Connecting With Nature

Last week we mentioned the District Council’s Winter in Rochford photography competition. Which brings us nicely to an article in the New Statesman by Helen MacDonald about the Ladybird Book “What To Look For In Winter”, , first published in 1959:


“I also remembered all these pictures: 24 watercolours of hoar frost and rooks under pallid skies, of snowy woods, sheep, jackdaws, about tractors, holly bushes, foresters, carthorses; ducks on frozen lakes, a half-ermined stoat slipping past reeds rimed with ice….

…Small, with card covers, and priced at two shillings and sixpence each, the books in Ladybird’s nature series could easily be stuffed in a pocket or satchel on trips to the local countryside. They were hugely influential and this one – written by the novelist, naturalist and mystic E L Grant Watson, with illustrations by Charles Tunnicliffe – was my favourite. I knew each page of text by heart, delighted in how it explained and elaborated on the winter scene on the opposite page, traced with my fingers where animals, farm machinery and livestock were framed between foreground details of fence lines and foliage and a background of distant spires and sunlit hillsides.

Rereading it was an exercise in nostalgia, but a complicated one. I began to wonder whether anyone makes books like this any more. What to Look for in Winter is a spectacular primer not only in natural history but in aesthetic pleasure, in how to pay attention to the moving patterns of colour, light and shade in a landscape. Unlike a field guide, it encourages you to encounter the natural world as a whole, not merely ticking off its constituent parts.”

Our District has very large areas of green belt, but are we still as connected to nature as we were in 1959? Almost certainly not – increasing population, increased car use , the pleasures of TV, computers and gaming have all had a impact. But its important to encounter the natural world as a whole, not just to think of the Green Belt as a suitable place for sports pitches or golf driving ranges.

We need to keep those places where you can hear birdsong without hearing traffic noise, where you can see the Milky Way on clear nights without the interference of artificial lights.

Hat-Tip: Liberal England

Which Parties Care about Our Bees?

DSCF0767The decline in the numbers of bees is worrying, not only for the environment and wild plants, but for agriculture. The buglife website has carried out a ‘bee’s eyes view’ of the various parties manifestos. They begin by saying:

Bee decline is the number one environmental concern of the UK public and we are in the midst of a slew of new and shocking evidence about the impact of intensive agriculture on pollinators. Not only do the public love bees and understand the ethical responsibility we have not to drive species to extinction, the economic argument for protecting our pollinators and other wildlife is compelling, and the health and welfare benefits to people of doing so are clear. So in the run up to the General Election on 7th of May what commitments are being made by the political parties to save our beleaguered pollinators and wildlife more generally?

It’s a very calm, detailed assessment of the various parties manifestos , and if the subject interests you, it’s best to read the whole article.

But to summarise, the writer gives:
The Green Party 10 gold stars for 10 good policies ” The Green Party is alone in making a positive commitment to ban neonicotinoids “

The Lib Dems 7 gold stars for 7 good policies  “The Lib Dems are making a brace of resounding commitments to pollinators”
Labour 4 gold stars for 4 good policies “No mention of bees or pollinators in the main Manifesto, but the accompanying Green Plan states that a Labour government “will…….reverse the decline of pollinators”.
The Conservatives 3 gold stars for 3 good policies “Promise that they will use agri-environment money to “help our bees to thrive.” “
Plaid Cymru have 1 gold star for a good policy and 1 thumbs-down for a bad one. “No mention of bees”
The SNP draws a blank – they didn’t mention this in their manifesto.“No mention of bees”
UKIP have two thumbs down for 2 bad policies “No mention of bees (or wildlife, or biodiversity, or nature!)”

Fancy A Wallasea Wander? (Booking Essential!)

“Wallasea Island Wild Coast project is a landmark conservation and engineering scheme for the 21st century, on a scale never before attempted in the UK and the largest of its type in Europe.The aim of this project is to combat the threats from climate change and coastal flooding by recreating the ancient wetland landscape of mudflats and saltmarsh, lagoons and pasture. It will also help to compensate for the loss of such tidal habitats elsewhere in England.

Once completed, this will provide a haven for a wonderful array of nationally and internationally important wildlife and an amazing place for the local community, and those from further afield, to come and enjoy.”

