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


Nature and people to benefit from a £2.6 million environmental project in West Yorkshire – National Trust

Work has started on a two year £2.6 million natural flood management project in West Yorkshire led by the National Trust to help protect homes and nurture wildlife Hardcastle Crags, West Yorkshire (National Trust Images)devastated by the Boxing Day floods of 2015.

Hardcastle Crags, West Yorkshire (National Trust Images)

The aim is to reduce the risk of flooding to over 3,000 homes and businesses in Todmorden, Hebden Bridge, Marsden and surrounding areas.  

Taking learnings from the conservation charity’s success with a similar scheme at the Holnicote Estate in Somerset, this will be one of the biggest investments of its kind to date in England.

The work at Hardcastle Crags and Wessenden Valley, part of Marsden Moor, both cared for by the National Trust; and Gorpley Reservoir, looked after by Yorkshire Water and the Woodland Trust; will use a combination of natural interventions to slow the flow of water along the Colne and Calder river catchments. 

With £1.3 million growth deal funding from the Leeds City Region Enterprise Partnership (LEP) and £1.3 million either in funds or in-kind support from other partners including The Forestry Commission, Moors For The Future partnership, Environment Agency, Woodland Trust, Yorkshire Water, Calderdale Council and other community groups, plans include the planting of 151 hectares of new woodland at Gorpley Reservoir and in the Wessenden Valley, the restoration of 85 hectares of peat bogs, heath and Molinia (moor grass) and the construction of over 650 “leaky dams”.  

Over 3,000 metres of fascines (bundles of brushwood) will also be dug in to help stabilise stream banks and slopes, and new areas of land will be fenced for sustainable grazing by sheep and cattle.

All partners have been working together as part of the White Rose Forest Partnership.  New woodlands planted will help grow the White Rose Forest, part of the new Northern Forest. 


More cycling could prevent 34,000 life-threatening illnesses in seven major UK cities by 2040 – Sustrans

An estimated 34,000 incidences of eight life-threatening conditions, including Type 2 diabetes, stroke, breast cancer and depression, would be prevented in seven major cities between 2017 and 2040, if cycling increased at rates like those seen since the millennium in London.

Image: SustransImage: Sustrans

Sustrans, the walking and cycling charity, has today published a first of its kind report which looks at what the health, economic and environmental benefits of cycling could look like by 2040 in seven UK cities: Belfast, Birmingham, Bristol, Cardiff, Edinburgh, Greater Manchester and Newcastle.

Transforming Cities: The potential of everyday cycling” is based on data from Bike Life, the largest assessment of cycling in UK cities, and highlights the impact of doubling cycling trips every eight years between 2017 and 2040. The modelling follows the UK Government’s Cycling and Walking Investment Strategy which seeks to double cycling in England by 2025.

It has estimated that more than one billion cycling trips would take place in 2040 in those major cities, which is an eight-fold increase from 123 million trips. This would:

  • Equate to over 242.4 million hours of additional physical activity.
  • Prevent 628 early deaths.
  • Generate £21 billion of savings to the economy, including 319 million of savings to the NHS over the 23-year period.


New environmental scorecards reveal good news but gaps in water company five-year plans – Wildlife & Countryside Link

Blueprint for Water publishes environment assessments of water companies' PR19 business plans.

New scorecards, analysing how successful water company plans for the next five years are likely to be in protecting and improving the environment, have been published today (Tues 29 Jan) by Blueprint for Water, part of the Wildlife and Countryside Link nature coalition. This environmental review of the firms’ plans comes just days before OFWAT publish their Initial Assessment of the Business Plans on 31 January 2019.

