Brand new blog from Conservation Manager Stuart Benn.
No blog from me last week because I was well away from my usual habitat - travelling round the south of England on a fact-finding tour. The idea behind the trip was to meet up with RSPB staff and talk to them about how they go about their jobs. The Scottish Highlands and, say, East Anglia could scarcely look more different yet the principles of conservation and communication are the same and it’s good to pick up fresh ideas and think how they can be applied back home.
No need to go into any of the details of the chats here but, instead, I’ll just highlight a couple of places that made a big impression.
First up were the RSPB Reserves at Lakenheath Fen (near Cambridge) and Ham Wall which sits on the Somerset Levels under the shadow of Glastonbury Tor and which is twinned with the Shapwick Heath National Nature Reserve next door. A visit to any of those places in 1995 (during the heyday of Britpop – Pulp and Oasis were amongst the headliners at Glastonbury) would have revealed either carrot fields or worked-over peat diggings with a distinct lack of wildlife. But, since then, those places have been taken on and managed by conservation organisations and the transformation has been nothing short of monumental.
The main form of management has been to get water back on site and then let either nature take over or give it a helping hand by planting reeds and such like (these words do not even hint at the level of work that this entails!). Today, these are fantastic wetlands – the home of cranes, bitterns, otters, dragonflies, egrets and hundreds of other species. As a testament of what can be achieved with a lot of vision and a lot of work, I can’t think of better examples and they are truly inspirational places to visit.
The other wonderful places that we took in were the chalk grasslands at Denbies Hillside (a National Trust site near Dorking in Surrey) and the Dorset Coast between Durlston and Lulworth (owned and managed by the County Council and a private estate, respectively).
These were alive with butterflies – Chalkhill blues, Silver-spotted skippers, Lulworth skippers, Gatekeepers, Walls, Marbled whites and a dozen or more other species. The variety was great to see but it was the numbers that got me – clouds of them flitting over the hot turf and I’m sure I saw more butterflies there in a couple of hours than I have ever seen in total in my entire life. Absolutely magical.
We need more oases.