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


Plantlife logoOur Featured Charity Plantlife promotes their report and campaign for road verges: Road Verges: last refuge for some of our rarest wild plants

An astonishing number of wild plants grow on our road verges, some of which are threatened or near threatened. Proper management of verges is critical if these species are to avoid extinction. Includes a list of known plants found on the UK's road verges.

Download the report   

Road verges are a refuge for some of our rarest plants writes Dr Trevor Dines, Plantlife 

The richness of our roadside flora is astonishing. Our new road verges report brings this flora together for the first time – a national catalogue of all those species known to grow on verges and roadsides somewhere in the UK.

We’ve found that over 720 species grow on our road verges. This is an astonishing total. If we add in hedgerows and ditches, the total rises to over 800 species, representing nearly half our total flora. As well as highlighting the sheer diversity of our verges and roadsides, it really drives home their value for wildlife.

But unfortunately, the story of loss and destruction of road verge plants is a long one. In 1641 a road in Kent was widened, destroying the first colony of lizard orchid (Himantoglossum hircinum) ever recorded in Great Britain.

Today, nearly 100 ‘threatened’ or ‘near threatened’ species are found on our verges. Many of these were once more abundant in meadows, pastures and woodlands. But today, with these habitats gone or in poor condition, we’ve found that road verges now represent their last refuge. 

Proper management of our roadside verges is critical if these species are to avoid extinction. Please support our call for councils to manage their verges better for all our wildflowers and wildlife.

Add your name to Plantlife's road verge petition


Team to assess impact on wildlife following fire - Clinton Devon Estates 

Clinton Devon Estates would like to thank the Devon and Somerset Fire Service, the East Devon Pebblebed Heaths Wardens and the RSPB who worked closely together to tackle the 50-hectare fire on Colaton Raleigh Common at the weekend. The fire impacted on 5% of the total area of the heaths.

 Dr Sam Bridgewater, Head of Wildlife and Conservation for Clinton Devon Estates, will now lead a team to assess the impact on wildlife of the fire, the biggest on the Pebblebed Heaths since 2010.

He said: “We have recently recorded around 3000 different species of wildlife on the East Devon Pebblebed Heaths, including animals, insects, reptiles, birds and plants. We expect that most of the birds will have survived the fire simply by the fact they can fly away. At this time of year ground nesting birds such as Nightjars, and Dartford Warblers which breed in gorse, will be building their nests, so it’s a particularly bad time of year for the fire to happen.  However, there is still chance in the season for them to breed elsewhere.  Animals that are less mobile or slower such as reptiles, including adders, will have been more adversely impacted, with many individuals killed.

“It has taken nearly seven years for the landscape and habitats from the last big fire in 2010 covering nearly 100 hectares to recover. This site is only now becoming suitable for supporting populations of birds that were there prior to the fire.  Although we wouldn’t have wished for this recent fire to occur, nature is resilient, and heathland is adapted to coping with fire. We expect the current burn site to make a full recovery, but it will take decades. Later this year we will see grass shoots emerge, with gorse and heather sprouting in future years.  The landscape will look quite different for a while though.

More information about the fire including video footage from DevonLive: Fire crews fight Woodbury Common fire through the night 


85 years on from the Kinder Scout Mass Trespass rangers battle to restore the rare Peak District bog - National Trust 

A Peak District hillside that became a battleground ramblers’ right to roam is now at the centre of a new fight – as rangers battle to save one of the world’s rarest nature habitats.

This weekend walkers, campaigners and rangers celebrated the 85th anniversary of the Mass Trespass on Kinder Scout.

On 24 April, 1932, hundreds of walkers descended on the Peak District moor to draw attention to their inability to roam in the countryside. They were met by gamekeepers determined to stop them.

The trespass saw six ramblers arrested – but sparked a campaign that would eventually see law passed to allow people to walk freely over land in places like national parks.

