Common Agricultural Policyzzzzzzzzzz. No. Don’t fall asleep. This is really important.
The UK has no wilderness. Almost every inch of the UK is managed in one way or another. We live on a relatively small island that packs tons into its 94,500 square miles. Compare us with France’s 260,558 square miles or North America’s 9,540,198 square miles and you can understand how space is tight here. Without policies and rules, we’d struggle to survive.
Not so long ago, we little Englanders could create parking spaces outside our castles by concreting or laying tarmac over our front gardens. What no one had realised was that the increase of all that hard surfacing and the loss of the grass or flower beds had a profound impact.
Nattering over the garden fence, people started remarking to their neighbours that it seemed warmer these days; noting that they’d seen fewer sparrows and daddy-longlegs; or that the drains down the road couldn’t cope with rainfall and the corner shop at the bottom of the hill had flooded as a result so they’d had to walk farther to buy a pint of milk, and ooohh isn’t milk expensive?
According to an RAC Foundation report released last month, about 600,000 homes in the capital have lost 85 per cent or more of their front gardens. Nationally, seven million gardens have been concreted over to provide car parking; an area equivalent to 100 Hyde Parks or 72 Olympic Parks.
All these hard surfaces are unable to soak up rain water. They absorb heat from the sun and radiate it back, increasing urban temperatures. The loss of plants means less nectar, seeds or fruits for wildlife to eat and fewer places for it to live. That’s why the RSPB campaigned to get planning policies changed to halt the loss of front gardens.
It’s a small illustration of the unpaid services we’ve taken for granted that are performed by nature, making our lives more comfortable.
London’s wildlife is changing. The latest survey's found that the Capital is the only region in the UK where blackbirds have joined starlings, swifts and house sparrows on the list of species vanishing from our gardens. The RSPB can blow its collective horns, ring bells and lobby Government, and we do. But it’s individuals who have the power here to make a difference.
Managing outdoor spaces, whether you’ve a roof garden, windowbox, garden or farm, you can contribute. Find space to sow a wild flower meadow to help urban wildlife. Ivy is brilliant for providing winter food and year round shelter for lots of wild things. Properly managed, it can also help insulate buildings from extremes of weather. If you haven’t got any outdoor space, we’d welcome your support for our campaigns, like our push to ensure European money paid to farmers rewards those who support nature (CAP reform). Told you it was important.