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


Restoring Stonehenge’s chalk grassland in world heritage site’s 30th year – The National Trust

As Stonehenge celebrates 30 years as a World Heritage Site, National Trust rangers and volunteers in Wiltshire are working closely with farmers to restore the chalk grassland landscape that would have been familiar to the monument’s original builders.

The conservation charity owns and cares for more than 850 hectares (2,100 acres) of the World Heritage Site in Wiltshire, a place rich in natural and human history with hundreds of globally important archaeological sites.  The project to restore chalk grassland at Stonehenge began in 2000 and has seen more than 250 hectares of poorer-quality arable farmland have been restored to chalk grassland. Much of the new grassland is grazed as part of agri-environment schemes by livestock belonging to local farmers.  The grassland reversion has seen wildlife species return to the landscape. These include the first sighting around Stonehenge for decades of an Adonis Blue butterfly in 2008 and the establishment in the chalk grassland of Sainfoin, a pink-flowered herb.

By the end of the year, 216kg of wildflower and grass seed harvested from nearby Salisbury Plain will have been sown on grassland surrounding Stonehenge. In some areas a team of half a dozen National Trust volunteers will plant the seeds by hand. Four tonnes of seed has been sown since the project started 16 years ago.

Keith Steggall, National Trust Area Ranger for the Stonehenge Landscape, said: “The locally sourced seeds will help to restore the chalk grassland landscape our ancestors would have known at the time of Stonehenge. In recent years the land was farmed to grow crops, with the soil drying out and the top soil was being blown away in the winds. But by harvesting and sowing the seeds and working with our tenant farmers to manage the land through grazing, we are succeeding in both protecting the historic monuments and bringing back the grassland landscape.”

Rob Turner of Manor Farm has worked with the National Trust since 2003 to revert land around Stonehenge from arable fields to grassland, which is grazed by 500 Hereford-cross cattle. A third-generation Wiltshire farmer, Mr Turner said: “It was clear that the land around Stonehenge needed something a bit different. Since the project started it’s been a steep learning curve. In farming nothing is an overnight success, but what we’ve achieved for the farm and for nature has been good. It’s a bleak spot, but you now see quite a variety of flowers and birds.”


England’s flood strategy failing, says new study: new approach urgently needed from government to protect communities and stop costs spiralling – Green Alliance

Public spending on flood risk in England is skewed towards dealing with the after effects of floods, rather than on preventing them, and the misery and damage they cause.  Failure to account for the impacts of different forms of land management on flood risk is resulting in millions of pounds in agricultural subsidy being spent in ways that may actually increase vulnerability to flooding.

New research from think tank Green Alliance has revealed that, in England:

  • nearly four times as much money (£1.5 billion) is spent on land management that ignores or even increases flood risk, than on land management that helps to prevent flooding (£419 million); and
  • twice as much money (£613 million) is spent on dealing with the after effects of a flood than on hard flood defences (£269 million).

A major failing of the current system is its lack of support for natural flood management methods (NFM), which have been proven to reduce flood risk when used alongside traditional flood defences. In the North Yorkshire town of Pickering, methods like creating woody debris barriers in rivers have reduced peak river flows by as much as 7.5%, which allowed it to escape the floods in 2012.
The report has three chief conclusions:

  1. The UK farming support scheme that replaces the Common Agricultural Policy should reward land management that helps to prevent flooding.
  2. A dedicated fund for natural flood management projects should be established. This would allow enough evidence to be gathered at larger, catchment scale to demonstrate where NFM is best applied as part of flood risk management programmes.      
  3. Regional Catchment Management Boards are needed across England, to consolidate decision making powers related to flood risk in a single local body.

Read the report: Smarter flood risk management in England: investing in resilient catchments by Green Alliance


Forestry pilot reaping rewards – Natural Resources Wales

Investment in new logging machinery is placing Natural Resources Wales (NRW) at the cutting edge of the forestry industry, as well as increasing efficiency and saving money.

New harvesting and forwarding machines are being piloted in conjunction with Komatsu to help the environmental body to react more quickly to incidents and market demands. 

