Unemployed will have to do community work under Tories, says Cameron

All 18- to 21-year-olds who have failed to find a job or a place in training would no longer be able to claim jobseeker’s allowance under a Tory government, but would instead be forced to undertake community work, says David Cameron

Every single time I’ve been working during a change of government of any party, the idea of “putting the unemployed to work” in the countryside or parks has come along. And almost every time it has gone wrong. There are two reasons why, and they are always the same:

1) Politicians assume that work in the countryside or parks is unskilled and generic and so anyone can do it. They can’t. Most outdoor work requires a certain level of skill and ability. So when wholly unskilled people turn up to do such work, they soon run out of things they can usefully do. This is the case with quite a lot of other types of job, too.

2) To deliver this kind of project in any sector requires lots of input from people who actually know what they are doing; e.g. trainers, supervisors and managers. If you don’t provide them, the workers – who in this scenario might not even want to be there – won’t do anything useful, or might even cause more harm than good. You can’t just roll up in a van and work will magically appear in front of you. Someone has to plan it, get tools, and make sure it’s safe; before explaining what to do and making sure it’s done right.

Unfortunately many of the very people who could organise and supervise this kind of work in the outdoor industries – the rangers, the park keepers and the youth workers have either been laid off or contracted out. So I guess that work will be going to private firms. So if this does go ahead, maybe we should take the money that would be paid to those firms, and pay it to local councils to support the work with their existing staff. That’s another way to keep people away from unemployment!

The benefits of peat-free compost

The UK currently uses three million cubic metres of peat per annum for horticulture.  69% of this is used by amateur gardeners and 30% by professional growers.  As peat is effectively a non-renewable resource, the extraction of peat for horticulture is unsustainable, contributing to greenhouse gas emissions and damage to rare habitats and archaeology. (DEFRA source)

So, what to do? For a start, you can choose peat-free for your own garden. Read on to see how – and why.
The benefits of Peat Free Compost - Compost Direct

The end of the Natural England website

Way back in 1995, when Naturenet began  – yes fact fans, that was nearly twenty years ago – there were very few official government websites about anything – certainly not conservation and countryside. Naturenet blazed a trail that made it one of the biggest and most popular conservation websites in the UK. This wasn’t actually that hard, as there was little else. So when the government’s nature conservation agency, English Nature, first created a website in 2001, Naturenet had been publicising the same things for over five years.

Time has moved on, and lots of government websites came along publishing huge amounts of useful information and making Naturenet just one of many small websites. English Nature became Natural England, but then when the current government came to power that in turn was absorbed within DEFRA, no longer an independent government agency charged with “championing the cause of wildlife and natural features throughout England”. Instead, just another arm of government with no separate voice or policy. Maybe a part of the government’s campaign to reduce what  Chancellor George Osborne described as the “ridiculous costs on British businesses” that complying with environmental laws brings. Continue reading The end of the Natural England website

Autumn mowing? Look out for spider egg sacs!

I was out looking at a site preparing for an autumn cut. Hopefully we will get it done before it rains too much – but I did discover something interesting. This is a site where in the summer I saw Argiope, the Wasp Spider. This spectacular creature is now found in long grassland habitat across the southern parts of England.

Argiope eggsac

Continue reading Autumn mowing? Look out for spider egg sacs!

Under the Pier

“Ever seen a sponge garden or spotted a star ascidian? Now’s your chance! Join Spectrum’s Natural Wight and Ian Boyd from Arc for a unique rockpooling opportunity and discover the amazing array of marine life living under Ryde Pier.”

This is the video we made when we accepted that invitation on a sunny Ryde afternoon. have a look at the fun on the sand, and some of the exciting marine wildlife we saw. Not to mention how far out we went!

Prepare yourselves for the crazy spider story season

It’s that time of year again, when the media warms up for a summer of ‘False Widow’ scare stories. Not for nothing is Steatoda nobilis known as the Daily Mail Spider. For although it’s more-or-less harmless to most people, it gets rolled out every single year with the same old lame tales of impossible injuries and reactions to a supposed spider bite.

Prepare yourselves!

Really, there’s little or nothing to worry about if you’ve got false widows in your house or garden. And here’s why. Continue reading Prepare yourselves for the crazy spider story season

GB Non-native Species Secretariat offering free online courses

If you’re interested in non-native species and their impact on the environment, and you’d like to learn more, this is the thing for you.

One of the very few parts of environmental work that the government has not cut back on recently is the focus on non-native invasive species. In fact, the establishment of the GB Non-native Species Secretariat has given considerable momentum to ongoing work to understand and control the species of animal and plant that cause problems when they spread invasively in the wild.  Typical species that hit the headlines include Japanese knotweed, American mink and Himalayan balsam. But there are many others and lots to learn about them – like floating pennywort (shown above). Continue reading GB Non-native Species Secretariat offering free online courses