The Ventilator

Incorporating The Ranger's Blog

Natural England

English Nature finally discovers a sense of irony

Matthew Chatfield

Way back when The Ranger was young the Conservative government decided that it was time to wrap up the former Nature Conservancy Council and make a series of new bodies to oversee conservation and wildlife in the UK. The successor body in England was English Nature. The final death knell for the NCC was sounded when Michael Heseltine signed it into the history books in 1991. As is often the case in such times there was considerable disquiet about what the future held. Many within the old NCC were not convinced of the wisdom of this course of action. William Wilkinson, chairman of the NCC said in 1990 of the government’s decision to dismember the NCC:

The whole episode has been an example of poor government and reinforces my view that the workings of the Department of the Environment need to be reviewed.

Famously, the cover of the final annual report of the NCC in 1991 featured a prominent picture of a sunset, framed in a sombre black. Trying to say something, maybe? You betcha. If anyone’s still got one, or a picture of one, The Ranger would love to have a scan for this page. The reason for this history lesson is that history, as ever, is about to repeat itself. The child of 1991, English Nature, is now for the chop and is to be replaced by Natural England. The final annual report of English Nature has just hit the shelves. Take a look at the cover:

English Nature Annual Report 2005-2006
The cover of English Nature’s Annual Report 2005-2006

It seems as though a decade and a half of sensible scientific worthiness has been enough – in its last gasp, English Nature tips its hat in an unmistakable reference to its predecessor, the NCC. The dark and looming sunset over the stark, apparently lifeless landscape seems to send the same message, 15 years on. There is a small and quite subtle caveat – the cover picture is credited in tiny letters on the back of the report as a sunrise, and indeed, as it is in Yorkshire this seems very likely to be the case. So even if some politician has read their history they will not be able to accuse the departing English Nature of sour grapes. After all, what could be more optimistic than a sunrise? But it’s easy to imagine almost any other picture of a sunrise looking more positive than this angry, glowering image. The Ranger chooses to believe that the choice of cover is not a coincidence – and heeds the message accordingly.

Matthew Chatfield

Uncooperative crusty. Unofficial Isle of Wight cultural ambassador. Conservation, countryside and the environment, with extra stuff about spiders.

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