Cwm Rhaeadr Forest towards Mynydd Du in the Brecon Beacons (image: NRW)Cwm Rhaeadr Forest towards Mynydd Du in the Brecon Beacons (image: NRW)

The mapping software in the machines allows NRW to produce timber to tight specifications, identifying and targeting specific sizes or types of timber quickly and efficiently to meet customer requirements and maximise the value of its timber going to market. 

It also means that teams can react to outbreaks of tree disease quickly, where felling is often required within a very specific time frame under a Statutory Plant Health Notice.  

The ability to plan and work quicker and more flexibly also benefits recreational users of the forests – walkers, mountain bikers and horse riders – as it means NRW can limit the amount of time paths and trails have to close for felling operations.

Ian Sachs, Head of Harvesting for Natural Resources Wales said: “This pilot is helping to revolutionise the way we manage our forests, and helping us to set the industry standard. Timber production is a vital funding stream for our organisation, with 690,000 tonnes of timber being sent to market each year, generating around £15m a year in income.  In addition to this, we also know how important forests are for tourism, so by improving our operations, we’re also improving our forests for people and the wider economy.” 


Electronic Tracking of Song Birds Shows Roads and Urban Features Influence Choice of Gardens – University of Exeter

Birds prefer to fly between the gardens of leafy suburban neighbourhoods to visit bird feeders than city terraces or new-build estates, a ground-breaking study tracking the behaviour of hundreds of garden birds has found.

A year-long study into the behaviour of over 450 blue tits and great tits found that a suburban neighbourhood with trees, shrubs and hedges between properties attract far more birds to their feeders than a Victorian urban terrace or manicured, modern housing estate.

The research led by Dr Daniel Cox, an ecologist from the University of Exeter, found that garden birds moved more frequently between gardens that have trees and shrubs, giving them a safe route to hop and fly from garden to garden and bird feeder to bird feeder.

But they were less likely to move between homes with paved gardens, or housing estates with manicured lawns but fewer trees or shrubs. Having roads between gardens also hindered movement, the research the Movement of feeder-using songbirds: the influence of urban features, published in the Journal Scientific Reports, found.

The academics attached tiny tags with a unique electronic number onto the legs of 452 blue tits and great tits, two species which typically visit garden bird feeders. They then attached scanners to 51 bird feeders, filled with bird seed, in the gardens of urban terraced homes, a green suburban neighbourhood and a new-build estate.

The academics found individual birds in green neighbourhoods flew between twice as many gardens as birds in terraced streets. They also tended to visit bird feeders in a ‘green’ neighbourhood more often. Birds tended not to fly into rows of gardens in terraced streets that had little vegetation and were paved.

Read the paper (open access). Daniel T. C. Cox, Richard Inger, Steven Hancock, Karen Anderson & Kevin J. Gaston. Movement of feeder-using songbirds: the influence of urban features. Scientific Reports 6, Article number: 37669 (2016)  doi:10.1038/srep37669


Going to dizzy heights to provide rooftop homes for butterflies – Butterfly Conservation

A pioneering conservation project to create an aerial network of rooftop habitats for Scotland’s butterflies will be getting off the ground in Edinburgh on 25 November 2016.

Glenmorangie’s headquarters along with The Scottish Parliament building at Holyrood will lead the project in the capital providing new homes for Edinburgh’s once elusive butterfly, The Northern Brown Argus as well as other butterfly species.

Northern Brown Argus (Butterfly Conservation)Northern Brown Argus (Butterfly Conservation)

A ‘Square Metre for Butterflies’ is a partnership between the Royal Botanic Garden Edinburgh (RBGE) and Butterfly Conservation Scotland. The aim of the joint project is to plant patches of common rock rose - the favourite food plants of the butterfly caterpillars - on green roofs surrounding Arthur’s Seat and further afield to encourage the existing population in the Royal Park to expand and colonise in the newly created habitats.

The Northern Brown Argus is Edinburgh’s butterfly. For years it existed on Arthur’s Seat with Scottish butterfly watchers in the 1700’s assuming it was just a slightly different version of the Brown Argus which it closely resembles. But in 1793, closer inspection revealed that it was a completely new species.

Leonie Alexander, urban biodiversity project officer at RBGE, explained: “We are creating the network of green roofs across Edinburgh to encourage the population of Northern Brown Argus to expand into new areas. Green roofs are perfect because the butterfly is usually found living at height and these roofs will provide warmth, food and shelter in the city.”