One of the gritstone boulders standing amongst smaller stones on the heath, part of the Kinder Scout Rock formation in the Peak District, Derbyshire. (Image: Joe Cornish/National Trust Images)One of the gritstone boulders standing amongst smaller stones on the heath, part of the Kinder Scout Rock formation in the Peak District, Derbyshire. (Image: Joe Cornish/National Trust Images)

 When walkers retrace their steps today, they will trudge across a landscape that is changing rapidly.

The National Trust acquired Kinder Scout 35 years ago. Pollution and certain land management had seen the Scout become one of the fastest eroding peat bogs in the country – with a patch bare black peat equivalent to the size of over 80 football pitches.

But in the last seven years rangers from the conservation charity have worked with the Moors for the Future Partnership, Natural England and water company United Utilities to restore the blanket bog – a habitat rarer than the rainforest.

Rangers have re-seeded 80 hectares of bare peat, planted half a million bog cotton plants on the heather moorland and placed 20,000 trees in the deep valleys that surround the Kinder plateau.


First cycling for all festival – Lake District National Park Authority

A gathering geared to bring cycling to everyone beckons in the heart of the Lakes with Image: Lake District National Park Authorityspecially adapted wheels for riders with disabilities.

Showcasing the benefits of being mobile in the great outdoors, the Inclusive Cycling Festival is being staged at Brockhole, the Lake District Visitor Centre on the shores of Windermere, on Friday 12 May.

Image: Lake District National Park Authority

Specially adapted cycles will cater for a wide range of abilities and people are being invited to roll up and have a go, while enjoying sensational scenery and beautiful grounds. The event is led by Cycling Projects, the charity behind nationally recognised programme, Wheels for All. By using specially adapted cycles, it provides quality, fun activities that are both physically and mentally stimulating for adults and children with disabilities and differing needs.

In the Focus on Overcoming Barriers we had an article from Pony AxeS, detailing a horse drawn transport system. Read the article here 


The first permanent Hedgehog Street inspired garden is launched at RHS Harlow Carr, Yorkshire – PTES

A Hedgehog Street inspired garden at RHS Harlow Carr, Harrogate, North Yorkshire will be unveiled for the first time today [Tuesday 25 April Hedgehog by Ali Taylor2017], by wildlife charities People’s Trust for Endangered Species (PTES) and the British Hedgehog Preservation Society (BHPS), who have successfully coordinated the Hedgehog Street campaign since 2011, and work tirelessly to conserve the UK’s native hedgehogs.

Hedgehog by Ali Taylor

Created by award-winning garden designer Tracy Foster, this new, permanent Hedgehog Street garden showcases a smorgasbord of hedgehog-friendly features designed to encourage visitors to RHS Harlow Carr to make the green spaces on their doorsteps a haven for these prickly creatures. The garden is made up of a series of individually themed gardens; one contemporary; one rustic; and one Mediterranean. The garden’s hedgehog-friendly aspects include nesting sites and Hedgehog Highways, providing access to neighbouring gardens, safe water features, planting and vegetation, to not only encourage hedgehogs, but also other wildlife and prey.


Caterpillar found to eat shopping bags, suggesting biodegradable solution to plastic pollution – University of Cambridge

A common insect larva that eats beeswax has been found to break down chemical bonds in the plastic used for packaging and shopping bags at uniquely high speeds. Scientists say the discovery could lead to a biotechnological approach to the polyethylene waste that chokes oceans and landfills.

Scientists have found that a caterpillar commercially bred for fishing bait has the ability to biodegrade polyethylene: one of the toughest and most used plastics, frequently found clogging up landfill sites in the form of plastic shopping bags.

Close-up of wax worm next to biodegraded holes in a polyethylene plastic shopping bag from a UK supermarket as used in the experiment. Credit: The research team.Close-up of wax worm next to biodegraded holes in a polyethylene plastic shopping bag from a UK supermarket as used in the experiment. Credit: The research team.

The wax worm, the larvae of the common insect Galleria mellonella, or greater wax moth, is a scourge of beehives across Europe. In the wild, the worms live as parasites in bee colonies. Wax moths lay their eggs inside hives where the worms hatch and grow on beeswax – hence the name.