Find out more here. And there’s a special event next Saturday:

wallasea wander

The Wallasea Island Wild Coast Project….

The project is described as “Conservation for the 21st century, on a scale never before attempted in the UK!” This video explains what’s there.

The RSPB website has a new comment from a satisfied visitor:

I visited Wallasea for the first time today. I cannot get over the numbers of corn buntings. Flocks of well over 100 in more than one area, smaller groups numerous, there must have been well over 300 visible along the road and sea wall, with many in full jangle song. Simply wonderful. 3 short eared owls, at least 4 marsh harriers, half a dozen or more kestrels, over 1,000 brent geese and the constant backdrop of skylarks more than made up for failing to find hen harriers or a rough legged buzzard (a common variety was over the other side of the Crouch). What a great area, I can’t wait to see how the RSPB develops it.

Beautiful Barling

barling 1

barling 2

Have you ever looked at the parish website for Barling and Sutton? Someone’s done a very classy job…. Also, Barling Wildlife Reserve looks like a nice place to go to…

In April 1998 a 999 year lease was granted to Barling Magna Parish Council via Rochford District Council from Southend Borough Council and the land was Registered in October 1998.

The 12 acre site had been part of the Southend Borough’s old defunct sewerage farm and had become a general dumping ground and derelict rubbish site…

…. It was necessary to remove a hundred Dutch Elms which had succumbed to the disease and this made way for generous new plantings. Now over 130 specimen trees, mostly native, have been planted and over 400 grant funded hedgerow plants. We are continuously adding to these. On both sides of the reserve there are inaccessible margins between ditches and fences that are left undisturbed.

The two main meadows are linked by footbridges and there are no plans to change them. They will be cut once a year to ensure that early coloniser plants do not take over. Our ambition is to construct a footbridge over the Borrow Dyke and link the reserve to the seawall of the River Roach.

There is another newly created wood to the west side which was planted by schoolchildren in June 2012 to celebrate the Queen’s Diamond Jubilee.

A Flock Of Godwits

a flock of godwits

The webpages for the Wallasea Island Wild Coast project have fairly quiet this year , but there’s some new stuff on there now:

Many visitors to the reserve have come to catch some great views of the hen harriers, marsh harriers and short-eared owls that are hunting across the reserve daily. Some have taken some great images of these birds hunting across the rough grassland and wild bird cover. I wish I was as good a photographer!

We have also seen our annual increase in wader and waterfowl numbers on the lagoons and mud flats. A large flock of over 300 black-tailed godwits along with a few hundred lapwing can be seen on the lagoons, along with smaller numbers of golden plover and ringed plover.

Crossrail are continuing their work as best they can now the ground conditions have become so wet. They have imported over 90% of the material they are bringing in and once you have crossed the footbridge, you can now see the work up close to the sea wall. Channels have been created to spread the incoming sea water across the area, and you can see lagoons which will stay wet even on a low tide and islands which the birds will be able to use for roosting and nesting.

Believe it or not at this time of year it is well worth a visit!

Adder Warning !



A helpful warning from Rawreth Parish Councillor Christine Paine:

I wonder if you could put something on OnLine Focus to warn walkers, dog walkers and riders about  late season adder explosion, especially on the footpath/bridleway that goes round Dollymans and over the bridge then back to the A129. One of my neighbours dogs has been bitten, fortunately they got it to the vet in time and it’s OK, but he saw several and when I saw some riders yesterday they said six had slithered across the path in front of them. We think the work at the back of the sub-station has disturbed and displaced them as there are far more than usual, and it’s late in the season for there to be this number around, possibly the summer like weather is encouraging them out as well.

Find out more about adders here.

Wildlife Walks At Wallasea !

From the RSPB website – note you have to book in advance !  :

Wallasea Wander

Saturday 30 August and Saturday 27 September

13:46 to 15:45 August, 9:30 to 11:30 September

Price: £3 donation

Booking essential


Find out more about the development of this exciting new nature reserve.
Booking essential, limited spaces.
Please contact 01268 498620 or to book a space.
Please note that booking closes the Thursday before the walk date.


Meet at: RSPB car park, Wallasea Island