Countryman Diary - May 2012
Otters returned to Bourn Brook in Cambridgeshire in 1993 following a break of thirty years after pesticides (DDT and Dihedron) had taken them to the edge of English extinction. This event triggered the birth of the Countryside Restoration Trust (CRT). The trust owns about three miles (5 km) of Bourn Brook and adjoining meadows, and has recently confirmed the otters’ presence by night-time photographs from a motion-sensitive camera.
CRT chairman Robin Page says:
“The pictures are brilliant, confirming that otters are still doing well in the Cam valley and its tributaries. For some time we have been aware of otters visiting our ‘mink rafts’, put in place to warn of the presence of mink. Now, with the help of the camera, we have pictorial evidence of the continued presence of otters — brilliant!”
Dr Vince Lea, the CRT’s wildlife co-ordinator, adds:
“The photographs are confirmation of what we knew already — that otters are still regular visitors to Bourn Brook. From the photographic evidence and signs of scenting it looks like confirming the presence of a male and female otter. Let’s hope they breed.”
“Although this confirms good news we must not become complacent,” Robin warns. “A female otter was recently killed on a road passing through Hauxton. In addition I still have concerns about the quality of the water draining into the Cam from the old agri-chemical site in Hauxton, and then we have the problem of increased disturbance from environmentally unfriendly developments such as Trumpington Meadows.”
Green light for wind turbines
A wind farm appeal decision that gives the green light to the development of four large wind turbines, each measuring 400 feet (125 m) in height, near to the nationally important Lyveden New Bield in Northamptonshire, could have serious implications for the future of heritage sites, claims the National Trust.
Lyveden is one of the trust’s most iconic places, described by the planning inspector as “probably the finest surviving example of an Elizabethan garden [with a] cultural value of national if not international significance”. Despite this he concluded that greater importance should be placed on meeting the regional and national targets for renewable energy rather than protecting the setting of such an important place.
Fiona Reynolds, the trust’s director-general, says: “This decision is a landmark case which undermines the protection of our heritage sites. If the impacts here are not such to amount to substantial harm on our nation’s heritage, it is difficult to conceive where they would be.”
The planning inspector agreed that Lyveden New Bield “has archaeological, architectural, artistic and historic significance of the highest magnitude” and that the moving turbines would “introduce a man-made feature, of significant scale, into the experience of the place” that would “cause harm to the setting”.
“Whilst the trust strongly believes in the need to increase renewable energy generation,” Fiona Reynolds continues, “as a guardian of places of historic interest it has a duty to do all it can to ensure developments are of an appropriate scale and location.”
The wind turbines will be just two-thirds of a mile (1 km) from Lyveden New Bield, and they will be visible from almost every part of the estate. The trust is currently seeking advice on how to proceed.
Helping hoof from heavy horse
A gentle giant is doing his bit to help Lincolnshire’s rarest mammal. Horse logger Dave Watlin, fifty-seven, from Sixhills, near Market Rasen, and Hector, his six-year-old Dutch Draught — a breed of heavy horse — have been recruited by the Forestry Commission to help revive coppicing in a key area of 900-acre (360 ha) Chambers Farm Wood, near Wragby.
The beauty spot is the only known haven in Lincolnshire for dormice, which were re-introduced here in 2002. Forest chiefs reported last year that numbers were soaring, with over seventy adults, juveniles and babies being recorded in three autumn checks by rangers and local volunteers.
Now Dave, his son Michael, and Hector are hard at work making the environment even better for the dormice by coppicing two acres (0.8 ha) of woodland.
Wally Grice, Forestry Commission forester, explains:
“Coppicing involves cutting back trees to their stumps. It promotes vigorous re-growth, and helps maintain a healthy supply of dormice foodstuffs such as hazelnuts. It will also deliver plenty of benefits for other wildlife too.”
Hector will haul out five tonnes of timber, most of which will be used locally for firewood. Dave explains:
“Horses are kinder to the ground than a machine would be so, given the sensitive terrain, it makes sense to use them. The Dutch Draught is the perfect breed for this kind of work, as they are generally a bit smaller than a Shire horse, meaning they are better in tight spaces.”
Much of Chambers Farm Wood is designated as a Site of Special Scientific Interest and forms part of the Bardney Limewoods National Nature Reserve. The Forestry Commission is committed to creating and broadening habitats in the spectacular wood.
Rural artwork on display
Any Countryman readers visiting the Settle area of North Yorkshire before 1st July are invited to drop in at the Museum of North Craven Life, based at the Folly, to see an exhibition about our sister magazine Dalesman.
The display features some wonderful rural artwork, and many of the artists have also featured in The Countryman over the years.
The Folly is an interesting Grade I, seventeenth-century house under the care of the North Craven Building Preservation Trust.
For opening times visit the website ncbpt.org.uk/folly or telephone 01729 822361.