I’m hoping to spend a lot more time out patrolling the countryside this year, and so I have been on the lookout for a new pair of boots. And given the wet winter we have had, I’ve been looking quite hard at the Hi-Tec waterproof range. So these last few weeks I’ve been testing out a nice new pair of Hi-Tec Altitude Pro walking boots. Are they just stylish weekend hiker-clogs; or reliable workhorses? My old plates have been finding out. Continue reading The Ranger re-booted
I’m being outsourced. The Isle of Wight Council can’t pay for a full countryside service any more, so some time early in 2016, I’m taking a load of the council’s countryside sites, one of my colleagues, and a lot of optimism off to work for a small Island charity called Gift to Nature. Yes, it’s finally happening, I’m going back to countryside management.
During my time at the Isle of Wight Council I’ve always been countryside manager, but I’ve also variously managed (as well as countryside) parks, beaches, allotments, rights of way, estuaries, AONB, protected trees, ecology, village greens and more. All of these have taught me a lot and – on the whole – been great to do. But actually, I started as a ranger and that’s what I like best. So I’m very pleased to be going back to it.
The refurbished red squirrel hide at Parkhurst Forest was launched this weekend by Gift to Nature. I was there to take a guided walk and also a group of children from Hunnyhill Primary School round and show them the hide, plus a few other things!
I promised that I’d show the visitors angry acid-spitting animals – and I did! Parkhurst has some suitably irate wood ants, and by teasing them with a bit of litmus paper on a stick we could demonstrate that they genuinely do spit acid. Continue reading Angry acid-spitting creatures in Parkhurst Forest
by Rowan Adams, the Climate-friendly Gardener
Yes, you read that right. Please help to save living wildlife not just at the Natural History Museum, but from the Natural History Museum
Well, to be more precise, living wildlife at the museum needs saving from some plans proposed by people at the top of the museum. I took this photo on Midsummer Day, 24 June, when I was there for the Wildlife Gardening Forum’s conference on soil biodiversity in the garden. How sad that on the autumn equinox I would be signing a petition to save the garden. Continue reading Save living wildlife from the Natural History Museum
This splendid infographic by Justin Stuart summarises the development of modern dolphins from earlier land mammals, and answers some great questions such as why dolphins have the genes to smell things on land, but not in the water.
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!
Abandon your hamsters, friends. Enjoy this footage of a slug using an exercise wheel. Go, slug!
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)
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
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.