Posts Tagged ‘fishlake’

When is a pond no longer a pond?

May 12, 2016

We oft hear of hedgerows and field ponds being an intrinsic part of the rural landscape.  Fishlake Parish in the Borough of Doncaster had many delightful such features.  Howes (1997) catalogued the decline of these features and we now mourn the passing of another ….

A pond such as this below in a quiet corner could assist alleviate the impact of flooding, it could be useful when biodiversity value of a land holding is assessed?

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Pond beginning to be infilled

Had this pond been checked for Great Crested Newts?  Had the local planning authority, that is to say Doncaster MBC, been asked about the presence of any protected species within the vicinity via their Local Records Centre?  Had the Environment Agency been contacted?

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Shows the same pond above filled with reclaimed soil from the nearby barrier bank

Crucially, had permission been sought for the use of barrier bank soil to infill it?  If so who was involved in any ‘discussion’? Had Danvm Drainage Commissioners as the Public Body responsible for drainage matters in the area been involved?

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Shows the barrier bank removal scar

What risk assessment had been undertaken which determined that there was no need for this bank in terms of flood management?  It seems wholly reasonable that given the low lying nature of the area that features were installed or created for a reason and if that was now redundant then it would receive approval from the appropriate authority for an alternative use?  Who was and who is now that appropriate authority or agency?

Does the landowner involved receive stewardship payments for the feature (ie the pond)?

The function of the IDBs is land drainage and their powers are through the Land Drainage Act 1991 (as amended), it is the Environment Agency who is responsible for flood prevention/alleviation/mitigation etc.

In the words of Gerald Manley Hopkins “Oh let there be left wildness and wet; long live the weeds and the wilderness yet”?

What will be left of a once pastoral landscape for the next generation, some would say it’s progress and for landowners to do as they wish with their own property?  As oft the case, much is underpinned with public funds.  IDBs receive significant sums via a levy collected through the local authority and there is reported to be an expectation of public benefit for those funds.  IDBs have Biodiversity Action Plans for their catchments, but these are often little more than words and tangible outputs from the expenditure is as scarce as field ponds?  The DDC website offers an array of BAPs, the relevant BAP Pond and Great Crested Newt Action Report (2014) simply details a survey of a couple of sites, not a catchment survey, and no actions so one might be forgiven for pondering the claim of BAP ‘implementation’?  Implementation would generally mean tangible activity post assessment?  Do the local IDBs have any biodiversity inventory relating to the areas managed by them, it would seem reasonable given that the management service provision would at least hold a baseline inventory of protected species as a minimum with periodic updates? Parallels could be drawn where nature conservation organisations (both charitable and statutory) do hold relevant data material to their management function of land and water courses?  How else can they deliver appropriate management without an asset register of key biodiversity interest?

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Low lying land in flood plains are a resource to alleviate the impact of increasing rainfall events? 

 

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Defra …. King asks 14 weeks to a cull? Hedging and lanes, do they matter?

February 16, 2015

Countryside …. natural asset for quiet enjoyment, a playground or a resource for profit?

Once upon a time, seemingly in the midst of a previous era the village of Fishlake in the Doncaster district, was a quintessential rural idyll set amidst a canvas of pastoral tranquility.   As such it was a rare haven amidst the urban and industrialised areas of the Doncaster district.  It had much in common with its smaller neighbbouring hamlets at Braithwaite and Sykehouse.  The fields around Fishlake were in the main small and enclosed by wonderful species rich hedgerows with mature trees which offered nest holes for owls and other smaller tree nesting species.   This lowland landscape, part of the River Don flood plain was part of a working wetland and the farming practice that associated with pastoral farming.  It has in one lifetime changed dramatically, albeit acknowledging that ‘dramatic’ is a subjective choice of adjective?

