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A round up of the top countryside, conservation, wildlife and forestry stories as chosen by the CJS Team.


England's National Parks are open for business - spread the word - National Parks England

National Parks – famous for their beauty and splendour are also home to thousands of thriving businesses. And now the National Park Authorities (NPAs) that are charged with managing the Parks, are teaming up with local businesses to ensure they flourish and grow into the future.

National Parks England  is today (Monday 19/1) publishing an Offer to the network of Local Enterprise Partnerships (LEPs) that Government established to spearhead economic growth and employment. The Offer signals an intention to unlock the potential of National Parks to deliver sustainable economic growth.

The Offer has attracted support from senior figures including Lord Heseltine – champion of the devolution agenda, and Defra Minister Lord de Mauley. It aims to draw on the unique strengths of the National Park Authorities to work in partnership with LEPs to:

  • Create more high quality jobs in some of the most remote rural areas
  • Make National Parks even better places to do business in through improved
  • infrastructure like broadband and skills development
  • Use the National Parks' superb landscapes to enhance people's quality of life and attract new businesses.

Already, England's National Parks are major power-houses for the rural economy.

  • They contain 22,500 businesses. 
  • They generate up to £6.3bn GVA, equivalent to that of the UK aerospace industry, or a small city such as Plymouth or Sunderland.
  • The 90m visitors to National Parks and surrounding areas each year spend more than £4 billion and support 68,000 full time equivalent jobs. That's a third of all rural tourism spend in the country.
  • The National Parks have a higher proportion of self-employed people than the country as a whole (19% compared to 10%).

Chair of National Parks England and the North York Moors National Park Authority, Jim Bailey said: "I'll be pleased if this initiative raises a few eyebrows from those who think the National Parks are something stuck in a bygone era. We need to make more of the thriving businesses found in some of our most beautiful areas of countryside. As well as being hugely important for supporting the health of the nation, our National Parks attract exciting entrepreneurs and support the rural economy. We need to protect these wonderful places. But that need not be at the expense of giving a strong helping hand to enterprises that rely on a high quality environment for their business model. Our message is National Parks are open for business."

Chief Executive Officer of the Coast to Capital Local Enterprise Partnership, Ron Crank said: "The LEPs and England's National Parks have a real opportunity to work together to unlock the potential of National Parks to deliver sustainable economic growth that benefits both the local communities and these high-quality environments.

Download the offer information (PDF)


New partnership calls for better 'Landscapes for Everyone' – Campaign to Protect Rural England (CPRE) 

Landscapes are fundamental to our health and well-being Photo: © Chris Daddiley Charities across the UK are today (Tuesday 20 January) joining forces to campaign for the protection and enhancement of our treasured landscapes.

Encompassing 27 national and regional organisations, including the Campaign to Protect Rural England, National Trust, British Mountaineering Council and Wilderness Foundation, the coalition is believed to be the largest ever to be formed on this issue.

Landscapes are fundamental to our health and well-being Photo: © Chris Daddiley

Ahead of May’s general election, the coalition aims to raise the profile of landscape and to emphasise the importance of landscapes to our wellbeing, environment and economy.

With ongoing speculative development in and around sensitive areas, such as National Parks and AONBs, the varied group of organisations believes that it is vital for future government policy and funding to reflect the extraordinary value of landscapes.

The Landscapes for Everyone vision is supported in parliament today by Natural Environment Minister Lord de Mauley, Shadow Minister for Natural Environment Barry Gardiner MP, and Liberal Democrat Spokesperson for Environmental Affairs Baroness Parminter. The vision calls for better landscapes for people, better planning for landscape and better places for nature.

Lord de Mauley, Parliamentary Under Secretary of State for Natural Environment and Science, comments: “Our beautiful landscapes provide not only outside spaces for people to enjoy, they are also valuable in their own right and integral to tourism, to rural economic growth and to people’s health and wellbeing. I want to see our countryside continuing to contribute to the economy, whilst ensuring our much valued landscapes remain protected.”

Read the publication here


Blakeney seals its place in the record books - The National Trust 

Blakeney Point, which is managed by the National Trust, on the North Norfolk coast has shot to number one as the largest breeding site for grey seals in England.