The scorecards, and the detailed analysis behind them, reveal a mixed picture in terms of environmental ambition and commitment in the business plans published by England’s water companies in September 2018. Blueprint for Water says they have seen a ‘positive step change in environmental ambition from the water sector’ in this planning cycle compared to the previous PR14 business plans. However, despite progress by the water sector, the analysis has highlighted key areas which need action from companies; including:

  • factoring the value of natural capital into all water companies’ planning and decision making by PR24;
  • going further to ensure significant pollution incidents do not occur, including better monitoring and self-reporting;
  • greater efforts to incentivise customers to reduce their water consumption;
  • a much stronger public voice from water companies on policy issues that affect the interests of their customers and the environment they depend on to operate

The review of the companies’ main business plans revealed that, of the water-and-sewerage companies, Northumbrian Water, South West Water, and Anglian Water best meet the environmental benchmarks set by the NGOs. Northumbrian Water, South West Water and Southern Water do best in terms of their ambition on those common commitments required by OFWAT that are most relevant to the environment. Southern Water and Wessex Water have the greatest number and coverage of bespoke performance commitments relevant to the environmental measures set-out by the coalition.


Woodland Wildlife ToolkitWoodland Wildlife Toolkit launched – Sylva Foundation

Today (Tues 29 Jan) sees the launch of a new online toolkit that provides advice on managing woodlands for wildlife, in particular rare and declining species that are dependent on woodland habitats. The Woodland Wildlife Toolkit is aimed at anyone who owns or manages a woodland, or advises others about woodland management.

Woodland Wildlife Toolkit (Sylva Foundation)

The Woodland Wildlife Toolkit contains three main tools:

Search your wood’s wildlife to help you:

  • Find out which important wildlife is likely to be in or near your woodland based on available survey or distribution data
  • Understand the habitats and features that these species need
  • Provide these habitats through practical woodland management

Assess your wood’s condition to get an overview of the condition of your wood’s habitats and identify any issues you may need to address.

Woodland guidance for practical advice on management techniques, information on woodland management issues and legal considerations. A series of species factsheets provides summary information for all the species in the toolkit.

Data behind the toolkit has been sourced from a wide number of sources which are detailed on the website. Examples include data from the Bat Conservation Trust, British Trust for Ornithology, Butterfly Conservation, Botanical Society of Britain and Ireland, British Lichen Society, British Mycological Society, Fungus Conservation Trust, People’s Trust for Endangered Species, and the National Biodiversity Network.


Year of Green Action launches with record volunteer fair - New Forest National Park Authority

he nationwide Year of Green Action has kicked off in the New Forest with a record-breaking turnout for the National Park’s volunteer fair.

The fair saw 750 budding volunteers head to Lyndhurst Community Centre on Sunday (27 January) to browse hundreds of opportunities from 50 local groups. Organisations in attendance included Exbury Gardens, Butterfly Conservation, the Forestry Commission and the National Trust.

Many attendees were volunteering to help improve the environment or pledged to take individual small actions to mark 2019 as the Year of Green Action.

This is a year-long drive to get more people from all backgrounds involved in projects to improve the natural world and mark the 70th anniversary of National Parks.


Scottish pine martens repopulating Welsh mountains - Forest Enterprise Scotland

Picture copyright Edward DelaneyForest Enterprise Scotland staff are celebrating the success of a pine marten reintroduction programme in Wales, after helping to source and capture specimens from across Scotland.

Picture copyright Edward Delaney

The Pine Marten Recovery Project has been led by the Vincent Wildlife Trust under licence from SNH and in full compliance with the Scottish Code for Conservation Translocations.

Between autumn 2015 and 2017, a total of 51 pine martens were translocated from FES woodlands across the highlands to the forests of Cambrian Mountains in mid-Wales.

Kenny Kortland, Species Ecologist with FES, said: “Pine martens are fairly abundant in many forests of the national forest estate, so we could easily spare some for this fantastic project. However, the Trust was very careful to assess the robustness of the donor population before trapping took place. The majority of the animals that were released in Wales very quickly claimed home ranges for themselves and they are establishing a thriving population. Kits have been born every year since the first release so it looks like the pine martens’ return to Wales has been an unqualified success!”The programme’s success in Wales has been very well supported and assisted by the local community, which is encouraging people to come to the area and visit the dedicated pine marten information centre and pine marten viewing hide.


