Guest blog by Matthew Ford, Advocacy and Campaigns Officer
“Here’s the truth: many people thought the so-called M4 “relief” road would get built through the Gwent Levels. It had been talked about for decades and so when the Welsh Government brought forward its plans to divert the M4 motorway through this historical part of Wales it seemed like a done deal.
Maybe they thought that people didn’t care enough about nature. That we’d turn a blind eye after being promised faster journeys.
If this is what they thought, then they couldn’t be more wrong. What they didn’t count on was you, the public, who have spoken up in your thousands against this diversion. And what’s clear now is that the campaign against the M4 diversion through the Gwent Levels is getting stronger.
The Gwent Levels
Since we started our public campaign against this devastating motorway diversion consultation, the media have rightfully taken a great interest in the fact that nature and its wildlife will be destroyed. Politicians are also beginning to speak up against the possibility of the road being built. Where the diversion plans seemed so concrete a few months ago, government promises are now getting vaguer.
One of the reasons for this is because thousands of you have taken action to say no to the draft Orders that would allow the M4 to be diverted across four special protected sites for wildlife on the Levels. That’s a major demonstration of how we want our government to save nature, not destroy it.
Goldcliff reen, Gwent Levels
Every single vital response makes it more likely that the threatened otters and lapwings that call the Gwent Levels home will be protected. Each response means that one of the UK’s rarest bumblebees, the shrill carder bee, has a better chance of thriving. Each response makes it less likely that the M4 will be diverted through the Gwent Levels.
Can we count on you to add your name before the M4 consultation ends at midnight on May 4?
There is still one last chance to add your voice to the thousands of others that are speaking up for nature. All you have to do is click here and follow our easy online tool.
The number of people taking action to stop the M4 diversion is now impossible to ignore so please add your voice to protect the Gwent Levels, for the people and for the wildlife that live there.“
"During the time I’ve lived in the Gwent Levels, I used to have nightmares about people building on the green fields near my house and taking away the wild, beautiful land around me. I was always filled with relief when I woke up and realised that it was just a dream. But now something worse might really happen. A six lane motorway blasting its way through the Levels, raised twenty metres on stilts in places, thundering over the reens, driving away the wildlife, destroying a precious and rare habitat – an awful, brutal thing striding across this place of calm and beauty.
Dark sky over the Gwent Levels by Catherine Linstrum
The Levels are extraordinary. People come here from Cardiff and Newport to get away from the city - to breathe in the fresh air, listen to the curlews, watching lapwings displaying and the oyster-catchers out on the mud flats, look at the big empty skies reflected in the reens, experience a unique landscape on their doorstep. It’s only a stone’s throw from Newport but sometimes it feels a hundred miles away. On cold nights the mist rolls in like a scene from Great Expectation, eerie and chilling. In spring the hedgerows are full of hawthorn and blackthorn, eglantine and elder-flower, the reeds flanked by yellow flag and ladies mantle. On summer evenings the sunsets are glorious.
Flock of lapwings by Ernie Janes (rspb-images.com)
I once made a list of all the different birds that we’ve seen around the house here and it came to thirty-nine. I’m not a real bird watcher (I don’t even have any binoculars) but the birds are here and I love them so I counted them. The swans, the otters, the warblers, the egrets and the goldfinch… all going about their lives, part of a delicately balanced ecosystem that makes you glad to be alive.
If the motorway comes then all this could be lost. And that would be a disaster."
It takes only two minute to take part in this campaign. Let's stop this M4 diversion now. Please click here.
At the end of March Giving Nature a Home (GNAH) in Cardiff hosted its very first Bat Walk evening; a chance to find out more about some of Cardiff’s more elusive creatures.
Despite the mist that had descended during the day, the first part of the evening saw a mighty group gather together at the RSPB Cymru office for an introduction to the Bat Walk. Huddled inside the warmth we were joined by Alex Pollard of Cardiff Bat Group and Richie Roberts from the Cardiff Park Ranger team, who shared their extensive knowledge and marvellous stories about Cardiff’s local bats.
The UK is home to 18 bat species, all of which eat insects (insectivorous) and remarkably here in Cardiff, we share our home with fifteen of them. Cardiff is especially proud to be able to boast the Lesser Horseshoe bat, a particularly rare species of bat. Alex was able to tell us how to identify which bat is which and what we should listen out for when we’re out and about around Cardiff. Whether it’s by the ‘ping-pong ball’ sound of a Soprano Pipistrelle or the low swooping flight of a Daubenton’s, here at GNAH Cardiff we are now definitely ready to identify Cardiff’s nocturnal creatures as darkness descends!Podge the Bat showing us his broken wing Photo credit: Emrys Ruck
As well as getting to grips with the different bats that live in Cardiff we also received some top tips about how to find the bats in our city. A recent ‘Bats and Bikes’ project saw several enthusiastic volunteers cycle the length of the Taff Trail with bat detectors strapped to their helmets (there were a few suggestions that this should be the GNAH Cardiff team uniform!). They found that the bats that live closest to home are the Daubenton’s that can be seen in the summer evenings from the bridges in Cardiff’s Bute Park. These low-flying bats swoop across the water, searching for midges, and with a Bat Detector their machine-gun like calls can be heard as they call out to one another. It’s also possible to spot our flying friends in action is by visiting Cardiff’s St Fagan’s Museum and many bats can roost slightly closer to home than you may think. Before we stepped out into the cold, we had the opportunity to meet Alex’s special bat called Podge. Poor Podge had an injured wing and he was being looked after by hand as he could no longer fly. He was very friendly and loved meeting everyone – especially the children, who gave him a good sniff and decided that he had a very distinct batty smell!Giving Nature a Home in Cardiff Bat Walk TeamPhoto credit: Emrys Ruck
After we said goodbye to Podge we bundled up into our coats, wielded our Bat Detectors and headed over to Cardiff’s Sophia Gardens to see what bats we could spot. On our way up to the bridge we were lucky enough to hear a Soprano Pipistrelle somewhere above our heads, and as we circled back down to the gardens we even saw the cheeky chappie fly out from the trees as if to say goodbye before we headed home: a fantastic finish to a thrilling evening.
Here at GNAH Cardiff we love any opportunity to find out more about the fantastic creatures that are living in our city. If you want to join us as we give nature a helping hand and enjoy all that our wildlife has to offer, you can email me at email@example.com to find out more.Podge the Bat showing us his broken wing Photo credit: Emrys Ruck