A seal pup born at Blakeney Point this winter. Credit National Trust/Ian WardThe number of grey seals born on this beautiful stretch of Norfolk coastline has increased one hundredfold in just 14 years, when the first 25 pups were born on the spit.  National Trust rangers monitor the colony by tracking and recording seal pups born at Blakeney Point throughout the winter. The count, which began in November, revealed that a total of 2426 seals were born this season, almost double the number born there just two years ago.

A seal pup born at Blakeney Point this winter. Credit National Trust/Ian Ward

Ajay Tegala, National Trust Coastal Ranger at Blakeney, said: “This season has been absolutely incredible at Blakeney. It’s breathtaking to see such large numbers. Having first been here five years ago you can see how much it has increased in such a short space of time. It really is mind-blowing to see the change.

A more intimate view of the colony will be available on the new series of Winterwatch which begins on Monday 19 January.


Walking and cycling community in support of vital amendment to Infrastructure Bill - CPRE

A coalition of groups, including CPRE, has written an open letter to MPs urging them to support an amendment to the Infrastructure Bill to bring about a Cycling and Walking Investment Strategy.

"One of the most important bills going through Parliament this year is approaching its conclusion. "The Infrastructure Bill proposes a five year Roads Investment Strategy, but currently makes no similar commitment to long-term funding to vitally increase cycling and walking. "It is not without irony that this falls so soon after the latest 12 year study from Cambridge University found that inactivity is killing twice as many people as obesity. This is combined with the fact that inactivity costs the UK economy £20 billion every year, with one in six deaths linked to physical inactivity. We must act now and make cycling and walking easier to do every day. This is why we are supporting an amendment to the Infrastructure Bill to include a Cycling and Walking Investment Strategy – to provide the long-term commitment to funding that is so desperately needed to increase levels of cycling and walking for the health of our nation." 


Young eels get a helping hand in London – Canal & River Trust

On behalf of the Zoological Society of London (ZSL) and The Environment Agency, a company called Frog Environmental has designed a revolutionary new eel pass structure to allow juvenile eels, also known as elvers, to travel through the weir alongside Osterley Lock on the Grand Union Canal in West London.

Elvers (Image: Canal & Rivers Trust)Elvers (Image: Canal & River Trust)

Leela O’Dea, Technical Director for Frog Environmental, explains: “This totally new and bespoke structure will be the final piece in the jigsaw enabling more baby eels migrating along the River Thames to reach the freshwater environment of the River Brent, where they can feed and grow to become adult eels.

“Sadly the previous eel pass installed two years ago wasn’t strong enough to withstand the force of the water and debris passing over the weir alongside Osterley Lock, the final barrier to overcome on the Grand Union Canal before it connects with the River Brent.


Litter found in the remotest parts of the deep sea – Natural History Museum

Rubbish found in the deep sea more than 1,000km (600 miles) from the coast reveals the truly global impact of human activities.

A selection of the rubbish found in the deep sea (NHM)Food packaging and fishing gear were among the discarded items found by Museum scientists visiting some of the remotest parts of both the Indian and Atlantic Oceans. 

A selection of the rubbish found in the deep sea (NHM)

The fishing gear could be found impacting the environment by entangling corals, scraping the sea floor or even ‘ghost fishing’ – still catching creatures despite not being tended by humans.

‘At most of the locations we visited by ship, we were the first team of scientists to study the area,’ said Museum marine biologist Dr Lucy Woodall. Most of the areas were more than 1,000km from any coasts and away from normal shipping routes. The most remote location was 1,600km from land and 1,500m deep.  ‘With this in mind we could expect to not have seen much litter. However we did see litter on every feature we looked at,’ she said. Sometimes the litter was a single item, but in some cases the team found evidence of mass dumping, such as lots of glass bottles of the same type.

The results of the research, led by the Museum with collaborators from the University of Bristol, the University of Oxford and the Scottish Marine Institute, were published this week in the journal Frontiers in Marine Science.

