Lamenting of future generations ….

Thorne Moors has been variously described by a number of people over the years.  We have diaries and writings beginning at the end of the seventeenth century with that of the Rev’d  Abraham de la Pryme, who contributed several papers to the Transactions of the Royal Society of London, wherein he considered the origins of ‘trees found underground’ including Pinus sylvestris on Thorne and Hatfield Moors. Later antiquarian contributions came from other clerics, the Reverends William Stonehouse and Adrian Woodruffe Peacock. William Casson and George Stovin contributed further to the antiquarian bibliography of the area.  Visiting naturalists have meticulously reported on the biological interest of the sites. Several species such as Scheuchzeria palustris have long since been lost to the area due to drainage for agriculture and peat extraction.  Many of the original bog building Sphagnum mosses are no longer present, but new species continue to be added to the biota.  These include the ground beetle Bembidion humerale, first recorded from the site and indeed from Britain in 1976, although known as a fossil from recent work with Bronze Age deposits.  As a challenge to the Coleopterists, one of the fossils from this site,  is Helophorus tuberculatus, not known from the Moors at the present day but having the knack of looking like a small fragment of charcoal – is it still there?  If I managed a new county record for Yorkshire with Evarca arcuata in 1999, what else is out there, what can you discover?

It is Catherine Caufield’s 1991 slim but erudite volume entitled simply Thorne Moors which charts the modern campaign history of the site.  Its dedication to William Bunting (1916 – 1995) describes him as Naturalist, Pamphleteer, Archivist, Rebel, Bad-tempered old sod, and Inspiration.  Its eighty-eight pages make a useful reference for social historians or indeed anyone in need of inspiration where collusion and greed threaten perceived community space.  Another interesting reference is within the 1997 WWF-UK Report, A muzzled watchdog.  The reason that Thorne and Hatfield Moors were included in this work, and the Forum’s contribution to the campaign is cited, was because an agreement (1992-4)reached in respect of peat extraction was prevented from public scrutiny.  In that same year, 1997, the Levington’s document was eventually made available to the public.  Marren (2002) in his New Naturalist Nature Conservation also mentions Thorne and Hatfield Moors, including it because it was a site which attracted direct action by a group operating on the fringes of the law….. So, where is the next generation of field naturalists and in parallel the conservationists?  The science is necessary to underpin the campaigns to achieve and secure protection for sites of importance for nature conservation.  Without both supporting each other, then the future will continue to be ‘obituaries’ of species known from the past but no longer present.  Unfortunately, there does appear to be a new movement, largely springing up at the behest of developers and planners. This new breed of ‘biodiversity builders’ seeks to offer an instant fix as alternatives for conservation in the old style.  Very much the engineers’ approach, similar to that advocated to combat climate change, it hides behind the mask of ecosystem services, everything has a price, and any price can be overbid if it stands in the way of ‘progress’  Vae victis?

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