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.
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). 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.
I’ve just completed another free online course. I know, I’m a bit keen when it comes to learning. There are worse addictions I’m sure.
The course “Biodiversity and Global Change: Science and Action” is an offering from the University of Zurich on Coursera – an interesting overview of the biodiversity on planet Earth, the field of biodiversity science and some of the actions we can take to help protect biodiversity. As part of the final week of the course, I was challenged to be a Biodiversity Ambassador. What does that mean, and how did I tackle this assignment?
As 2016 ended, I couldn’t help looking back. Did you know that 2016 was the 100th anniversary of the US National Park Service? It was also the 50th anniversary of the UK’s Countryside Management Association, so I thought it would be worth looking back at the history of National Parks and the CMA, and considering how parks and the Ranger role have developed. In this post i’ll be looking at the rise of National Parks.
The world’s first National Park as we know it was Yellowstone National Park in the United States, created in 1872. When Yellowstone National Park was created, the federal government had to assume responsibility as Wyoming, Montana and Idaho were territories, not states! Yosemite became the first US state park in 1864 under President Abraham Lincoln, and this essentially paved the way for the first national park (especially with the campaigning of John Muir and others).
The Passenger Pigeon (Ectopistes migratorius) was once the most adbundant bird in North America, possibly in the world. Humans hunted them on a massive scale in the 1800s, and they were driven to extinction in the early 1900s. Have we learnt anything from the plight of the passenger pigeon?
A course about conservation
I’ve been taking the Massive Open Online Course (MOOC) “Introducing Conservation” offered by United for Wildlife. United for Wildlife is a collaboration between seven big conservation organisations, and has the Duke of Cambridge as President. Their course aims to educate people all over the world about conservation, and encourages people to get involved themselves. I’m always keen to expand or refresh my knowledge, especially when there are certificates to reward the worthy! I’m currently working through Lesson 1: Life on Earth, and one of the exercises asked me to write briefly about an extinction from the last 500 years. I chose to write about the Passenger Pigeon, a dramatic example of human-caused extinction due to both the huge numbers involved and the short timescale over which it occurred.
Belhus Woods Country Park (where I currently work) received the Green Flag award for 2015/16, which was great news. The Green Flag Award was launched in 1996 “to recognise and reward the best green spaces in the country”, and the judges look at various criteria such as management, community involvement, conservation and heritage.
To celebrate this achievement, we held a flag-raising event on Wednesday 30th September. The under-5s “Puddleducks” group made their own flags using Autumn leaves, and there was cake and balloons. In other words, we celebrated in style.
A Ranger blogging about nature conservation, wildlife, and travel.