A chance discovery occurred when one of the scientific team, Federica Bertocchini, an amateur beekeeper, was removing the parasitic pests from the honeycombs in her hives. The worms were temporarily kept in a typical plastic shopping bag that became riddled with holes.

Bertocchini, from the Spanish National Research Council (CSIC), collaborated with colleagues Paolo Bombelli and Christopher Howe at the University of Cambridge’s Department of Biochemistry to conduct a timed experiment.

Around a hundred wax worms were exposed to a plastic bag from a UK supermarket. Holes started to appear after just 40 minutes, and after 12 hours there was a reduction in plastic mass of 92mg from the bag.


Committee finds a worrying landscape in Marine Protected Areas - Environmental Audit Committee, UK Parliament

The Environmental Audit Committee is disappointed with the government's lack of ambition on designated Marine Protected Areas (MPAs).

The Marine Protected Areas Revisited report published on Tuesday 25 April, found MPAs are not being effectively managed, and the Government needs to do more to protect vulnerable marine habitats, features and species once a site is designated as an MPA.

The Committee also expressed concern that the Government had moved the goal posts by setting unreasonably high standards of evidence for designating MPAs

The Committee also found a number of concerns about the Department for Environment Food, and Rural Affairs’ handling of MPAs.

Mary Creagh MP, Chair of Environmental Audit Committee Said: "It is worrying and disappointing the Government have still not got their act together on assigning the vulnerable Marine Protected Areas. The Government needs to focus on monitoring and protecting the current areas rather than moving the goal posts to create unachievable and over complicated demands on the management of susceptible areas. Without effective management, surveillance or monitoring our MPAs are just paper parks. The government needs to put firm plans in place to stop further degradation of our vulnerable ecological systems, before they are destroyed forever."

Marine Protected Areas create significant opportunities and benefits for marine habitats and wildlife. It was clear that few people were aware of these potential benefits. The Government must implement a robust communications strategy to raise awareness of the MPA network amongst businesses and the general public

Supporting documents


Response: The Wildlife Trusts back MPs' concerns over lack of marine protection

The Wildlife Trusts welcome today’s statement on Marine Conservation Zones by the Environmental Audit Committee and urge the government to press on with protecting these special places at sea

The Wildlife Trusts welcome today’s statement on Marine Conservation Zones (MCZs) by the Environmental Audit Committee. The Committee rightly points out that the 2015 Conservative Party Manifesto committed to “complete the network of MCZs.” Yet only 50 MCZs have been designated so far — well short of the 127 sites originally recommended by the regional projects in 2011. In its report the Environmental Audit Committee says: “To fulfil this commitment, the third tranche of MCZs must be considerably larger and more ambitious than the previous two. The delay is unacceptable and we call on the Government to put in place this final piece of the protected area MPA (Marine Protected Area) jigsaw as soon as possible.”

We agree also with the Committee's findings that without effective management, surveillance and monitoring, protected areas are just lines on a map. Once a site is designated then its status as a protected area should be made the primary consideration for management and decision-making. The Government must act to protect protected areas properly by implementing a robust and well-coordinated management strategy.

Joan Edwards, Head of Living Seas at The Wildlife Trusts says: “Our seas are suffering from decades of overfishing, exploitation for resources and damage to natural habitats and so we welcome the EAC’s inquiry and its findings. There is no reason why the government could not designate the rest of the recommended Marine Conservation Zones right now and fulfil their 2015 manifesto commitment to achieving a ‘blue belt’ of protected marine habitats around the UK. But we don’t just want ‘paper parks’ – these special places at sea must be managed and the most damaging activities must be banned straight away. Only 50 MCZs have been created in English waters, falling far short of the amount of protection scientists say is needed to safeguard our seas. 50 further sites could help turn that around."


Response: BASC’s wildfowling evidence features in Committee report

BASC has reiterated its support of the government’s decision to exclude ‘reference areas’ from the third tranche of Marine Conservation Zones (MCZ) following publication today of a report by the Environmental Audit Committee.

BASC’s written submission to the committee’s Marine Protected Areas inquiry made it clear the association would not support the designation of highly protected marine areas where wildfowling takes place.

