Posts Tagged ‘Beverley Westwood’

‘Moor’ badgering, upland Hen Harriers, Natural England have a new Chief Executive & Beverley Common.

June 27, 2014


The plight of beleaguered brock was brought home to me recently when I attended a meeting to explore ways of safeguarding the last few setts in the area.  We knew the situation was bleak but apparently it’s actually worse than we’d imagined and local naturalists are pretty hardened to public attitude to wildlife and the natural environment.  We were aware that South Yorkshire is the known cruelty capital and Doncaster is particularly bad.

Why do people enjoy inflicting cruelty on animals?  Why are the police unable to secure prosecutions?  Why do such crimes go unpunished?  Perhaps more cattle should be farmed here where there is a reduced badger population and then there would be no need for Paterson to continue his vendeta against the species elsewhere in England?  Recent press coverage questions efficacy of the culls.


Of persecution, the Hen Harrier epetition “Ban driven grouse shooting” created by Dr Mark Avery continues to secure additional signatures and now stands at 5,861 could it reach the 10,000 threshold by the inglorious 12th?  Anyone interested in attennding a peaceful day out with like minded folk is invited to meet not only Mark but Chris Packham as well, see “Standing up for nature” post for ‘moor’ details.

The Ethical Consumer Research Association (May 2014) has written a very readable, well researched and informed report Turn your back on GROUSE A popular campaign against greed and intensification on England’s grouse shooting estates.


Another bit of news material to any reader interested in the politics of Defra agencies, is the announcement of the new Chief Executive of Natural England, James Cross.  The usual PR material is available on various websites but suffice to encapsulate the spin, Andrews Sells, Natural England’s Chairman, commented: “I am delighted to be able to announce the appointment of James Cross as our new Chief Executive. He brings a wealth of experience which will be invaluable to us.

“Natural England does vital work on behalf of the environment and we are keen to drive forward the programme of reform outlined in the Triennial Review, further develop our status as a trusted advisor to government and build confidence and respect among our many stakeholders and customers for the way we work with them. James will bring an important combination of experience, energy and drive to enable this to happen.”   

Previously CE of the Marine Management Organisation we await evidence to back up the words.  Interestingly Dave Webster who was appointed Natural England’s Acting Chief Executive in March 2012 and continued in the role while the Triennial Review was underway, confirmed in March this year that he would not be seeking the role on a permanent basis and will be leaving Natural England on 18 July 2014 to take on a new executive role within Defra.  Natural England’s Executive Director, Guy Thompson will act as interim Chief Executive until James Cross takes up the permanent Chief Executive role on 1st September 2014.  So along with the recent restructuring how long before there is any robust science to underpin the dash to Dedicate Open Access across all publically owned NNRs?  We’ve already had reports of increased equine access and even 4 x 4’s attempting to cross ditches to access Hatfield Moors …. one might be forgiven for having concerns about the proportion of reduced budget has been spent on yet another restructure, redundancy packages, recruitment and the like?  Nature conservation a very poor second perhaps even third if you contrast against access and engagement?


Readers may be aware that in the ERY applications are progressing to Deregister and Exchange Land at Beverley Westwood COM544.  It seems that the local authority have been writing to objectors ahead of the Public Inquiry seeking to get the withdrawl of those objections.  The campaign has hit the front page of the Hull Daily Mail.  There is a real fear that a precedent would be set by the approval of such an application.

The Open Spaces Society have added their objection to a growing call for more open and transparent conduct of business by the local authority.  For details of the full saga then the reader is signposted to the excellent Beverley Commons Blog which regales the debacle in full technicolour.  There are a number of related issues which add to the complexity including procedural issues around the application by developers to build luxury housing on the former Westwood Hospital.   The ERYC planning website refers to the development as application 3876, yet a letter received by the Forum yesterday refers to the same description as application number 0573!  Confusing, definitely!  Even more so when I tried to locate the Forum’s representation, as rare as a South Yorkshire Meles meles!  In fact it appears rarer …. so watch this space for updates.