Recently, the team reported on the ubiquity of microplastics – tiny fragments of plastic and fibres – in the deep sea. While this debris likely represents a significant fraction of known plastic waste, the new discovery marks an additional source of plastic to deep-sea ecosystems.

Deep-sea research is logistically challenging, and still relatively little is known about the sources and fates of litter in these ecosystems. As research is challenging, so would be cleaning it up, said Dr Woodall.  Instead, she thinks we should focus on reducing waste through recycling, minimising plastic packaging, and through schemes such as official disposal of damaged fishing gear. 


WWII pillbox to be transformed into wildlife haven – Canal and River Trust

We're going to transform an abandoned World War II pillbox on the banks of the Bridgwater & Taunton Canal into a wildlife haven over the coming months.

We're working with a team of local volunteers to turn the mini-fortress and surrounding land in Creech St Michael into wildlife habitats that can be enjoyed by the local community.Pillbox on the Bridgwater & Taunton Canal (Canal and River Trust)

Local volunteers will join our experts to transform the structure into a refuge for bats, surrounded by a pond and a wildflower meadow. Habitat loss has been a major factor in the recent national decline of these fascinating mammals, who rely on cave-like places to safely rear their young.

Pillbox on the Bridgwater & Taunton Canal

(Canal and River Trust)

By kitting out the inside of the pillbox with spaces for the crevice-dwelling species to roost, and securing the door from disturbance by people, this relic of the war will provide a bat mansion set in a prime location. All 18 species of bats in the UK feed solely on insects so the wildflower meadow and pond will attract this food source, giving the bats an ‘all you can eat’ diner on their doorstep. 

David Viner, heritage advisor at the Canal & River Trust, said: “The pillbox is an interesting example of the defensive structures built in 1940 at the most critical part of the war, and adds to the rich history around the canal. While there are quite a number remaining, it’s tricky to find new uses for them, because they are fairly small and not very adaptable. Converting this one into a bat hideaway is a perfect use for it, as it both protects the building and local wildlife.”


The South West Coast Path is named one of the world’s top ten long-distance trails – National Trails.

The South West Coast Path ranks alongside the Great Himalayan Trail as one of the world’s most awe-inspiring hikes, according to a CNN Travel guide.

It follows the release of the Hollywood film ‘Wild’, which is out in UK cinemas from today and is based on Cheryl Strayed's memoir of her 1,000-mile trek along the U.S. Pacific Crest Trail.

Describing long-distance hikes as inspiring “contradictory tales of solitude and camaraderie, deserted river beds and mountain plateaus, pleasure and pain.,” the South West Coast Path is the only hike in the UK to make it into the article’s top ten hikes identified across the globe. While it is one of the shortest in relative terms, it states that ‘what it lacks in longevity it makes up for in history’.

For the adventurous, the 630 miles of Coast Path is the walk of a lifetime, taking in breathtaking heritage, wildlife, geology and scenery along the way, from Minehead in Somerset to Poole in Dorset.


National Park ranks in top 100 best companies to work for - Loch Lomond & The Trossachs National Park Authority

Loch Lomond & The Trossachs National Park Authority is delighted to announce that it is now officially one of the top 100 not-for-profit organisations to work for in the UK.  

The recent announcement about making it in to the 100 Best Companies list for 2015 came as a welcome surprise to staff who were told by a video message directly from Jonathan Austin, CEO of Best Companies.

‘Best Companies’ is widely acknowledged as the most extensive research into employee engagement carried out in the UK and around 800 businesses and organisations register to take part each year.

The Park Authority signed up to Best Companies in 2013 to help measure and improve employee engagement levels and last year was highlighted as ‘one to watch’.

Loch Lomond & The Trossachs National Park Chief Executive, Gordon Watson, said: “I’m delighted that Loch Lomond & The Trossachs National Park is now recognised as one of the top 100 not-for-profit companies to work for in the UK. It is an incredible achievement and is undoubtedly down to the hard work and commitment of all our staff.”


Beaver Reintroduction concerns discussed with Minister – Scottish Land & Estates

Scottish Land & Estates met with Minister for the Environment, Dr Aileen McLeod, on Wednesday to discuss general wildlife issues and to specifically set out our concerns over proposals that would see beaver confirmed as a reintroduced species to Scotland.  