Plastic in Britain's seals, dolphins and whales - Plymouth Marine Laboratory

Microplastics have been found in the guts of every marine mammal examined in a new study of animals washed up on Britain’s shores.

Researchers from PML and the University of Exeter examined 50 animals from 10 species of dolphins, seals and whales – and found microplastics (less than 5mm) in them all. 
Most of the particles (84%) were synthetic fibres – which can come from sources including clothes, fishing nets and toothbrushes – while the rest were fragments, whose possible sources include food packaging and plastic bottles.
“It’s shocking – but not surprising – that every animal had ingested microplastics,” said lead author Sarah Nelms, of the University of Exeter and PML. “The number of particles in each animal was relatively low (average of 5.5 particles per animal), suggesting they eventually pass through the digestive system, or are regurgitated. We don’t yet know what effects the microplastics, or the chemicals on and in them, might have on marine mammals. More research is needed to better understand the potential impacts on animal health.”
Though the animals in the study died of a variety of causes, those that died due to infectious diseases had a slightly higher number of particles than those that died of injuries or other causes.


Endangered sharks being eaten in UK - University of Exeter

Endangered species of hammerhead and dogfish are among the sharks being sold as food in the UK, researchers have revealed.

University of Exeter scientists sampled shark products from fishmongers and chip shops, as well as shark fins from an Asian food wholesaler in the UK.

The majority of chip shop samples (usually sold under generic names like huss, rock salmon and rock eel) were spiny dogfish – a species “endangered” in Europe and “vulnerable” worldwide.

The fin samples included scalloped hammerheads – “endangered” globally and subject to international trade restrictions.

The researchers have called for more accurate food labelling so people know what species they are eating.

“The discovery of endangered hammerhead sharks highlights how widespread the sale of declining species really is – even reaching Europe and the UK,” said Dr Andrew Griffiths, of the University of Exeter

Read the paper: Microplastics in marine mammals stranded around the British coast: ubiquitous but transitory? Scientific Reports


New Volunteer Group to stand up for Verges - Herefordshire Wildlife Trust

Verging on Wild (VOW) is a new volunteer group in the county, set up to protect the Roadside Verge Nature Reserves (RVNRs) and generally improve the care and diversity of the verges of Herefordshire.

(image: Herefordshire Wildlife Trust)(image: Herefordshire Wildlife Trust)

33 RVNRs were designated, mostly in the 1970s and they have been managed sporadically over the years partly by Herefordshire Wildlife Trust, partly by local people. Some RVNRs have not been managed well and been delisted because they have been overtaken by coarse grass, brambles and other invasive species. In recent years, the RVNRs have become more neglected than ever and an unsympathetic verge mowing regime is contributing to a loss of diversity across the county and is damaging some of these special sites.

Today there are 18 RVNRs remaining. For example, at Stretford Bridge there is a long stretch of hay meadow flora, near Callow there is a small patch of green hellebore and in the woods above Wigmore, there is a woodland verge with herb paris and greater butterfly orchid. These all need different kinds of management and we are looking for interested volunteers who are willing to be Verge Guardians to look after their local reserve.


Rising to the challenge - ancient hillforts and wildlife to be given new lease of life - National Trust

Thirteen majestic iron age hillforts and 332 hectares (820 acres) of their surrounding landscape across Dorset and Wiltshire are to be given a new lease of life as part of a generous award of £800k made to the National Trust by Postcode Earth Trust, raised by players of People’s Postcode Lottery.

The £800k award will be used to fund two other National Trust conservation projects, along with continuing support for Heritage Open Days.