It is a dilemma of modern living perhaps that finds what we previously took for granted as being protected sites are slowly being eroded and nibbled away at the edges to benefit business and not retained for the public benefit, the basis on which they were established.

& finally for tonight ….

For those readers who are not able to receive the Thorne Times as a newspaper, then read the June edition of Ramblings and nature notes of a bog-trotter here.




Conservation, collaboration and campaign(er)s

January 12, 2014

What a start to 2014, we had the Minister for the Environment Owen Paterson suggests that ancient woodlands can be felled if each tree lost were to be replaced with a 100 new ones!  That was on the back of a year which saw volumes of reports published evidencing losses of habitats and species.  The Ecologist, offers a contra perspective here.

Sadly now we find ourselves a little adrift of our usual ‘natural area’ territory and we look at the tradition of “Pasture Masters” across in Beverley Westwood.  A comment on the The Hull Dail Mail website describes the election process as it being “one of the country’s oldest and quirkiest elections”.  Long may such traditions not simply survive, but flourish.

But, sadly we learn that this ancient common, one well known to many of us if only because we can drive through it on the way to the East Coast is under threat.  But, thankfully such places have their champions and quite rightly so, another well qualified to fight nature’s corner and that of the community can be found through authorship of the 38 degree petion here.


A resident of Westwood Common whose wellbeing is at risk if developers are allowed to damage ancient rights of common?


It might be said that it is not disastrously significant in terms of nature conservation or environmental vandalism, BUT it sets a precedent and it continues that current trend of death by a thousand cuts.  When the haemorrhaging stops and the life blood is lost, we mourn the loss of things we had previously believed would always be.

Lest we forget the other Beverley Commons which might be considered as more diverse in their natural history interest.  Swinemoor for example.  But that too is under threat and have attracted controversy, see here.

The third is Figham Common and collectively these significant parcels of land offer wildlife and the commoners as well as the public an amazing resourse.  We can only wonder at what wildlife frequented these sites back in 1255, the date which Figham Common was first recorded.  A brief resume of the three Beverley Commons can be found here.

So, please readers consider adding your voice to the petition SAVE OUR WESTWOOD feel free to leave comments, please forward the details to your network.  Together community collaboration can make a difference. 

Black_Mill,_Beverley 2

Black Mill, Beverley Westwood by Paul Glazzard via Creative Commons Attribution Share-alike license 2.0

Just in case we have any new readers who have not already signed the Forum’s petition to STOP & RETHINK NNRs as Open Access areas, please consider that one too, again PLEASE forward on to your networks.

I am reminded of some inspirational prose, the first verse of which was adopted and used on the calling card of the late Wm Bunting of Thorne.  In the 17 and 1800’s Commons were enclosed for private benefit and it would have been written as a ‘call to arms’ ….

The law locks up the man or woman
Who steals the goose from off the common
But leaves the greater villain loose
Who steals the common from off the goose.

The law demands that we atone
When we take things we do not own
But leaves the lords and ladies fine
Who take things that are yours and mine.

The poor and wretched don’t escape
If they conspire the law to break;
This must be so but they endure
Those who conspire to make the law.

The law locks up the man or woman
Who steals the goose from off the common
And geese will still a common lack
Till they go and steal it back.

A time for contemplation or for action?

December 29, 2013

Sometimes as the year comes to a close one is minded to contemplate the successes and the failures of that year from varying perspectives.  This might then contribute to setting the tone for the coming year.

How has the wildlife around your ‘backyard’ fared?  How has the wider environment regionally and nationally fared, what of the issue at an international level?

It’s easy enough to think that individuals alone can’t make much difference and that decisions are made elsewhere.  In the main that is perhaps true.  But reflect on some critical mass achievments in recent years and you begin to think that it might just be worth the occasional letter to your MP, the Secretary of State and even the Prime Minister perhaps or his opposite numbers in the other party(s)?  If nothing else the style of response is often an interesting experience in itself, or perhaps it’s just the letters that we write because very rarely do we receive a clear definitive response to the specific question we ask.  It took quite some time for me to realise that it was best to keep letters simple, a bit of background information and a simple question, mmh that should do the trick?

