Pat's Blog

June 2016

Newsletter of The Friends of The Belton Hills 

January 2013

Wildife assailed by Council Budget Cuts once again 

On January 15th 2012 swinging budget cuts across the Southend Borough Council's remit were reported. Naturally, these cuts applied to the work of the Adult and Commmunity Services, which includes matters relating to the care of wildlife, parks and nature resrves. It is difficult to appreciate how much it costs to look after even a small area such as the little green space by the CentralMuseum. An annual mowing and tidy up there might cost as much as £600. Such spaces are an asset for relaxation and, at the same time, support wildlife. 

The official responsibiility to look after all the variety of our local willdlife, or its biodiversity, was laid down during the United Nation's "Earth Summit" Conference held in Rio de Janeiro in 1992. The UK Government was a signatory to the resulting international agreement named the Convention on Biological Diversity.  Each country was required to set up their own national strategies and action plans.   Our Government set up a Steering Group, which identified a need to increase public awarenes of and involvement in action to protect biodiversity. There was also a need to encourage local government to create Local Biological Action Plans (LBAPs) for their conservation areas. These action plans were developed around specific individual species and habitats. Essex published its plan in 1999. Southend's plan followed. Habitat Action Plans were identified (Aquatic: 7 e.g. Saltmarsh; Terrestrial: 6 e.g.Hedgerows; Urban: 6 e.g. Churchyards and Cemetries). Species Action Plans were drawn up, too (Plants and Trees: 2 .Deptford Pink and Black Poplar; Mammals:4 e.g.Domouse; Birds: 3 e.g. Skylark; Other Vertebrates: 3 e.g. Great Crested Newt; Invertebrates: 3 e.g. Stag Beetle. 

After Rio, Southend Council appointed an Environmental Officer, Paul Terry. He increased public awareness e.g. by holding Environmental Exhibitions and initiated research on e.g. Dormice and Water Voles. Annual LBAP Reports were published (the first for 2003) and put on the Council's website.  However, a round of major cuts in the Council's budget around six years ago, resulted in the removal of the Environmental Officer's post and reduction in conservation work. The results are obvious, e.g. some flower beds and a flower meadow have been removed, also, nature gardens e.g. the one in ChalkwellPark have shown evidence of neglect and the management of Hadleigh Great Wood waned.  

We depend on wild life in many ways e.g. for our Oxygen.  Care of wildlife is the responsibility of us all Council and residents alike, more so now than ever before. We need to stand up and be counted.  SENHS has carried out conservation work locally since the 1930s e.g.in Belfairs. Members of local Societies already carry out large amounts of conservation voluntarily.The Council is seeking to involve more interested people as volunteers to be guardians of green spaces, parks, nature reserves and to engage in practical conservation measures. The conservation of the Dormouse has been taken up by the volunteers, members of the Southend Dormouse Group. I would dearly like to hear from anyone wanting to help, especially anyone interested in the welfare of wildlife on the Belton Hills Local Nature Reserve. 

July 2012

Pressures on precious green space in Hadleigh

How ironic! The Leigh end of HadleighCountryPark reeled under the threat of the building of a Hospice recently. Those against were dubbed nimbies, antis and greenies, etc. Those would-be green space invaders were referred to politely in contrast.

 Consternation followed shortly after when a local naturalist came upon brown wasteland within the site of the remains of Hadleigh Castle! The vegetation had been sprayed with herbicide. According to English Heritage, they carry out spraying twice a year. Local naturalists have not experienced such before, though it may be that their visits never coincided with these treatments. Problem is that an uncommon plant is known to live there. It is insensitive to ignore the presence of such species and not to seek to work round it, as, presumably, English Nature would advise!     

Oh no! That is not the end of the Hadleigh embattlements. At the west end of the Park the Essex County Council's Hadleigh Legacy Grasslands Project has already removed some scrub. Fair enough. But, in the long term, a large area of mature hawthorn at the western end is scheduled for felling. Bang goes the crop of haws well devoured by local and migrating birds. The needs of migrating birds are  not a viable argument for the protection of these trees apparently. The land will then be used for grazing as it was in the 1920s. The cattle will come from Marsh Farm. English Nature claims that the flora of this area will be restored and enhanced as a result. There is grazing land in use in abundance nearby.

Pat  Wortley
Chairman, South Essex Natural History Society