Posted on 30 October, 2016Comments (0)

Wildlife Support and Conservation

Wildlife Support and Conservation

The State of Nature Report (SNR) published in September contains information from more than fifty conservation groups and organisations covering the United Kingdom. Last year we were aware that Nature was in trouble. This year 8000 species were checked, and it is noted that over 15 per cent are either already extinct, or on the Red List.

Fifty-six per cent of our species are now in decline, including the Hedgehog and the Turtle Dove. Another 165 species are now ‘critically endangered’ including the High Brown Fritillary Butterfly, The Freshwater Pearl Mussel, the Bog Hoverfly and the Mole Cricket.

Some species are doing well, or better and these include the Otter, and of course the Red Kite, often seen in Four Marks and Medstead.

Butterflies: Other butterfly species, the Silver-spotted Skipper and the Large Blue, are also improving. Butterfly Conservation organised the yearly Butterfly count, and confirm that on the whole butterflies are in decline. Their chairman, Mike Wall (Hamphsire and IOW branch) says he sees, ‘more ground for pessimism than optimism’. It has been a mixed year for Lepidoptera. Although the last few weeks in September have been warmer, the first half of the year was wet and chilly.

Butterfly and moth numbers have correspondingly been at low ebb. He says, ‘the true reflection of just how our butterflies have fared will not be known until the records from our dedicated pool of transect walkers is collated at the end of the year, but I expect it will show declines for many species’.

Climate change: The SNR suggests that climate change and changes in agricultural management, e.g. intensive farming, are thought to be to blame for the decline in some species, i.e. the Dotterel and the Hazel Dormouse. The Dotterel is a member of the plover family, and now becoming a scarce, summer visitor to mountain areas in Scotland. They are migrants and usually stop to feed and rest in Norfolk before continuing their journey northwards.

Dormice: However, in Four Marks and surrounds the impact of several large developments and appalling mismanagement is more likely to be the main factor in the decline of the Hazel Dormouse. It is evident that information provided by ecologists with respect to licences granted by Natural England, is not properly noted or efficiently actioned by developers.

Liaison Panel Meeting: I attended the final Liaison Panel meeting in early September with local councillorsfor residents affected by the Medstead Farm development, off Lapwing Way. With respect to Dormouse mitigation I have no alternative except to remain highly critical of the developer’s lack of responsibility throughout the construction phase, and of Natural England (NE) for not carefully monitoring sites where licences have been granted for European Protected Species (EPS). Important work noted to be outstanding by their licensed ecologist is long overdue.

Liaison Panel Meetings in general: There can be no doubt that liaison panel meetings with residents, councillors and developers are extremely helpful. They give everyone the opportunity to meet up and exchange views, express grievances and raise issues of concern. One major problem was the amount of dust affecting surrounding properties when lorry loads of soil was removed from the Medstead Farm site. Residents complained about dirt and dust affecting their properties, and there were concerns for the health and well being of some people who appeared to be affected. This problem, as well as muddy road surfaces, was partially resolved by using a wheel washer on site.

My involvement was initially to try and arrange access to foraging areas for wildlife, Roe Deer and Badgers, around the site during the construction phase, and liaise with the developer to maintain and protect connectivity for EPS Dormice and other species. In my view, all developers should offer to meet with local residents and wildlife experts, and this should be a planning condition for all developments of thirty or more dwellings in NE Hampshire.

Dormouse bridges: These have either failed to materialise at Medstead Farm, or remain disconnected when they should have been set in place with ample native planting around the base in 2014/15. Work relating to conditions for reptiles on the eastern boundary also requires immediate attention. Non-native planting is to be removed and the hedgerow in Brislands Lane awaits appropriate infill with native species, so that connectivity can be resumed for Dormice once their bridge has been lowered. Some of these points were also raised at the final LP meeting.

I have been on site myself every day for almost two weeks from the end of September, and can confirm that the specialist firm dealing with Dormouse bridges will shortly be on site to deal with the work.

Hedgerows: Although I worked with Four Marks Parish Council to help infill the hedgerow on the western boundary at Easter, fencing has not materialised to protect this vulnerable hedgerow by the end of September, as agreed with the developer. However, the present site manager confirms that it will shortly be dealt with. The central hedgerow, also important for Dormice and other wildlife, also lacks connection via Dormouse bridges, and a substantial section awaits native planting to connect with the ancient hedgerow in Brislands Lane. Hopefully by the time residents read the November issue of The Villager, most of the outstanding work will have been dealt with.

Monitoring: Part of the NE licence for developments where Dormice are noted to be present requires extensive monitoring of Dormouse bridges and Dormouse nesting boxes throughout, and post-development for a further 2 – 3 years in order to comply with the NE licence for EPS. Dormouse use should also be monitored with cameras, again to comply with NE licences.

Fly-tipping: This constitutes the illegal dumping of any waste or rubbish. It can become an eyesore and shows a lack of respect for the environment. It is important to take any household rubbish to the recycling centre in Alton. Any illegal dumping of waste can be reported to the Environment Agency via their 24 hour service on 0800 807060 free from landlines.

Garden refuse should also be taken to the recycling centre in Alton. Please avoid tipping lawn mowings and hedge cuttings, etc., over the fence into a wildlife corridor, onto a verge or footpath, or into a field or woodland in the countryside. It is possible to purchase a large, brown wheelie bin (it can be taken with you, if you move elsewhere in Hampshire) for around £30.00, and the cost of removal of garden waste is charged at £55.00 per annum.

If you have a large garden and pay regular visits to the recycling centre, consider this cost effective scheme which is efficiently run by the Council. Residents with Oak and Beech trees in their gardens, or on verges, will have a large amount of leaves in the Autumn. I counted up the number of trips to the recycling centre every month and worked out the cost of in terms of time and fuel.

This year I opted for the brown garden waste bin. It is also important to think of composting some garden waste. A large, wooden compost container can be constructed from recycled wood (I used pallet wood) at very little cost. Remember to leave space between timbers for the air to recirculate and so assist with more efficient composting.

Diana Tennyson

[Please note that this message is not posted on behalf of Bentworth Parish Council and does not necessarily reflect the Parish Council’s policy]

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