The decision reached by government is in line with the evidence presented by BASC, which has campaigned against reference areas on the grounds they would ban wildfowling by default in such areas.

Mark Greenhough, BASC’s wildfowling officer, said: “BASC has consistently fought against the imposition of reference areas. We do not want to see further restrictions placed on wildfowling and we will not support the designation of highly protected marine areas where wildfowling takes place. Our submission to the Environmental Audit Committee’s inquiry into marine protected areas asked for lessons to be learned from earlier, misguided proposals to introduce reference areas. We have consistently argued that marine conservation measures must take account of local traditional and cultural activities which provide a sustainable use of natural resources.”


Conservationists join forces to help incy wincy spider - Northumberland National Park

Another major conservation project is underway in the west of Northumberland National Park to protect an ancient peat bog which is home to a rare and diminutive species of money-spider.

The Lampert Mosses near Spadeadam, is a classified Site of Special Scientific Interest (SSSI) due to its rich peat habitats and varied species of flora and fauna, including the rare cloud-living spider (Semljicola caliginosus).

The tiny spider, which grows to around 2mm in length, is one of the UK’s smallest and most elusive arachnids, favouring living conditions found in damp, moss-rich upland areas.

A recent ecological study which was funded in partnership by Natural England, Buglife and the British Archaeological Society, recorded a number of cloud-living spiders at Lampert Mosses, but the research also showed that the area required sensitive conservation and repair work to preserve the spider’s unique peatland habitat.

Now a team of volunteers led by Northumberland National Park and Tyne Rivers Trust are working together, using funding from Natural England, to help protect the cloud-living spider’s upland home by replacing eroded dam structures to preserve the Lampert Mosses’ peat bogs. 

Volunteers carrying out dam repair work (image: Northumberland National Park)Volunteers carrying out dam repair work (image: Northumberland National Park)

Programmes Officer at Northumberland National Park, Abi Mansley, said: “In the 1990s marine plywood dams were installed at Lampert Mosses to prevent the peat bogs from fragmenting and losing their peat.

“Now, over 20 years later, the original dams are delaminating and need to be replaced to safeguard this important habitat. We’re creating around 100 mini dams to prevent further fragmentation and to slow the water flow reaching the Tyne and Irthing rivers.

“The presence of the cloud-living spider at the Lampert Mosses site has made the preservation of the peat bogs even more important. With population numbers of cloud-living spiders in rapid decline due to habitat loss, the North of England is now home to a globally important population of cloud- living spiders which have special ecological significance in scientific communities.


Government corrects its breach of EU laws by giving extra protection to common land - Open Spaces Society

We have welcomed the Government’s decision to apply environmental impact assessment (EIA) to common land. The society led the campaign to change the regulations so as to protect common land.

New regulations were laid before parliament on 25 April and take effect on 16 May.

In future, works on common land—typically to erect fencing—will have to be assessed against the requirements of EIA. If applicants want to carry out works beyond a threshold, set out in regulations, they will have to seek an EIA screening opinion from the government’s adviser Natural England, to decide whether a full EIA is needed. The screening opinion, and an EIA, are in addition to the requirement for consent to works on common land under section 38 of the Commons Act 2006.

Commenting on the Government’s decision, our case officer Hugh Craddock said: ‘We are delighted that the Government has seen sense and applied the requirements of environmental impact assessment to commons. There has never been any lawful excuse for exempting commons from EIA, and England has been in breach of the EIA directives for decades. Now, proposals for extensive fencing on commons will be subject to the same holistic assessment process as on any other land—that is wholly right, but long overdue.’


Volunteers ‘guard’ juniper trees - Northumberland Wildlife Trust

A team of Northumberland Wildlife Trust volunteers made a return visit to a Northumberland nature reserve this week to help with the continued protection of a number of juniper trees.

Barrow Burn (image: Duncan Hoyle)Barrow Burn Wood, which lies 1 km south of Alwinton, to the north facing banks of the Barrow Burn, a tributary of the River Coquet is home to a mix of alder, willow, rowan, ash and oak trees. Bird life in the wood includes sparrowhawks, pied flycatchers, tree creepers and cuckoos.