In particular, we highlighted the problems our arable farming members in the Tay catchment have been experiencing with flood bank erosion, damming leading to heightened water levels and tree felling, and, crucially, their fears over management regimes if the species is allowed to stay in Scotland.  In a constructive meeting, Chief Executive, Doug McAdam, Policy Officer, Anne Gray and farming member, Euan Walker-Munro were able to outline the key issues and discuss how we might further influence the debate going forward.  The Minister is keen to see the issues for herself and we were pleased to be able to offer her the opportunity to visit members in Tayside in the near future.


RFS members back landowner collaboration to control grey squirrels 

A survey of RFS members has revealed qualified support for new Defra policy on grey squirrel control in England.    

RFS Chief Executive Simon Lloyd says: "In general, our members welcome the new policy which recognises the need to address the widespread damage grey squirrels are inflicting on our broadleaf woods, and see it as a positive step in the right direction. Members particularly welcome policies which encourage collaboration between landowners. However members have expressed reservations about how effective the new policy will be in practice. There are concerns that many woodland owners will not qualify for incentives included in the new grant scheme, and that without Warfarin there are currently inadequate tools to do the job effectively. These issues need to be addressed if the policy is to make a difference.”

A total of 74% of more than 270 who responded to a survey are in favour of the new policy, published in December 2014, although 13% of those expressed some reservations. 18% believe the policy falls short of what is required to make a difference. 

Around 88% support collaboration between landowners and more than half of those say they would be willing to take part in any collaborative projects in their area. 

More than 63% support linking woodland grants to squirrel control and a further 24% want more information on how this will work in practice.  

There is strong support from RFS members for the development of new control methods including new traps and research into chemical control agents. 

The full survey results are being shared with Forestry Commission England to support work on the implementation phase of the policy. The new government policy can be found online here.


Scientific Publications:

Jérôme Théau, Amélie Bernier, Richard A. Fournier, An evaluation framework based on sustainability-related indicators for the comparison of conceptual approaches for ecological networks, Ecological Indicators, Volume 52, May 2015, Pages 444-457, ISSN 1470-160X, DOI: 10.1016/j.ecolind.2014.12.029. 


Perović, David et al. Configurational landscape heterogeneity shapes functional community composition of grassland butterflies. Journal of Applied Ecology  DOI: 10.1111/1365-2664.12394


Alexandra J. Wright et al. Flooding disturbances increase resource availability and productivity but reduce stability in diverse plant communities.  Nature Communications. DOI: 10.1038/ncomms7092 


Martina, G. R. & Crawford, R. Reducing bycatch in gillnets: A sensory ecology perspective. Global Ecology & Conservation. doi:10.1016/j.gecco.2014.11.004


J. L. Tellería, Ramírez, Á. & Aguirre, J. I. Are European birds leaving traditional wintering grounds in the Mediterranean? Journal of Avian Biology. DOI: 10.1111/jav.00588.


Lundgren, R., Lázaro, A. Totland, Ø. Effects of experimentally simulated pollinator decline on recruitment in two European herbs. Journal of Ecology. DOI: 10.1111/1365-2745.12374.


Caio C. de Araujo Barbosa, Peter M. Atkinson, John A. Dearing, Remote sensing of ecosystem services: A systematic review, Ecological Indicators, Volume 52, May 2015, Pages 430-443, ISSN 1470-160X, DOI: 10.1016/j.ecolind.2015.01.007


Hualin Xie, Guanrong Yao, Guiying Liu, Spatial evaluation of the ecological importance based on GIS for environmental management: A case study in Xingguo county of China, Ecological Indicators, Volume 51, April 2015, Pages 3-12, ISSN 1470-160X, DOI: 10.1016/j.ecolind.2014.08.042. 


Jennifer M Germano, Kimberleigh J Field, Richard A Griffiths, Simon Clulow, Jim Foster, Gemma Harding, and Ronald R Swaisgood 2015. Mitigation-driven translocations: are we moving wildlife in the right direction? Frontiers in Ecology and the Environment. DOI: 10.1890/140137


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