Saving bees ‘secures food and jobs’, say authors of UN report – University of Reading

We rely on  bees and other pollinators for things like chocolate and coffee (University of Reading)World food supplies and jobs are at risk unless urgent action is taken to stop global declines of pollinators, leading scientists have warned.

We rely on  bees and other pollinators for things like chocolate and coffee (University of Reading)

The authors of a landmark United Nations report on pollinator decline - including from the University of Reading, University of East Anglia and Centre for Ecology and Hydrology in the UK - blame loss of habitat, climate change and farming changes for the falls.

Building ‘bee highways', reducing so-called green deserts, and helping farmers work with nature could all help, the researchers say in a new report.

Writing in the journal Nature today (28 November), the researchers, led by the University of Reading, suggest policies that could be adopted by governments around the world to help pollinators. 


Hedgehog Wins Favourite UK Mammal Poll - Royal Society of Biology

Image: Royal Society of BiologyThe hedgehog has been voted the Favourite UK Mammal with a huge majority in the Royal Society of Biology’s public vote.

Image: Royal Society of Biology

The UK’s only spiny mammal won with 35.9% of the 5,000 votes, more than double that of the Red Fox, who came in second place with 15.4%. The Red Squirrel came third with 11.4%, out of a shortlist of 10 charismatic UK mammals.

Henry Johnson, hedgehog officer, People’s Trust for Endangered Species (PTES) said: “We Brits seem to love hedgehogs for a whole range of reasons, including their cute appearance, their role as slug controllers and the way the way they have colonised our gardens with such aplomb. This is why it is so sad to see them decline, with one in three lost since the millennium.”


The results are in! – Northumberland Wildlife Trust          

It’s that time of year when the television channels are full of results being announced… Strictly Come Dancing, The X Factor and I’m a Celebrity, but one regional wildlife charity believes it has the results to push all the other results out of the headlines.

For, Northumberland Wildlife Trust has just announced the results from its first otter survey in 13 years, and they look very impressive.

Northumberland otter through the balsam (Kevin O’Hara)In June 2015, the Trust received a substantial legacy from Berwick resident and member for over 15 years, Vera Wainwright with a specific request that the gift was applied to an otter project in Northumberland.

Conservationists at the charity were very grateful for the support as the otter is one of the focal species they have worked tirelessly to conserve for many years.

Northumberland otter through the balsam (Kevin O’Hara)

The Trust led the way in otter conservation projects across the country and carried out an almost continuous annual countywide survey for signs of the species between 1990 and 2003, using large numbers of dedicated volunteers. This provided a virtually complete set of presence and absence data for the county and has been used as the yardstick for otter conservation efforts in the region ever since.

It was, in the end, the success of these conservation efforts, with over 80% of sites showing signs of otter presence, and a lack of funding that brought these county-wide otter surveys to a close in 2003.


Global initiative calls for urgent action against invasive alien species - IUCN

Photo: Asian common toad Duttaphrynus melanostictus (Peter Nijenhuis)A new global initiative to reduce the impacts of invasive alien species – the Honolulu Challenge - has been launched today (29 November) by 33 organizations and institutions. The launch follows a call for urgent action on invasive alien species made by experts, governments and NGOs at the recent IUCN World Conservation Congress in Honolulu.  

Photo: Asian common toad Duttaphrynus melanostictus (Peter Nijenhuis)

The challenge calls for commitments from governments and organisations in 11 priority areas, including development of effective biosecurity measures, increasing the number and scale of invasive alien species eradications, boosting the resources for invasive alien species control and addressing priority pathways -  the means of transportation of the species.

“Invasive alien species are among the most serious threats to biodiversity, and have a potentially devastating impact on our food security, health and economies,” says Inger Andersen, IUCN Director General.  “The launch of the Honolulu Challenge couldn’t be more timely: concrete action is urgently needed if we want to curb species loss and meet the Sustainable Development Goals.”


New portal to unlock the power of data to tackle plant health threats - Defra

Leaves of a sweet chestnut tree (Defra)The new data portal will provide easier access to the plant health information required to assess and respond to threats.