Barrow Burn (image: Duncan Hoyle)

Nestling on the hillside are 20 - 30 juniper trees, which are quite unusual for this region and therefore included in the wildlife charity’s annual reserves plan.

Led by Estate Officer Duncan Hoyle, the team removed the tree guards from other successfully maturing trees elsewhere on the site and placed them around the juniper trees to protect them from deer and thereby ensuring they continue to flourish. The sun was shining and, as the site is sheltered, it made for a very pleasant conservation task.


Biodiversity ravaged by dredging at renowned Scottish dive site - Fauna & Flora International

The tragic and sudden loss of an important marine site in Scotland highlights the need for better protection of the country’s inshore waters.

Dead flame shell. Credit: Chris RickardA rare bed of flame shells (Limaria hians) off the north-west coast of Scotland has been devastated by the heavy mechanical teeth of a scallop dredger.

Dead flame shell. Credit: Chris Rickard

Scotland’s waters are rich in life and colour and home to a number of iconic species and habitats. The flame shell – a beautiful type of clam, whose rich red and orange colouration gives it its fiery name – is an iconic symbol of Scotland’s inshore waters. Flame shells are found across Europe, but some of the densest concentrations of this species are found in Scotland, where they create important reef-like habitat for other species.

Loch Carron, which lies on the Scottish mainland adjacent to the Isle of Skye, was renowned among biologists and divers as one of Scotland’s premier dive sites, with some of the most significant and spectacular reefs of flame shells in the country. However, this week saw the destruction of these flame shell beds – an acute reminder of the vulnerability of Scotland’s delicate and productive inshore ecosystems, and the damage that can be done by a single boat dredging in these poorly-protected areas.


Sit Less; Move More it's time to get On your feet Britain

Take part in our national day when workers across Britain unite together and participate in a variety of fun and simple activities to #SitLess and #MoveMore at work.

Despite working at Countryside Jobs Service we're all office bound staring at screens and bashing keyboards. We do try to be more active: regular tea and coffee making trips, only opening the post whilst standing up and our over-filled heads mean we're very good at forgetting things and have to make more than one trip to file paperwork or ask a colleague something - we do try to talk to each other rather than firing emails back and forth resulting in meandering between offices.  And then of course the office dogs ensure you pick your feet up to avoid tripping over them basking in the sunshine!

CJS In-depthSometimes though the day to day office grind can get you down and no matter how often you get up or move more you simply need a change of scenery as Jackie Kemp found out: "In the Autumn of 2007, following several years of working away from home I returned to the Glasgow area to alter my work/life balance."  Read about this leap of faith in the article: Conservation Volunteering; from Pastime to Pay Packet 

If you like the sound of some exercise in the outdoors and helping conserve a little area of nature then have a look at our list of work days and conservation tasks here: http://c-js.co.uk/VolWD  There are events in most areas.  If you run work days which are not on the list and would like to advertise your activities (free of course) then fill in the form here http://www.countryside-jobs.com/workdays/advertise or email Amy on ranger@countryside-jobs.com for more information.


New Action Plan to help regions defend biodiversity and reap the economic benefits of nature protection - European Commission

The European Commission has adopted a new Action Plan to improve the protection of nature and biodiversity in the EU, for the benefit of its citizens and the economy.

The Plan consists of 15 actions to be carried out by 2019 to rapidly improve the implementation of the Birds and Habitats Directives, which are the EU's flagship nature policies.

These Directives establish the largest coordinated network of biodiversity-rich protected areas in the world (Natura 2000 network), covering more 18% of land and 6% of sea in the EU. These protected areas alone contribute between 1.7 and 2.5% to EU GDP through the provision of ecosystem services such as carbon storage, water purification, pollination and tourism. The Action Plan adopted today (27/4/17)  is about improving the management of these areas, connecting nature protection and socio-economic activities more broadly, and engaging with national authorities, stakeholders and young people.

