Thursday, 3 October 2013

Part of the Bigger Picture

My days at the Lower Windrush Valley Project are rarely routine and Wednesday 25th September was no exception. I spent the  morning with the volunteer group at Standlake Common Nature Reserve coppicing hazel to provide stakes and binders for the hedgelayers to use the following week. It is always satisfying to be able to use our home grown produce for projects. It was also the first time that Louise had done coppicing and she quickly developed an eye for it and a good technique.

Then it was time for an hour at my desk and a quick change before I headed up to London for an evening reception to celebrate the work of RESTORE; a new European funded partnership, headed by the RSPB set up to restore mineral sites for biodiversity, people and the economy across North West Europe. Surrey County Council and organisations from Belgium, Holland and Germany are the other partners. The project began in 2012 and runs to 2015 and can already showcase some very positive restoration sites with a view to influencing future practice.

The speakers were all very interesting and although I haven't the time to cover them all the following three made a big impression on me as they related to specific aspects of our work at the LWVP. Sue Armstrong-Brown, head of Conservation Policy at the RSPB, highlighted how many targets for the maintenance and improvement of threatened habitats and species are already being delivered on these sites and their huge potential for the future. She also talked about how important many of these sites are for people, for their recreation and enjoyment of the natural world.
Nigel Jackson, Chief Executive of the Mineral Products Association was very positive about the willingness and, in many cases, the enthusiasm of the minerals operators to engage with the highest standard of restoration to secure maximum benefit for wildlife. He also said how much he regrets the loss of the Aggregates Levy Sustainable Fund Grant Scheme that was such a good resource for many environmental projects and enabled some really useful work to be done here in the valley. He has written to the minister to express his frustration about this.
Even the MEP Catherine Bearder had some pertinent points to make. Apparently she is known as the 'Bees and Elephants MEP' as she is always trying to include her passion and concern for the environment in whatever portfolio she is working on. She said how even at that level people's eyes glaze over at the mention of 'biodiversity'. They don't understand the concepts or the issues and how important care for the environment is for the future of our everyday lives. There is clearly a great need for more environmental education which is an aspect of the LWVP that I hope to develop in the future.
On the train on the way home it was time to reflect on the threads that connect these top policy makers with those who prefer to make local efforts to improve biodiversity on the ground. This was an international celebration of the work that is going on around us in the Lower Windrush Valley ranging from the companies like Smiths Bletchington that want to leave a positive legacy for the future to the individual volunteers like Louise who want to do their bit to make a difference.

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