Good news! Our nearest pub is open again! Now before you accuse me of alcoholic tendencies, this is not just good for those needing refreshment, but also a recognition of the value of the Wild Coast Project to the local economy. When a rural pub closes these days it usually stays closed, and the next thing you see is a planning application notice for housing development. This week I had a visit from Steve, the new landlord of the Creeksea Ferry Inn, who has relieved my 'lottery list' ( businesses I want to set up when I win the lottery!!) of at least one local business that will benefit from the development of a new nature reserve on its doorstep.
But Steve is not the only sharp business man or woman in the area. We recently invited our nearest hospitality traders on a tour of the project site - though alas my catering wasn't a patch on theirs! We now recommend various friendly local businesses to our visitors - you can get a very nice bed and board for the night at the Cherry Tree Inn in Stambridge, camp at the Riverside Village Holiday Park, sample a pint at the Anchor in Canewdon, or grab a great breakfast at the Essex Marina - oh and for all sorts of supplies for the day call with Mark in the Canewdon Costcutter. For a longer stay 'across the ditch' in Burnham, why not rent one of 'The Thatched Cottages' to explore the wider area, then visit Wallasea Island on the Lady Essex Ferry.
Green Tourism is the new black. According to recent surveys, Environment related activities in the UK (broadly defined as those depending directly or indirectly on the quality of the natural environment) are estimated to support around 500,000 jobs and £18.6 billion of GDP.RSPB reserves support economic development in a variety of ways:• They provide direct employment for staff involved in reserve management and associated activities;• Spending by employees supports local economic activity,• In the same way spending by volunteers also supports local economies;• Direct expenditure by reserves on goods and services provides income and employment for local firms and the use of commercial contractors also provides additional employment and income for local businesses;• Grazing lets and agricultural tenancies provide additional income and employment for local farmers;• Visitors to reserves spend money in the local economy;
Nature conservation is a growth sector, unlike agriculture and forestry, both of which have shed large numbers of jobs in the last decade. Nature conservation helps to support a significant proportion of the rural tourism market, worth £12 billion per year in England alone. RSPB surveys of established reserves show that spending by visitors’ benefits a wide range of enterprises in the local area, from hotels and campsites to attractions, cafes, local transport, shops and other local businesses, resulting in additional business turnover.
Visit Essex, our local tourism authority, have recently launched part of Essex as 'The Discovery Coast' - of which Wallasea Island's Wild Coast hopes to play a significant part in the future growth of tourism in the county. I think if I don't win the lottery soon, there'll be other entrepreneurs cashing in - so keep your fingers crossed for me on Saturday night!
If you saw me wading around with my camera,in a field of weeds on Wallasea this morning, be assured that I hadn't finally lost the last of my marbles! That large, untidy, and rather wild bit of land that you pass on the way to our car park is actually a very important place - our 'wild bird cover' area.If you've been here lately, you'll hardly have missed our noisy, jangling corn bunting population, sitting on every post, and the vivid flash of yellow wagtails who like to colour co-ordinate with our yellow signs and gates. These farmland birds are among many red-listed birds that the RSPB is working hard to help with the Essex Farmland Bird Project, local farmers and our recently developed area on Wallasea.Wild bird covers are a mix of seed-bearing crops that are left to provide a food source for seed-eating birds through the winter rather than harvested. Different birds have different seed preferences, and mixtures are tailored to the needs of target species in the locality. Cornbuntings and Skylarks love cereal stubble and unharvested seed crops.When grasses and herbs are left ungrazed or uncut long enough, it allows them to produce a number of benefits to birds. They provide seeds, large, long-lived insects, and develop a structure that can be used by nesting birds. Leaving uncut margins around mown grass fields or fencing off areas in grazed pasture can also provide such habitat. These insects are an important food source for birds, especially when collecting food for chicks. Many farmland birds such as the song thrush, sparrows, finches and yellowhammer favour feeding at the margins of such fields. Our current seed mix is one of pollen and nectar plants, to attract insects. I can certify it works, as it is full of butterflies and bees this morning as I write - alas my photography and lack of time meant I couldn't quite capture it, so you'll have to come see for yourselves!