Leaves of a sweet chestnut tree (Defra)

A new website to improve access to data on plant pests and diseases has been launched today (29 November) by Defra.

The Plant Health Portal will make it easier for plant health professionals to share and use vital information on plant pests and diseases, unlocking the power of data to better assess threats and determine action to tackle them.

The portal was first proposed in 2014’s Plant Biosecurity Strategy for Great Britain, which provided an overview of activity taking place across the UK to improve plant biosecurity. It gives access to a wide range of information about plant health from both Government and non-Government sources, including charities and academic organisations concerned with protecting plant health, like the Royal Horticultural Society.


Poorly bat rescued in Deeside by RSPCA Cymru, and now ready for 2017 release - RSPCA

RSPCA Cymru has rescued a poorly, long-eared bat in the Deeside area, saving the vulnerable animal from bad weather conditions, after it was spotted hanging still and not flying.

First seen on 14 November 2016, the bat was found hanging from underneath a roof lip, about 15 feet from the ground – with concerned members of the public spotting that the animal had not moved for a prolonged period of time. After the rescue, Pets at Home provided mealworms to feed the bat, prior to its transfer to a specialist RSPCA wildlife facility.

Following a spell in RSPCA care, wildlife experts were content that the bat was again fit and healthy to survive in the wild. However, due to the cold temperatures, it has been transferred to a flight aviary, for over-wintering, ahead of release next year.

 Hedgehog tangled in netting (image: RSPCA)

Hedgehog rescued after getting trapped in recycle box netting - RSPCA

A hedgehog was rescued by the RSPCA after he had got himself tangled in netting used to cover a household recycling box. 

Hedgehog tangled in netting (image: RSPCA)

Now the animal welfare charity is urging people to avoid using the netting if possible as it can be harmful to wildlife.

RSPCA inspector Helen Mead was called to rescue the hog from the box outside a house in Pelican Place, in Witney, Oxfordshire, on Saturday (26 November).

“The hedgehog had managed to get himself completely tangled around his body and had been struggling to get free,” said Inspector Mead. “Thankfully, he didn’t have any injuries from the incident and he was taken to a local wildlife centre to be fully checked over. He was very lucky, as we do regularly get called to incidents where the animal tangled in netting is injured seriously, sometimes fatally. We do urge people to avoid using this netting if possible as it can be harmful to wildlife, as well as other animals, particularly if they are attracted to leftover bits of food which may be among the recycling and use a solid lid instead to cover these boxes.”


Polli:Nation survey - results from the first season - OPAL 

Pollinating insects, such as bees and butterflies, are in decline across the UK. These insects are homeless and hungry, suffering from a lack of places to nest and feed. To help reverse this trend, OPAL teamed up with Polli:Nation, a UK-wide conservation project working with schools, community groups and individuals to combat pollinator decline by creating or improving habitat for pollinators.  

The Polli:Nation survey was launched by OPAL in April this year to help people measure the impact of habitat improvements on pollinators. And the first survey season’s results are now in, at a quick glance:

  • 431 completed Polli:Nation surveys were submitted during the surveying season (April to October).
  • Over 80% of survey returns came from either primary or secondary schools.
  • June was the busiest month for surveying, with over 160 surveys completed.  
  • The three most frequently recorded ‘Species Quest’ species were the Honeybee, Common Carder Bumblebee, and Marmalade Hoverfly respectively.

Take a look at the full findings


Innovative reintroduction of Sphagnum mosses vital to restoration of upland peatbogs – Peak District National Park

The plant that formed the blanket bogs of the Peak District is being reintroduced on a scale never seen before in the UK.

Used in the First World War as a wound dressing due to its antiseptic properties, Sphagnum moss will help heal the scars on the landscape caused by erosion and pollution from the Industrial Revolution that has left bare peat exposed.

Sphagnum moss ready to be planted on the moors (image: Peak District National Park)Sphagnum moss ready to be planted on the moors (image: Peak District National Park)

The team at the Moors for the Future Partnership is at the forefront of the development of innovative ways to reintroduce Sphagnum in this often hostile environment. Over the next four years Sphagnum moss will be reintroduced to over 1700 hectares of the Peak District National Park and South Pennines with around 1.7 million plug plants and clumps of this peat-forming moss set to be planted.  The £1.25 million investment is funded from various sources including Natural England and the EU LIFE programme through the partnership’s MoorLIFE 2020 project.

