Sunday, 19 February 2012

Bad Omen Or Just A Sign Of The Times

A beautiful sunny day today. Noticed in the garden a hoverfly Eristalis tenax feeding amongst open flowers of winter acconite. Otherwise still recovering from a week of illness.

And finally… Development

When I lived in Hampshire and went to secondary school, so I was about 13 or 14, I decided to have a go at the Duke Of Edinburgh award scheme. I decided that I would record the birdlife of a nearby woodland and scrub area that my parents and I had walked through many times whilst I was younger with our family dogs. My initial visits allowed me to start recording linnets and yellowhammers and I made notes not only on where I saw the birds but their behaviours even down to what direction they were flying in. The area consisted of pockets of mature oak woodland, a small stream that had water voles living in it, a rough wet marshy meadow with grazing cattle and probably orchids and then areas of gorse scrub. On my third visit to the area I was left devastated as it had turned into a construction site and had been earmarked for a huge housing development. The gorse scrub was gone, the wet meadow was wrecked and fences were being erected around the woodland pockets as The Woodland Trust had managed to save them. I remember getting home and being in a terrible state and needless to say I gave up the attempt to get my Duke Of Edinburgh award. This was undoubtedly my first personal experience, and a bad one, to the world of development and the impacts it has on the environment.

These days when I visit my mum who still lives in the area, even more of the surrounding countryside has been turned into housing estates the wet meadows are now tidied grass fields where dog walkers roam. The populations of deer have been road killed and the water voles no more.

When I moved to Longfield in Kent, I managed to get involved in an environmental impact survey on the proposal to build a new school in Longfield and a housing development in the grounds of the old school. Whilst the survey did not come up with anything that important for birdlife, there were indications that the area was good for reptiles and badgers. The development went ahead, the new school has been built and the housing development has started, I doubt the badgers and reptiles will survive the onslaught.

I started to visit the Isle of Grain with some regularity only to have this wonderfully rich wildlife area put under threat as a potential site for a new international airport.

Today I went to a local area that I had not visited before, it is called Darenth Woods or actually the old site of the Mabledon Hospital. A brownfield site and an area used for recreation by many local folks, football, toy motorbikes, guys collecting silver birch twigs for flower arranging, me looking for wildlfe and dog walkers. The area looks great for insects, reptiles, mammals and possibly orchids and maybe even Watling Street Thistle that occurs just the other side of the A2. So the first folks that I speak to mention a plan to build a crematorium there, I cannot believe it!

Am I a bad omen or is it just a sign of the times that in our small crowded country, it doesn'’t matter whether brownfield or greenfield, all sites are under increasingly significant development pressure, where will it all end?

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