Blogger: Kate Blincoe, Communications Manager
2012 is the year of pomp and circumstance; it will be remembered for its huge events and public display. It is a year to feel proud of our nation as a great party host. However, anyone who has ever thrown a party, particularly one with outdoors elements, can imagine the amount of work that has to go on behind the scenes.
I love the London 2012 stats that make you see the Games and all the background slog in a whole new light. Did you know that 200 buildings have been demolished, 4,000 trees have been planted and 300,000 wetland plants are in the Olympic Park’s river and wetland area? As you watch the Games from home, it will be hard to imagine the 200,000 strong workforce making it all happen, yet it wouldn’t work unless every last detail is planned and scrutinised.
I feel the same way about nature reserves. As you wander through a swaying reedbed or gently undulating heathland, purple with heather and fragrant with gorse, it is easy to think that it is natural. However, maintaining and restoring wild environments in today’s busy, changing world takes a great deal of work and planning.
In the reedbed, the reeds must be cut to keep them healthy. This was once the traditional role of the reed cutter who managed the reed beds sustainably to ensure a supply of thatching material for local houses. Now, teams of staff and volunteers must cut and remove the reeds on a rotation system, so the new reeds (so much better for wildlife such as the bittern) can thrive.
The heathland, where you may encounter freakily wonderful birds such as nightjars and stone curlews, is no more an accident than the carefully engineered park and ride network for the Games. Over time, heathland is encroached by scrub and becomes woodland. Also, many open spaces were planted on with dense commercial conifer forests which are dark and uninviting for most wildlife. Tree felling and scrub bashing are just some of the actions that have to happen to make a thriving heathland. This is hands-on, labour intensive stuff.
The way I see it, our birds and wildlife are just like the athletes; they complete amazing feats of endurance, many migrating thousands of miles to be with us, they stun us with their speed and agility and entertain us, taking us out of the humdrum of everyday while we watch them. But none of it would be possible without an army of helpers.
I will be delighting in the Games (nearly as much as my husband who has tickets for women’s beach volleyball), and will be sad when they are over. I will however, be consoled by the ongoing amazement of our British wildlife where feats of strength and wonder are played out every single day. It takes just as much commitment and planning to keep it that way as it does to put the Olympics on. Thank you to all of you out who are stepping up for nature.
Photos by Ben Hall and Andy Hay (RSPB images)