Environmental infrastructure: what it could really cost

Drains, water, sewage works, landfill sites… usually best left to somebody else to sort out. Well, maybe once this was true. In south-east England nothing could be further from the truth today. It’s not always perceived as an obvious connection with countryside management but maybe it should be. The Ranger has always had a bit of an interest in sewage works, (see some photos of one of his recent visits to such an establishment) and is presently involved in advising his employer on drainage issues at a proposed large residential development site. So he read with enthusiasm the Environment Agency‘s 2007 report “Hidden infrastructure: the pressures on environmental infrastructure” because, let’s face it, you didn’t, did you? It’s a short report which is obviously designed to get some pretty stark messages home. It looks at how the environment is coming under pressure in densely populated areas, such as SE England, and argues that adequate environmental infrastructure is essential if development is to go ahead within the environment’s capacity to absorb the additional impacts. As well as looking at possible ways to reduce or mitigate these impacts, the report is bold enough to indicate the scale of the problem in simple terms:

Environmental infrastructure


Above is a figure from the report – it shows the calculated average environmental infrastructure cost, per house, in south-east England. The total is over £20,000 per house built.

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Blogger who falsely accused council officers of corruption ordered to pay £25K damages.

As a council officer and as a writer on the internet, I’ve been following the story of Jacqui Thompson and Carmarthenshire council for a while now.

Jacqui Thompson is vice-chair of the Community Council in the Carmarthenshire village of Llanwrda. She also maintains a blog critical of Carmarthenshire council and its officers. She found brief internet fame in 2011 when she was arrested after Carmarthenshire council objected to her filming one of its meetings on her mobile phone, causing a Twitterstorm of protest under the hashtag #daftarrest. And yesterday she was ordered to pay £25,000 in libel damages to a council’s chief executive over what Britain’s most senior libel judge described as an “unlawful campaign of harassment, defamation and intimidation”.

Burry Port Harbour, Carmarthenshire

Carmarthenshire has some nice bits

This is a sad business, but it has some wider implications for both council officers and bloggers.  Continue reading

The rural economy? FRIG that!

The Ranger is an avid reader of the Country Land and Business Association magazine. It’s well worth a read for the good advice and news you find in it, and it’s probably not revealing too much to say that several of the pages on Naturenet’s law section were inspired – or even corrected – by it. So it was with some pleasure that The Ranger got to celebrate the existence of the Farming & Rural Interest Group with a splendid two-page spread from the South East regional CLA magazine:

Farming and Rural Interest Group article


The FRIG is a worthy organisation, initially sponsored by SEEDA, which seeks to promote new ways to boost the rural economy, such as driving tractors to schools! The Ranger salutes them, but wonders whether it’s only him who notices that ‘frig‘ has another, perhaps less savoury meaning?

This article was first published in 2007 and is republished with updated links: FRIG itself seems to have… frigged off since then.

Book review: A Year in the Woods, Colin Elford

A friend bought me ‘A Year in the Woods: The Diary of a Forest Ranger‘, by Colin Elford. I picked up the book with a certain apprehension – the second-hand bookshops’ natural history shelves are stuffed with glossy tomes under that kind of title; giving accounts either uncomfortably twee or tediously focussed on shooting, fishing, horses or birds. The cover gave me some hope, being a gentle New Naturalist-style linocut rather than a breathless photo of some generic deer in the leaves.

A Year in the Woods, Colin Elford

Once I began to read, my concerns evaporated within a few paragraphs. For this is a direct book. Colin Elford writes succinctly, writing as much as he needs to and no more. The reader can almost feel and smell the forest and its hidden life as Elford’s measured voice describes it with the kind of understated eloquence that one might be more accustomed to hearing from David Attenborough. Continue reading

The world’s loneliest tree… and its ironic fate

A recent post on Damn Interesting drew the Ranger’s attention to a tree he’d vaguely heard of, but of which he never really knew the story.

Arbre du Ténéré in 1961. (c) Michel MazeauThe Tree of Ténéré in 1961

The Tree of Ténéré (or l’Arbre du Ténéré) was an acacia in the Ténéré desert, an area of the Sahara in Niger. It was the very last of a once-great forest, and towards the end of its life it was in fact the only tree in a 400 kilometre (250 mile) radius. This made it an important landmark, one which was marked with respect and affection by travellers in the great desert. Continue reading

Nice legs! The world’s leggiest animal is rediscovered.

Last seen in 1928, the colobognath millipede Illacme plenipes is thought to have more legs than any other animal on earth – one female was found with 750 legs, while the males are thought to have a maximum of 562. Despite its legginess the species is actually quite small, even relative to other millipedes. Females grow to just over an inch long; males are slightly smaller. Now scientists from the University of Arizona have rediscovered this elusive beast, and here’s a video of it.

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Book review: Urban Mammals – a concise guide

In 2010, the People’s Trust for Endangered Species produced Britain’s Mammals – a concise guide, which I said was “a rich delight to read”. So when I heard that another book in the same series was on its way, I was naturally interested. That book is Urban Mammals – a concise guide. Unlike its predecessor, the cover credits the author, former biochemist and erstwhile Edinburgh Fringe performer David Wembridge, who works as Surveys Coordinator for PTES.

Urban Mammals, a concise guide (PTES)

Urban Mammals is an interesting and well-presented tour through a selection of mammals that might be found in Britain’s urban environments. In the introduction, it gives the striking example of Jennifer Owen of Leicester, who in 30 years managed to identify over 2,500 species of plants and animals in her own suburban garden, including four that were new to science. This leads on to an interesting discourse on the extent and value of urban habitats, and the inevitable difficulty in defining them. Then it is onto the guide, which forms the main body of the book. In this, a selection of mammal species are given a page or more of description. Interspersed amongst these guide pages are various boxes and case studies which add background – for example, two pages on bats in buildings by another author. These are valuable but sporadic, and do make it difficult to know whether the book is best used as a guide that one should browse, or a reference book to read through systematically and enjoy. Continue reading

A shrimp on a treadmill to the tune of Benny Hill

Persisting with the Ranger’s long-standing interest in bizarre invertebrates, the latest addition to his virtual menagerie is this video, enigmatically titled “A shrimp on a treadmill to the tune of Benny Hill”:

This is one of the funniest things the Ranger has seen online for a long time. Which probably says something about the internet.