A desirable place to live and one becoming increasingly popular, no surprise given the ease of which commuters can access motorway networks.   But it is one which sadly appears to be suffering neglect and abuse at the same time?  Sad to relate in other recent posts that there appears to be less than good hedgerow management practiced, now we learn of local people unnable to enjoy walks along countrylanes they have used all their lives because of what appears to be a ‘change of use’ which has, as yet remained unchallenged despite the fact that the lane is in fact designated as a “Restricted byway”.  Rural residents have little by way of services provided or leisure opportunities so it would seem only reasonable that they be allowed to continue to enjoy healthy and safe walks?  That wildlife have sanctuary or havens, what use of that?

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In this particular case part of the issue appears to be the access points.  As with many of these delighful lanes they can all join up via a number of routes and these access options do not all have signs or notices posted to provide visitors with their status so perhaps by virtue there is an assumption of vehicular access rights?

This issue has been raised with the local authority at the beginning of February, a response is awaited.

Campaign corner & updates ….

Of public assets, can readers remember the furore over the proposed sale of the forestry estate?  It would seem that there is a view emerging that there is renewed activity around that ambition ….

An epetition has been launched which is calling for the end of Forest Privatisation by the back door.  The case is not local but it is another such example of the ‘death by a thousand cuts’ that our natural environment is being inflicted with?  There was a great fanfare in 2010 with the publication of the ‘Lawton Report’ or to give it its full title Making Space for Nature …. the subsequent silence is almost deafening?  Then we had the State of Nature Report and that appeared to be a rallying cry to arms, but …. where is the ‘conservation’ party now when we need an alternative to the meagre if any offerings of the ‘mainstream’ political parties?  Master blogger Mark Avery offers an interesting series of posts which offer readers insight into the Fineshade case.  One might wonder if the series will become as long running as that of the ‘Wuthering Moors’ case?

Of other campaigning blog posts, Miles King asks of us ‘We need to talk about Defra’   His insightful analysis offers good background to the complexities of the current predicament the Department for Environment, Food & Rural Affairs.  It is interesting to read also the amount of cuts that are scheduled for Defra, so why do their agencies not secure the support of campaigning conservationists, of naturalists and grassroots communities?  Why do they not work with grassroots activists to secure local support?  The mainstream NGOs who have been the recipients of their table crumbs (project funding) may well see more commercial opportunities should they be culled in 14 weeks?

King concludes that …. none of these things will happen while politicians continue to see nature as a side-issue. Only a change in the way society views nature will lead to a shift in the position of politicians and how they view nature. This is what we all need to work on.  Read the full text of his post We need to talk about Defra.

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So, we all need to play a part and not let the apathy or attrition stand in our way?  Critical mass and collective collaborative campaigning is needed …. here’s to an inspirational networking session on 21 March, a legacy event subsequent to the momentum generated from Hen Harrier Day 2014.

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 There are events planned for 2015 to continue to raise the profile of illegal persecution of birds of prey, notably the magnificent ‘Skydancer’.  See some after thoughts on the Birders Against Wildlife Crime website posted shortly after the events.  Mark Avery too provided afterthoughts and further comments.

 

Fishlake’s ever diminishing wildlife habitats

July 10, 2013

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Despite there being no threat of flooding or damage to property, in otherwords an over riding public interest requirement, routine management was carried out mid season and threatened rare species such as Stone Parsley.  A species known only from very few areas of South Yorkshire with the parishes of Fishlake and Sykehouse being regarded as the remaining haven for this very rare species considered by Wilmore et. al. (2011)* to be at its northern limit here in South Yorkshire.

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Sison amomum is a species of unimproved grasslands, hedgerows and verges and sadly is a declining species as areas are drained and improved for agriculture.   Like so many wildflowers once familiar across the countryside it is a casualty of ‘improvement’ and no amount of biodiversity building projects sees its return to lost habitats.  The connectivity and corridors described in Making Space for Nature don’t seem to have reached the Humberhead Levels despite various schemes to ‘Improve’ its Area for Nature.