Matt Buckler, Programme Manager for Conservation and Land Management at the Moors for the Future Partnership, said: “Reintroducing Sphagnum moss is a critical part of our work to conserve and protect active blanket bog and rewet the moors. Sphagnum mosses are amazing plants that are able to hold between ten and 20 times their weight in water. These tiny plants play a major role in keeping water on the hills for longer, reducing the risk of wildfires and of flooding downstream. Their action in slowing down the flow of water reduces the erosion of peat which is a vital contribution to climate change targets, as there is a huge amount of carbon stored in the peat soils of the UK. The plants act as a filter; cleaning the water before it gets into reservoirs and saving on costs of water treatment.”

Dave O’Hara, Senior Site Manager from RSPB’s Dove Stone reserve, said: “We’re delighted to be working as part of the Moors for the Future Partnership to complete these vital works. Partnership work is fundamental in helping to make a difference to our threatened peatland landscapes. There is good evidence that blanket bog restoration can help to conserve upland breeding bird populations, and we want to do all we can to fulfil the RSPB’s overarching goal to save threatened birds and wildlife across the UK.”


Access for all at West Yorkshire nature reserve, Fairburn Ings - RSPB

RSPB Fairburn Ings is celebrating after being presented with an award, recognising accessibility improvements made across the site, and plans to make even more changes in 2017 thanks to a new funding grant.                               

The nature reserve, near Castleford, was awarded the Open Country ‘Good Access Scheme’ award. Open Country is a charitable organisation which enables anyone with a disability to access the countryside through the provision of countryside activities and information.  Launched in 2015, their scheme recognises the best countryside ‘access for all’ projects in Yorkshire each year.  View of the RSPB Fairburn Ings nature reserve (image: Chris Gomersall, RSPB)

View of the RSPB Fairburn Ings nature reserve (image: Chris Gomersall, RSPB)

In addition, Fairburn Ings has been awarded over £30,000 from The Veolia Environmental Trust, which will go towards further accessibility improvements.

Kate Struthers, Fairburn Ings’ Visitor Operations Manager, said: “We are very proud to accept the award from Open Country in recognition of our work to make Fairburn accessible for all.  The network of accessible, robust paths across the reserve means that everyone has the opportunity to glimpse the flash of blue of a kingfisher, or hear the song of a skylark on a summer’s day.”

For more articles about schemes like this about Overcoming Barriers have look at the most recent edition of CJS Focus here.


Winners announced at Fields in Trust Awards 2016 – Fields in Trust

Rouken Glen Park in East Dunbartonshire has been named UK's Best Park, as voted by YOU! 2016 at the Fields in Trust Awards Ceremony at Lord's Cricket Ground in London. The evening also saw nine other awards given out as Fields in Trust celebrated the achievements of individuals and organisations who have worked over the last year to ensure that everyone has access to protected outdoor recreational space.

Rouken Glen Park was named UK's Best Park after a search to find the country's favourite local green space. The East Renfrewshire park won the public vote ahead of three other shortlisted local green spaces to take the 2016 title. A total of 214 parks across the UK were nominated by park users with over 10,000 votes cast in the search to find the nation's favourite.

Castle Gardens in Antrim, Pontypool Park in Torfaen and Preston Park Rockery in Brighton had also been in the running for UK's Best Park and were named the best park in Northern Ireland, Wales and England respectively at the Awards Ceremony.


Signs of a salmon resurgence on Somerset river – Environment Agency

Environment Agency officers report plenty of salmon activity in Taunton.

Heavy rain invariably brings fears of flooding, but there’s one creature that looks forward to a spell of wet and wintry weather – the Atlantic salmon.  Good numbers of these impressive fish have been seen on the River Tone this autumn as they migrate upstream to their spawning grounds. Sightings have included salmon leaping weirs and ascending fish passes in Taunton and on the upper reaches of the river.