In reality we have come to realise and appreciate that MPs are conduits, Ministers have to respond to them whereas ordinary members of the public asking awkward or complex questions tend to be ignored or are just thanked for raising the isue or matter with them.  A good example relatively recently was a case of deliberate damage to a SSSI by a landowner’s lawful tenant.  Natural England and their Defra colleagues in the Rural Payments Agency delivered a stunning performance of Nero!  This action ought to have seen the receovery of public funds consequential of breach of cross compliance, but no absolutely nothing not even a site visit to investigate.

So as we approach the politicians run up to the next election, what are the issues for environmental conservationists?  Are there any politicians who actual understand the ‘environment’?  If there are then they are a rare species indeed.  Mark Avery undertook a fun poll on green MPs, asking his readers to vote for the Wildlife MP of 2013.  OK, it was very superficial and subjective but a straw poll nevertheless and interesting results particularly second place!  Perhaps and we’d be forgiven for thinking that’s the power of lobbying?  No real suprise as to the winner from the candidates listed but what will 2015 and the ‘real’ election see?  I suspect mass turn out from those doing well from the current incumbents (wealthy agri-industrialists, bankers &c.), apathy and no show from disillusioned and down-trodden masses?  At the risk of sounding like a Mark Avery fan club, he did encourage people to write regularly to their MPs about environmental issues and I’d endorse that sentiment.  Let them know that despite the austerity measures still evident here in the north particularly (oops, up-turn in the economy) that people do value and expect the environment to be protected.  There is a naive belief that it will be there for future generations, but will it?  If it has a commercial value then the chances are that it will be subject to ‘development’ pressures of some shape or form.  I am reminded that in 2009 Natural England staff were actively encouraged to develop money making schemes on NNRs.  That manifested itself in the form of a proposal for a commercial trout fishery on Hatfield Moors SSSI.  Reflecting upon Ralph Underhill’s recent cartoon, I wonder what is on the horizon for 2014?  Perhaps Nick Bee (DCPP) has the answer, he certainly offers an interesting perspective or perhaps he’s already on the inside track?  If ‘we’ rehome and garden the wildlife elsewhere and then develop NNRs, mmmh …. many a true word eminated from jests?  Projects are more profitable perhaps than protection?

So, do we let those who ‘govern’ us dictate what is best or do we interact and even more controvertial do we dare to be proactive?

If everyone wrote a weekly or even just a monthly letter to their MPs then ‘environment matters’ would at least be on their radar if not actual agenda’s.  Better still set up your own blog site, link with other environmental conservation or campaigning groups.

A recent discovery was one involving Beverley Westwood and Swinemoor, how many other regional examples such as this are out there?  Let me know and let me know why it is important that we as individuals as well as collaborative collectives have a voice when it comes to our natural environment …. Quis custodiet ipsos custodes?

Just in case you think the Forum have abandoned science, to let you know that another ‘gem’ has been discovered on Thorne Moors.  Idioptera linnei Oosterbroek an RDB 1 cranefly(Falk 1991)  is the latest addition to the inventory of invertebrate assemblage.  From a bit of cursory research this species seems to be found mainly from Cumbria and Shropshire, unless you know differently?  The findings of the 2012 Invertebrate Survey from which this and many other ‘gems’ have been identified have been presented at a seminar in the autumn, but it is planned to published the findings next year.  Watch this space for the next installment! 

Perhaps we should write to the Humberhead MPs and let them know of our discoveries ….

Perhaps we should write to the SoS for the Environment and invite him and his team to visit to see the assemblage in situ?  I’d love to know what value they’d place on this gem if it were eligible to be considered as part of an ecosystem service ….

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Mark Avery

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I write about politics, nature + the environment. Some posts are serious, some not. These are my views, I don't do any promotional stuff and these views are not being expressed for anyone who employs me.

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