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We’ve reported on various occurences of hedgerow losses in the pastoral parishes around the village of Fishlake.  The most recent incident relates to management of wildflower verges by Internal Drainage Boards.  These Public Bodies have a duty under legislation to further biodiversity, not to destroy it.  These photographs which accompanied a complaint to the Danvm Drainage Commissioners illustrate the inappropriate management undertaken recently.  Apologies were offered to the complainant but campaigners might be forgiven for considering them empty and meaningless following assurances earlier in the year that a proper management regime had been produced by their professional ecologist.  A shame that there was yet another break down in communication which sadly re-enforces the view that n’owt changes on the ground and the carnage continues.

We had been hoping to post an update on the DMBC investigations involving unauthorised hedgerow removal, sadly no news yet but watch this space for updates.

We are also awaiting replies from Defra about the decission to accept proposals by the Danvm Drainage Commissioners to proceed with a hedgerow removal contra, in the view of the Executive and its legal advisors, to the Hedgerow Regulations 1997 and the Hatfield Thorne Fishlake Inclosure Award of 1825.  It is interesting to note that Defra did, in their decission notification advise the DDC to take legal advice themselves but it appears that they are relying upon a third party opinion rather than safeguarding the Board Membership which includes elected representatives (49% of vote for a 13% financial contribution) and special levy (taxpayers) Council appointments (51 % of vote for an 87% financial contribution).  Watch this space for updates as they become available.

* South Yorkshire Plant Atlas published by the YNU & YHEDT.

Follow the Forum’s FoI to Defra on hedgerow matters?

June 9, 2013

Some of you following this blog will be aware that as well as recording, surveying and monitoring the amazing natural history interest of the Humberhead Levels, the Forum has and will on occasions, when its Executive deem it necessary, take a ‘campaigning stance’ in such matters as hedgerow damage or removal.

We are currently awaiting responses to enquiries regarding alleged illegal removal of Enclosure Award hedgerows in the Parish of Fishlake.  Doncaster MBC as the local  planning authority are the ‘appropriate authority’ in this case.

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The Executive is also in correspondence with DEFRA about the procedure applied to an application for a drainage scheme in the same parish which would have seen nearly a kilometre of species rich ancient hedgerow removed along with substantive mature oak trees.  This scheme was only modified as a result of local challenge but it still seeks to destroy around 150 metres of ancient hedgerow.  Should we regard the saving over 800 metres as success and walk away?

The scheme was submitted by the local Danvm Drainage Commissioners (DDC) under Environmental Impact Assessment (Land Drainage Improvement Works) Regulations 1999 (as amended) (‘the Regulations’).  However, in the opinion of the Forum’s Executive and others the scheme failed to take due account of the Hedgerow Regulations 1997 and the Hatfield Thorne and Fishlake Enclosure Award of 1825 and its enabling Acts of 1801 and 1811.  Defra based its decision on EIA Regulations but pointed out to the DDC the existence of other extant legislation.

So, look up our questions here and here and follow progress, the deadline for the Defra response is 5 July.  Whilst not actually part of the current casework per se and described herein they do relate to the wider issue of erosion of environmental protection and accountability and they are research which will inform another ‘project’ which is currently at development stage.

Does it matter that the landscape character of the district continues to be changed from pastoral to agri-industrialised prairie scapes more akin to that of the neighbouring flatlands that can be seen as you travel north from Fishlake along the M62 and look eastwards?  Should developers and advocates of ‘improvements’ be bound by legislation or regulations?

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We reported on the State of Nature report recently, farmland losses are discussed and larger fields have had a significant impact on the loss of natural field boundaries, that is to say hedgerows which make a significant contribution to that biodiversity mass and hedgerows can act as corridors for colonisation further afield.   But,  despite protection and regulations governing hedgerow removal there are still those who seek to act out-with procedures and regulations.

Does it matter?  Are the pastoral landscapes doomed to be fondly described as a thing of the past, lowland haymeadows awash with a fabulous flora and associated invertebrate assemblage all but childhood memories consigned to natural historians academically penned obituaries in colourful tomes such as the just published Meadows by George Peterken (British Wildlife Publishing), no mention in there of Doncaster’s fritillaries, goldilocks or other such rarities still hanging on in forgotten corners.

 

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