Adult salmon, some weighing more than 10lb, arrive in the River Parrett from the sea before entering the Tone at the confluence of the two rivers near Burrowbridge. The fish wait in the lower reaches of the river until water levels rise sufficiently to allow them to swim upstream to spawn.  The recent heavy rain is just what the salmon have been waiting for and has triggered their migration upstream.

Environment Agency officers out checking flood defences on the River Tone have seen plenty of activity, including salmon ascending the fish pass at French Weir, Taunton and leaping near other river structures.

Fish surveys in 2015 revealed an encouraging increase in the number of young salmon in the tributaries of the Tone. Salmon parr (juvenile fish) have been found as high up the catchment as Waterrow where they had previously not been seen for over 20 years.

In the past couple of years the Environment Agency has repaired fish passes at French and Firepool weirs and this has also made it easier for salmon to swim higher up the catchment.

But there are still obstacles on the Tone and more work is needed to help salmon on their incredible journey upstream.


£2.4m funding boost for Peak District's 'hidden gem' – Peak District National Park

One of the Peak District’s ‘hidden gems’ is celebrating the award of a £2.4m grant from the Heritage Lottery Fund (HLF).

The South West Peak Landscape Partnership’s Landscape at a Crossroads scheme will develop a better understanding of this unspoilt corner of the Peak District and help enhance and protect it in the future.

The three counties of Staffordshire, Cheshire and Derbyshire meet at Three Shires Head at the heart of the South West Peak. The area features the stunning Roaches gritstone ridge and Axe Edge Moors where the rivers Dove, Manifold, Goyt, Dane and Wye rise. The South West Peak is also home to an internationally important breeding bird community including short-eared owl, merlin and golden plover.

Karen Shelley-Jones, South West Peak Landscape Partnership development officer, said: “We are very excited about how the HLF grant will help this hidden gem of the Peak District, a land of peace and quiet unspoilt by tourism. The South West Peak is a crossroads where the uplands join the lowlands at spectacular gritstone edges, with close communities and a fierce spirit."

Two years after the project received development funding, the full grant has now been confirmed through the HLF’s Landscape Partnership programme. The money will help farmers maintain their businesses while safeguarding and enhancing important habitats like hay meadows and iconic species such as the curlew. The partnership will work to improve water quality in rivers and streams, provide field study opportunities and rural skills apprenticeships, encourage people to access and enjoy the countryside, protect and restore field barns and small heritage features and provide plenty of volunteering opportunities.

A total of 18 projects of varying lengths will be launched over the five-year life of the scheme, with community groups able to apply for grants of up to £10,000 for their own projects to benefit the area.


Bees: Wildlife and environment groups call for neonic pesticides ban to be retained - and extended to all crops – Friends of the Earth on behalf of 17 partnership organsiations 

Seventeen of the UK’s leading wildlife, conservation and environment groups are calling for the current EU restrictions on neonicotinoid insecticides to be retained – and extended to all crops - to protect Britain's bees.

In an open letter to the UK government, on the third anniversary of the EU ban on the bee-harming pesticides, the organisations say “it is clear that there is now more than enough evidence to retain the ban and extend it to all crops, and that this is essential to reverse the decline of bees and other pollinators.”

The EU restrictions, which ban the use of three neonicotinoids on flowering crops, is due to be reviewed next year, starting with a comprehensive assessment of the scientific evidence of the threat posed by the pesticides, by the European Food Safety Authority [EFSA]. The ban was introduced after EFSA concluded that the chemicals posed a "high acute risk" to honey bees.

In the letter, the organisations - Friends of the Earth, Freshwater Habitats Trust, Sustain, Bat Conservation Trust, RSPB, Natural Beekeeping Trust, Scottish Wildlife Trust, Soil Association, Greenpeace UK, Buglife, Environmental Justice Foundation, The Wildlife Trusts, Angling Trust & Fish Legal, Pesticides Action Network, Butterfly Conservation and ClientEarth - say: “Since 2013 many more independent laboratory and field studies have found neonics impairing the ability of different bee species to feed, navigate and reproduce resulting in declining populations. The government says it will not hesitate to act on evidence of harm. The third anniversary of the neonics restrictions is Environment Secretary Andrea Leadsom’s chance to catch up with scientific evidence and public opinion by keeping and extending the ban as part of properly protecting Britain’s bees and pollinating insects.”

