The State of Nature

The State of Nature Cornwall 2020 is the title of a new report, due to be published in full in the Spring of this year. Produced by Cornwall Wildlife Trust in conjunction with Cornwall Council and the University of Exeter, a preview was released last month which presented a pretty bleak picture overall of the state of Nature in the county.

There are some good news stories but, on the whole, much clearly needs to be done (or perhaps left alone!) if Nature is allowed to recover and provide the resilience needed to protect and grow our biodiversity, and help address climate change.

Coincidentally, one piece of good news was the announcement also last month that Cornwall had been selected as one of 5 pilot areas in the country to produce a Nature Recovery Plan.

The initial consultations (now closed) attracted a significant number of responses, and it is to be hoped that the emerging Plan will bear fruit, with any recommendations included in Climate and Nature Action Plans being developed by town and parish councils.

Urban Buzz

At roughly the same time, the local press reported that Cornwall Council’s Environmental Growth Strategy is currently being updated, having been launched initially in 2016. Designed to safeguard and steward the natural environment, Portfolio Holder (Environment) Councillor Rob Nolan commented that

“this strategy sets out how partners will work together to help create a cleaner, greener Cornwall with more space for Nature”

And, lastly, the Cornwall Council Climate Emergency Development Planning Document (DPD) is now out for its third public consultation (closes 16th April).

Essentially, this document is the Council’s bid to set out its new planning policies – in relation to the design and construction of new developments – to help address climate change and achieve carbon neutrality by 2030. The initial drafts look promising, and it is to be hoped that new standards being in place will see more sustainable building practices. especially with the natural environment in mind.

So no shortage of documents, consultations and presentations/webinars early in the New Year. But questions arise:

  • how will these policies and agendas for action be delivered to benefit Nature at the local level?
  • What will be expected of town and parish councils?
  • How can individuals, community groups, landowners and residents contribute to the need to protect our beleaguered wildlife and help it recover?

As usual there are more questions than answers, but if we look around our area, there is evidence that new practices could make a difference, often in subtle ways.

Here’s a few suggestions to ponder.

Hedgerow trees:

Lockdown last summer allowed many new saplings to appear in our Cornish hedges, only for them to be knocked back later by flailing.

Could some of these not be allowed to regenerate naturally for the future?

Flailed Hedge – Penpol Nov 2020

Trees:

Could small areas in fields be left by landowners to regenerate into “wild” areas, with trees and other vegetation – either left, or planted up to create new habitats?

Keep an eye open for news on the Cornwall Council Forest for Cornwall initiative.

Wildflower protection and planting:

Could farmers ensure that adequate margins for wildflowers/insects are left at the base of hedges in all fields and alongside footpaths?

Residents could also play their part by identifying, preparing and seeding up suitable areas, and/or think of carrying out selective mowing of their own lawns to allow wildflowers to thrive for pollinators during May/June

Cornish hedges:

Cornish and other earth hedges are also havens for wildlife supporting a myriad of insects, wildflowers and pollinators.

Could these not be left in place in new builds or renovations, unless their removal is absolutely unavoidable? The DPD mentioned above may well provide a remedy in these situations, by adopting the “build with nature” principle for new developments.

Vegetation:

Let Nature revert back to “wilderness”. For example, allow bramble and ivy to regenerate.

Most of the time bramble is very welcome, as it offers shelter and sustenance to many insects (including bees and butterflies) and many species of birds and mammals throughout the year.

This is similar to the often much-maligned ivy plant, which in the vast majority of cases poses no threat at all to trees and shrubs. Sometimes ivy may be overpowering an ailing tree, a young sapling, or other shrubs, and need attention, but it is not a parasitic plant, offering much-needed cover for nesting birds and other small creatures, late-season nectar and pollen for insects, and high-fat berries for birds.

Ivy Mining Bees

 

Biodiversity loss, climate change and environmental pollution are major challenges for our time. We can no longer take Nature for granted. Caring for the soil, vegetation and the wildlife they support, are essential for their survival, and also for our own wellbeing, indeed, our very existence.

What would the world be, once bereft
Of wet and wildness? Let them be left,
O, let them be left, wildness and wet;
Long live the weeds and the wilderness yet

Gerard Manley Hopkins : “Inversnaid”

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