The 15 actions, to be carried out between now and 2019, focus on 4 priority areas:

  • Improving guidance and knowledge and ensuring better coherence with broader socio-economic objectives
  • Building political ownership and strengthening compliance
  • Strengthening investment in Natura 2000 and improving use of EU funding
  • Better communication and outreach, engaging citizens, stakeholders and communities

For More Information: Action Plan for nature, people and the economy 


New path opens up ancient route to Broads visitors - Broads Authority 

Broads visitors can now follow in the footsteps of medieval monks with the opening of a new stretch of footpath.

The path will complete the link from St Benet’s Abbey to How Hill National Nature Reserve via Ludham Bridge.  And on Tuesday 2 May the ribbon will officially be cut on the long-awaited path prior to a free guided walk as part of the 2017 Broads Outdoors Festival.  The news means that visitors can now walk all the way from 11th century St Benet’s Abbey to How Hill along the picturesque riverside, just as the monks of the abbey once did.

A previous footpath existed some years ago but flood defence work meant the original route had changed.  Therefore the Broads Authority worked hard to negotiate with the landowner to get the access needed for the new path which was identified as a key link in the Authority’s Integrated Access Strategy.

Adrian Clarke, Senior Waterways and Recreation Officer, said: “The aim of the strategy is to open up links for public access across the Broads, particularly between land and water and so that visitors can easily get to village facilities, like those at Ludham, from moorings and other popular destinations. For years the only direct route between the abbey and How Hill had been by boat but now visitors could moor at either location and explore by foot, experiencing the wonderful landscape and the cultural heritage. We are very grateful to the landowners for helping make this happen.”


BC welcomes B&Q move to drop neonicotinoids - Butterfly Conservation 

Butterfly Conservation (BC) has today welcomed the decision by retailer B&Q to stop using a type of pesticide that is harmful to bees, butterflies and other pollinators.

From February next year B&Q will no longer use neonicotinoid pesticides in any of their flowering plant range.

Previous research has shown that neonicotinoids are harming bees and birds and may be contributing to the decline of butterflies.

B&Q, who sponsor BC’s annual Plant Pots for Pollinators campaign and the Garden Butterfly Survey, said they decided to stop the use of the controversial pesticide so they could help support wildlife and address the declining bee population.

Neonicotinoids were introduced in the 1990s as a replacement for older chemicals. They are a systematic insecticide, meaning that they are absorbed into every cell in a plant, making all parts poisonous to pests.  The chemicals remain in the environment and can be absorbed by the wildflowers growing in field margins, many of which provide a nectar source for butterflies and food-plants for their caterpillars.

BC Chief Executive Julie Williams said: “We are delighted that B&Q is responding so positively to the growing scientific evidence that neonicotinoids are harmful to the environment. I hope that the Government can also respond similarly and extend and expand the neonicotinoid ban. Congratulations to B&Q for leading the way on this important environmental issue”.


Scientific Publications 

Munsch, S. H., Cordell, J. R. and Toft, J. D. (2017), Effects of shoreline armouring and overwater structures on coastal and estuarine fish: opportunities for habitat improvement. J Appl Ecol.DOI: 10.1111/1365-2664.12906


Kärvemo, S., Björkman, C., Johansson, T., Weslien, J. and Hjältén, J. (2017), Forest restoration as a double-edged sword: the conflict between biodiversity conservation and pest control. J Appl Ecol. doi:10.1111/1365-2664.12905


John Worthington-Hill and Greg Conway. Tawny Owl Strix aluco response to call-broadcasting and implications for survey design. Bird Study DOI: 10.1080/00063657.2017.1315047


Kazuhiro Takemoto, Miku Imoto Exosomes in mammals with greater habitat variability contain more proteins and RNAs  R. Soc. open sci. 2017 4 170162; DOI: 10.1098/rsos.170162.  


A. Hernando, J. Velázquez, R. Valbuena, M. Legrand, A. García-Abril, Influence of the resolution of forest cover maps in evaluating fragmentation and connectivity to assess habitat conservation status, Ecological Indicators, Volume 79, August 2017, Pages 295-302, ISSN 1470-160X, DOI: 10.1016/j.ecolind.2017.04.031. 



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