Three of the UK’s leading bee experts also said today that the scientific case against the use of the three pesticides has grown over the past three years, and that the restrictions should continue and be extended to other crops.


South Downs for all – South Downs National Park

in the depths of winter being outdoors in nature can be good for your wellbeing and mental health and we believe that the South Downs National Park should be accessible to everyone.

Mel and Jasper (image: South Downs National Park)Miles without stiles are a series of routes in the National Park created to be suitable for people with limited abilities. This includes wheelchair users, families with pushchairs, dog walkers with less active dogs and the visually impaired.

Mel and Jasper (image: South Downs National Park)

Routes are graded based on path gradients and surface conditions: routes for all, routes for many and routes for some – for e.g. a route for all will have a smooth surface and a gradient of no more than 1:10 while routes for some may have low steps up to 10cm in height and the surface may undulate.

In 2015 Mel and Jasper went out to explore our Seven Sisters route.
“I have multiple sclerosis so use a wheelchair,” said Mel. “Being disabled meant that I wasn’t getting out very much but having Jasper has given me a reason to get out every day. People talk to you when you have a dog and I’ve made new friends through him. “It’s been great to discover the wheelchair accessible trail at Seven Sisters, the South Downs National Park gives Jasper different smells and experiences.”

For more articles about schemes like this about Overcoming Barriers have look at the most recent edition of CJS Focus here.


SRUC signs up to national wildcat conservation project – Forestry Commission Scotland

Students from Scotland’s Rural College (SRUC) have joined the national fight to protect and save Scotland’s wildcats.

The students this week (1/12/16) joined staff from Scottish Wildcat Action (SWA) – the partnership of more than 20 Scottish environment agencies – to establish artificial dens at sites on Scotland’s national forest estate in Glenisla.

As well as helping to build six dens at key sites in the priority areas, the students also helped to set up cameras at each den site to monitor progress. The work parties were led by partnership staff from Forestry Commission Scotland and SNH.

The dens that the SRUC students’ built will determine whether wildcats are prepared to use them as safe places. If they are acceptable to the wildcats, then artificial dens could be more widely used to encourage them into new areas and to raise young.

Victoria Pendry Lecturer Countryside Management SRUC Elmwood Campus, said: “Working with Forest Enterprise and Scottish Wildcat Action was an amazing experience for our countryside management students. Our main ethos is to get our students involved in real projects allowing them consolidate theory with practical habitat and species management. The students had a tremendous day constructing dens and understanding the importance of this project in the protection or our iconic wildcat. Many thanks to all involved in offering this valuable opportunity.”


Scientific Publications

Scholefield, P. et al (2016) A model of the extent and distribution of woody linear features in rural Great Britain. Ecology & Evolution DOI: 10.1002/ece3.2607


Measey, G. John and Stevenson, Ben C. and Scott, Tanya and Altwegg, Res and Borchers, David L. Counting chirps: acoustic monitoring of cryptic frogs Journal of Applied Ecology DOI 10.1111/1365-2664.12810


McGrady, M. J., Hines, J. E., Rollie, C., Smith, G. D., Morton, E. R., Moore, J. F., Mearns, R. M., Newton, I., Murillo-García, O. E. and Oli, M. K. (2016), Territory occupancy and breeding success of Peregrine Falcons Falco peregrinus at various stages of population recovery. Ibis. Accepted Author Manuscript. doi:10.1111/ibi.12443



Mark W. Wilson, Darío Fernández-Bellon, Sandra Irwin, and John O’Halloran. Hen Harrier Circus cyaneus population trends in relation to wind farms. Bird Study Vol. 0 , Iss. 0,0  DOI: 10.1080/00063657.2016.1262815


Nikolas P. Bertholdt, Jennifer A. Gill, Rebecca A. Laidlaw, and Jennifer Smart. Landscape effects on nest site selection and nest success of Northern Lapwing Vanellus vanellus in lowland wet grasslands

Bird Study Vol. 0 , Iss. 0,0  DOI: 10.1080/00063657.2016.1262816


Armstrong, D. P. (2016), Population responses of a native bird species to rat control. Jour. Wild. Mgmt.. doi:10.1002/jwmg.21202


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