The £100k project will help protect all 13 Scheduled Monuments, dating from over 2,000 years ago, which are of national importance not just for their archaeology, but for their diverse fragile habitats which are homes to threatened butterfly species including the brilliantly coloured Adonis blue, the small Duke of Burgundy and the orange, yellow and brown chequered marsh fritillary.

The unusual sites include Hambledon Hill and Hod Hill in Dorset date from 5,500 to 2,000 years ago. At Hambledon an iron-age hillfort was built on the main hill.  The defences can still be seen today and together with its three ramparts encircling the hill is one of the most impressive archaeological earthworks in southern England. 

The work to be carried out ranges from erosion repairs to paths and ramparts to improving fencing so that cattle can graze in the summer and sheep during the winter.  Volunteers will help with ragwort removal in the summer months, and there will be green hay spreading at some sites to enhance the diversity of wildflower populations. 


Gove kicks off Year of Green Action - defra

Environment Secretary Michael Gove calls on people across the country to join together to improve the natural world.  

  • Year-long drive calls on young people to spearhead environmental action
  • Government pledges £10million boost to connect children with nature
  • Greener schools and more educational visits will be delivered through the funding

Environment Secretary Michael Gove today (31/1) calls on people across the country to join together to protect the environment.

Speaking at ZSL London Zoo this evening, the Environment Secretary will launch the Year of Green Action – a year-long drive to get more people from all backgrounds involved in projects to improve the natural world.

He will also allocate £10 million to help children from disadvantaged backgrounds better access the natural environment, with grants awarded to projects that will create greener school grounds and increase the number of school visits to local parks, wildlife sites, care farms and National Parks.

The Environment Secretary called on everyone to play their part and back the Year of Green Action – from businesses to gardeners and government itself.

It will provide a focal point for organisations, individuals, communities and businesses to learn more about their environmental impact and take action to reduce it.


New ‘Nature Friendly Schools’ to help ‘green’ hundreds of school grounds and bring thousands of children closer to nature - Wildlife Trusts 

£6.4m funded project to improve children’s wellbeing, learning and care for the environment.

The Wildlife Trusts is leading a new and ground-breaking programme – ‘Nature Friendly Schools’ - to bring thousands of children closer to nature. Teachers will receive training to link outdoor learning to the National Curriculum, students will visit local nature reserves or parks, and have the opportunity to experience wildlife on their doorstep through new nature areas in school grounds.  

Announcing the programme at the launch of the Year of Green Action, Nature Friendly Schools are part of a £10million boost to connect children with nature. 

Stephanie Hilborne, Chief Executive of The Wildlife Trusts, says: “We’re thrilled to be heading a consortium to bring many thousands of children closer to nature in schools. Our children deserve better than to be cooped up all day. We know that contact with nature lowers anxiety and is good for learning and social skills, so it’s really exciting to be working closely with schools to build teachers’ confidence in getting their pupils outdoors. Children will have the opportunity to experience wildlife on their doorstep and further afield through hands on activities in their school grounds and local green places, and the chance to experience residential field trips. Teachers and children will be able to use our natural world as a resource to help with the National Curriculum and experience all the joy and better health that being outdoors can bring.”

Led by The Wildlife Trusts, the Department for Education funded four-year project partnership involves YoungMinds which leads the fight for children and young people’s mental health; Groundwork which transforms young people’s lives in the most disadvantaged communities; Sensory Trust, experts in ensuring children with special needs enjoy access to nature; and the Field Studies Council, which inspires environmental education through first-hand experiences on residential courses.


Hello from the new-look National Lottery Heritage Fund!

National Lottery Heritage Fund logoWe have a new name – The National Lottery Heritage Fund. It’s a new chapter for us, although much of the great work we do remains the same.

We will still be investing millions of pounds each year in inspirational heritage projects, large and small, right across the UK.

And we will still be investing National Lottery money in the full breadth of our diverse heritage. From historic places of worship, castles, and factory buildings and people’s rich stories, through to public parks, natural landscapes and native wildlife.