The Essex farmland bird project is being run by our favourite local Spaniard,Francisco Vargas-Bianchi - otherwise known as Frank. Frank is monitoring the development of our patch and will no doubt use it as an example for farmers and landowners that he helps to make their own land as wildlife friendly as possible.Further afield this week, the RSPB has discovered that countryside wildlife is under yet another threat.Birdsong in the UK and European countryside could fall silent unless secret plans to scrap funding for wildlife-friendly farming are averted.The RSPB is concerned that the European Union is considering scrapping payments to farmers to protect vulnerable species on their land. The RSPB estimates that the future of some of the UK’s most-loved farmland birds will face an uncertain future, or even extinction, if these plans are realised.If you would like to step up for nature today, please click on the link below, read a little more and join our campaign. Simples!
Its June, the sun is shining and Wallasea Island is waiting for you to bring your kids out in the fresh air!
Canewdon Primary School was our first school to visit this summer and have set the pace for others to follow. Pupils of year 4 donned their boots, slapped on the sun tan lotion and had a brilliant time exploring the seawalls and viewing the site of the immense new nature reserve on their doorsteps.
Following a warm welcome from RSPB's South Essex Education team, they got to grips with binoculars, learnt about food chains, grew long and short beaks and went on a massive bug hunt. Habitats' study has never been so much fun!
Other classes, and schools will soon follow in their footsteps. Children learn so much from getting out of doors and discovering nature - that's how we all started in the RSPB ! Who knows, perhaps we had a future Kate Humble or Chris Packham out with us today.
This lovely hymn always reminds me of my time giving community talks to WI groups, back in rural areas of Northern Ireland. The warm welcome given by these lovely ladies always seemed to be followed by a rendition of the hymn, deemed most suiting to start an evening in the company of the RSPB!
If you are a fan of flowers, butterflies and all things colourful,as I am, get yourself down to Wallasea on a nice sunny day and you'll be delighted with the wild flowers on display, colouring up the vast expanses of saltmarsh. The most obvious and impressive at the moment is the salsify, or tragopogon species, of which there are yellow and purple varieties. These flowers open until mid-day, which leads to their local name of 'jack goes to bed at noon', but what my inner child loves is the huge dandelion-clock-type seedheads scattered all over the seawalls at the moment. They are immmense!
Less conspicuous, but equally pretty are the little pink-striped bindweed and tiny sea thrift flowerheads. Later in the summer the marsh will be ablaze with the colour of sea lavendars, which resembles the everlasting statice blooms, and later still the sea asters, which may look just like Michaelmas daisies, to the gardeners amongst you.
I'm still getting to know my saltmarsh plants, as I discover them on our weekend wanders - so if you find something I haven't mentioned, please get in touch, post a picture or drop in and tell me all about it. Happy Wandering!
Have you noticed how many butterflies are about at the moment? The good weather may be bad news for the local farmers , but our butterfly and moth population seems to be relishing the sunshine Every weekend we seem to come back from our stroll round the island edges to look up yet another creature, or flower, we cannot identify!So our most recent find then turned into a bit of one-upmanship, between my boss Chris and I. Having found a large clump of tiny caterpillars intertwined on the seawall grass, which necessitated a bit of homework, we discovered we had found Ground Lackeys ( malacosoma castrensis) a Red data book moth (i.e. occurs in less them 15 UK 10km squares.) which happens to like saltmarsh. My excited report on Monday morning resulted in my find being trumped by Chris's report of seeing over 200 'larval tents' on the saltmarsh - something we just had to then go and see for ourselves and to photograph for you to see as well - I'm sure you'll agree it was quite a sight, almost an invasion!
The Ground Lackey is a very local species of moth in the British Isles, restricted to parts of the south-eastern coastal counties.The moths fly in July and August, but are only infrequently encountered, usually by light-trapping. The colourful larvae are more showy, sometimes basking in the sunshine. They feed on a range of saltmarsh plants such as sea wormwood (Artemisia maritima) and sea-lavender (Limonium vulgare).They are fascinating creatures living in silken tents and can survive inundation by the occassional high tide – just the sort of species that will benefit from the Wild Coast Project.
If little brown moths and caterpillars aren't enough to lure you down to the wild isle this week - how about some more colourful species? Recent RSPB visitors, big enough and old enough to know better, have morphed into laddish butterfly-chasers in their attempts to capture great photos to take back to the office. For the records these have included green-veined White, Orange-tip, lots of Common Blue ,Brown Argus, Peacock, lots of Small Heath plus my favourite, the spectacular, cream-spotted tiger moth which even laid its eggs on one visitor's trouser leg! Can you beat that for a Love Nature moment?