s East of England regional newsletter that was sent out to members in March 2017. You can find out more about membership of the CMA on their website.
Greenwich Peninsula Ecology Park in London hosted a CMA study day on 12th December 2016 looking at urban wildlife sites. The Ecology Park is managed by TCV – The Conservation Volunteers (formerly known as BTCV) in partnership with The Land Trust.
Greenwich Peninsula Ecology Park has played a crucial role in the regeneration of the Greenwich Peninsula and is part of a huge government regeneration scheme put into place in 1998. The Park opened to the public in 2002 and has become an established and remarkably diverse urban wetland. The area is still developing rapidly however, which makes things challenging.
We had a great mix of CMA members and non-members at the event, including a number of TCV volunteers from other sites who took the opportunity to learn more about Greenwich Ecology Park from the staff who have managed it for 15 years.
Last week I went to Snowdonia with Natasha’s family for an outdoorsy getaway. We stayed in a very out-of-the-way cottage in Gwydir Forest, Snowdonia. We were perched up in the hills above the village of Trefriw, in a cottage called Sgubor ucha – “highest barn” in Welsh apparently, as the cottage was originally a barn.
Snowdonia National Park
At the top of Mount Snowdon!
Fairy Falls near Trefriw
To reach the cottage required a precipitous climb through narrow country lanes, but we were rewarded with a peaceful setting and beautiful landscape on our doorstep. Ten minutes’ walking brought me up into the nearby hills with wildflowers and the sound of cuckoos calling. Thirty minutes’ walking brought me to Llyn Geirionydd, a lovely lake with a monument to Taliesin the bard (a 6th century Welsh poet).
We didn’t just walk the hills near the cottage of course. We visited a number of places, from exploring the Italian-style village of Portmeirion through to walking up to Snowdon’s summit on the Snowdon Ranger path.
I plan to write more about Snowdonia in the future, as I’ve had some great experiences in this part of Wales!
Continuing on from my last post about the European Ranger Congress, I’d like to focus on international cooperation.
The spirit of international cooperation was strong at the European Ranger Congress last month. The theme of this congress was “Exploring new approaches to conserving nature”. Carol Ritchie, Executive Director of EUROPARC pointed out that the future is full of challenges, but also opportunities too. “We are not alone – we are one big family”. She said that “we need to look beyond our own patch, and elevate our role… Look to the future for Rangers in Europe.”
The Congress had a number of examples of people already working together across borders for nature conservation. Many of the National Parks in Czech Republic are near the country’s borders, so there are examples of parks linking up across borders such as Šumava National Park (Czech border with Germany and Austria) and Bohemian Switzerland (Czech and German border) to show us what can be achieved by working together.
The Congress also looked at ideas and projects to stimulate and develop more international cooperation. Different forms of cooperation were discussed, such as twinning, sharing knowledge, ranger exchanges and clustering. A number of IRF twinning agreements were actually signed at the Congress too. The IRF sees the twinning document as a sign of intent from ranger in different countries to work together. It can be the framework within which ranger exchanges, cross-border projects and other forms of cooperation can develop.
So two weeks ago, the European Ranger Congress brought together staff and volunteers from across Europe (and beyond) to talk about the future of nature conservation. If you think that would be an inspirational event to attend, you’re not wrong!
The 4th European Ranger Congress took place 9-13th May in Litomerice, near the Bohemian Central Uplands of the Czech Republic. People from 26 countries attended, people who are working or volunteering as Rangers (and allied professions) in their own countries.