We will keep people at the very heart of all the projects we fund – after all, it is people who bring heritage to life and make it sustainable for the future. 

New-look National Lottery Heritage Fund unveils plans for the next five years 

A major devolution of decision-making across the whole of the UK is at the heart of new plans to distribute more than £1billion of National Lottery money to the UK’s heritage over the next five years.

Our new approach

  • A major focus on nature, communities, and on ensuring everyone is able to enjoy heritage – three top priorities for people who responded to the consultation
  • new models of investment, moving beyond grants to include loans and partnerships, designed to attract others to invest money alongside the National Lottery
  • more support for commercial, sustainable approaches to tackling heritage that’s in danger of being lost
  • investment and support to help heritage organisations to be more financially sustainable
  • a requirement for every heritage project that receives funding to be environmentally friendly
  • simpler, streamlined and more efficient funding
  • greater engagement and support to help 13 deprived communities that have in the past been less successful securing funding
  • continued support for large-scale, iconic projects over £5million


Report finds Scottish raven population healthy - Scottish Natural Heritage

A report published today reveals that raven populations in Scotland are in a healthy condition.

The report, published by Scottish Natural Heritage (SNH), was commissioned to ensure the number of licences issued to control ravens won’t affect the population in the long term.

Raven (image: SNH)SNH issues licences to control ravens when they are causing serious damage to livestock, particularly lambs.

There has been an increase in the Scottish raven population of over 50% over the past 20 years, with Scotland holding the majority of the UK raven population.  

(image: SNH)

Robbie Kernahan, SNH’s Head of Wildlife Management, said:  ‘It’s our job to encourage healthy populations of native species as well as support rural businesses.  Ravens can cause serious damage to livestock, particularly lambs.  Where this is a serious problem, and there is no other solution, we issue licences for farmers to shoot and scare the birds. This research shows that the number of ravens killed under licence won’t put the Scottish population at risk. However, we will continue to monitor so we can adjust licence numbers when we need to.”

Download the full report from here. 


Canna and Sanday map out the future - National Trust for Scotland 

The inner Hebridean islands of Canna and Sanday have emerged as world leaders in the application of digital mapping technology. 

Owned by conservation charity the National Trust for Scotland, they are now the subject of the most detailed mapping exercise ever undertaken of any islands anywhere on the planet. 

With project funding generously donated by its Members’ Centres in London, Argyll and Angus, the Trust commissioned Glasgow-based GeoGeo to carry out a drone survey of the island in November 2018 using an ultra-high definition camera with the aim of pinning down the exact locations of archaeological features.  The drone not only achieved this but also revealed hitherto unknown archaeology. 

The images have been processed to create a minutely detailed 3-D map of Canna and Sanday, which is even capable of being used in a 3-D printer to create scale models of the islands.

Derek Alexander, the National Trust for Scotland’s Head of Archaeology said: “We’ve previously recorded archaeology on Canna and Sanday which proves that there were inhabitants as far back as the Neolithic but this survey gives us information and detail we just haven’t had until now. We’ve been able to obtain exact plots of known sites but also recorded the extensive traces of cultivation, such as rig and furrow field systems that range in from the Bronze Age onwards.  At its peak in the 19th century, agriculture on Canna and Sanday was capable of supporting a population of 400. The detail is simply astounding – aerial surveys for archaeology have been around since the end of World War Two but this new technology takes everything into a completely new realm, being considerably more detailed, affordable and flexible. My colleagues in the Trust were blown away by the results and the possibilities of this technology – the cameras allied to ‘self-learning’ software will be able to help us do things like seabird counts, as well as habitat and coastal erosion monitoring that are currently expensive and labour-intensive.” 


And finally:

Everyone is 'enjoying' a snow day so here are some happy Asian short-clawed otters at London zoo revelling in the white stuff! 

Join in the snowy fun with ZSL London Zoo 18,000 residents, by booking tickets now at www.zsl.org


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