The mystery of Drakes Island has captivated many of us in recent decades, as it sits silent, isolated and locked away to all. At the heart of Plymouth Sound, it is a key feature within the landscape, and seen from the Rame Peninsula in Cornwall, much of Plymouth and around to Wembury Point; it can even be seen from Dartmoor.
In 1135 it was referred to as St. Michaels after the chapel that stood upon it, rededicated to become St. Nicolas’ at some time after. The Island kept this name until the early 20th century, when it adopted the name of Sir Francis Drake. He had been made governor of the island in 1583, not long after its first fortifications in 1549, and it is from then that the island started a long and unbroken military history.
..1725 map of the island
Drake’s Island is a scheduled monument and considered of high heritage significance Continue reading
. Crowdy Reservoir ( copyright SWLT)
In this job we are always learning, and a slight change from the normal this week was undertaking some temporary pond creation at Crowdy Reservoir for South West Lakes Trust. The work was part of Buglife’s Marvellous Mud Snails project. And yes Mud Snails were new to me as well, though they did bring to mind Desmoulin’s Snail, which was briefly a cause celebre when they held up major works to upgrade the Newbury by-pass back in the 1980s. Continue reading
Rewilding on the Knepp Estate, West Sussex
Climate change is rarely out of the news these days, and tree planting is one of the solutions put forward to take carbon out of the atmosphere. It can certainly work in the short term; a good conifer plantation grows at over 20 cubic metres per hectare per annum, which is awful lot of carbon. Native species such as oak are slower growing, usually less than 10 cubic metres per hectare per annum.
I have been asked to write a blog about the new farm support grant, the Environmental Land Management Scheme (ELMS). This is due to replace the current Basic Farm Payment Scheme, aims to incentivise farmers to achieve environmental enhancement and protection and restore and improve natural capital and rural heritage.
Trial for ELMS schemes have just started and will run until 2022. Pilots will then run until 2024 with the scheme currently planned to roll out from 2025. Given the current political uncertainty, and the lack of information being put forward by Defra, there is not a lot one can definitely say on the subject. Six years seems a very long lead in period for a scheme which was first muted back in 2015. I think however that it is well worth considering some of the consequences that this long gestation might have.
South Hooe Peninsula, from the Cornwall bank
We have recently been working on a contract for a private client, funded through Natural England, undertaking a feasibility study into the restoration of species rich grassland and also freshwater wetland habitats. The Tamar Valley AONB is helping facilitate the work and it also involves the Environment Agency. Add in to the mix that the landowner is a former Farming and Wildlife Advisory Group advisor and you have a rather nice group of people to work for! Continue reading
Current canal restoration, with newt exclusion fencing
This blog has some historical information, but please indulge me as I include some information from a previous job restoring the Montgomery Canal! The canal is a SSSI for large sections of its length and also a SAC in Wales, primarily for rare aquatic plants, which happily co-existed with horse-drawn barges, but do not like modern propellers and silt disturbance. Add in 127 listed structures, the 1986 Parliamentary Acct to restore the canal and many active restoration volunteers and you have quite a mix.
An alarming warning comes from Spring Watch presenter Chris Packham this week (read it here), concerning the gulf between wildlife diversity in our nature reserves and that within the wider countryside.
All of this comes about from 70 years of agricultural intensification, urban sprawl and infrastructure expansion. Our network of Nature Reserves is piecemeal, widely scattered and has no strategic plan or design. All the studies of wildlife populations and distributions show that our current protection measures are simply inadequate. When was it decided that wildlife should be looked after within nature reserves and everything else could be trashed?. Oh and by the way there is no money for managing nature reserves as they are “unproductive”.
Farmers, have been all too happy to call themselves “the guardians of the countryside” but have clearly failed on an epic scale. Continue reading