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Attenborough: ‘Watching butterflies is good for you!’ - Butterfly Conservation

Sir David Attenborough has spoken of the mental health benefits of watching butterflies as he urged the public to take part in the world’s biggest butterfly survey over the next three weeks.

Sir David Attenborough with identification chart (image: Butterfly Conservation)The UK’s butterflies are basking in the best summer conditions for more than a decade with hot sunny weather enabling widespread species to fly, feed and breed.

Sir David Attenborough with identification chart (image: Butterfly Conservation)

The Big Butterfly Count launches today (20/7/18) and Butterfly Conservation President Sir David said that taking part not only generates important data on butterflies but also provides participants with precious time out from the stresses of life.

Research has indicated that spending time in nature, for example watching wildlife, can have positive benefits for mental health and wellbeing.

Sir David explained: “I have been privileged to have witnessed some truly breath-taking wildlife spectacles in far-flung locations but some of my most memorable experiences have happened when I’ve been simply sitting and watching the wildlife that lives where I do. A few precious moments spent watching a stunning Red Admiral or Peacock butterfly feeding amongst the flowers in my garden never fails to bring me great pleasure. Spending time with nature offers us all precious breathing space away from the stresses and strains of modern life, it enables us to experience joy and wonder, to slow down and to appreciate the wildlife that lives side-by-side with us.”

Butterfly Conservation is being supported by mental health charity Mind to champion the benefits of spending time in nature.  Stephen Buckley, Head of Information at Mind, said: “We’re delighted to see that Butterfly Conservation is promoting the mental health benefits of getting outdoors. At Mind, we have found that being in nature can have a powerful, grounding effect, with research indicating that it can help alleviate mental health problems like depression and anxiety."

The Count runs from 20 July to 12 August. Taking part in the Count is easy - find a sunny spot anywhere in the UK and spend 15 minutes counting the butterflies you see and then submit sightings online at www.bigbutterflycount.org or via the free Big Butterfly Count app.


Ordnance Survey’s 100 biggest parks in Britain - OS

With the summer holidays upon us and a heatwave showing no signs of letting up, Ordnance Survey (OS) has revealed the 100 biggest public parks in Britain.

The list, which covers England, Scotland and Wales, was created after a study of OS Open Greenspace Data. Its publication coincides with Love Parks Week, an annual initiative encouraging people to get outside and enjoy their favourite parks or visit somewhere new.

Added together the size of the top 100 public parks (397.57 km²) creates a green space bigger than the size of the Isle of Wight (370km²).

Windsor Great Park in Berkshire, with its famous Long Walk and deer park, tops the list as Britain’s biggest. It measures 28.53 km² and dwarves the others in size by comparison.

Second biggest is Cannock Chase Country Park in Staffordshire (19.56km²), with Rutland Water coming third (16.95km²)

Greater London has the most parks in the top 100 with six, (6. Richmond, 26. Hainault, 32 Bushy Park, 49. Wimbledon Common, 63. Hampton Court, 77. Belhus Woods) followed by neighbouring Essex with five.

Scotland has 18 parks that make the list, while Wales has six.

OS Managing Director for Leisure, Nick Giles, said: “We are fortunate to live in a country characterised by huge public parks and green spaces to get outside in and enjoy. There is so much on our own doorstep available to us, and a day out at the park is a fantastic British tradition to experience, particularly with the spell of hot weather we are experiencing. So with the summer holidays now here, why not get outside and make the most of the country’s public parks?”

Click through to see the 100 Biggest Parks in Britain list in full.


Woodlands Awards 2018 by woodlands.co.uk

The Woodlands Awards are now in their second year, after the successful launch in 2017.

We have made a few changes, but the intention remains the same: to celebrate – and give due recognition to – all the wonderful and innovative things that are taking place in the woodlands sector year on year.

And this year we have two new categories to consider: Best Woodland Sculpture, and – just for fun – Best Woodland Hair (or/and Beard).

There are fourteen awards altogether, divided into two groups: awards for individuals (woodland owners and users) and awards for enterprises (woodland organisations, businesses, educational programmes and so on).

Deadline for all submissions: 31 July 2018.


Critically endangered fen orchid flowers for first time in 40 years - Plantlife

Beautiful fenland species returns from localised extinction following pioneering work by Plantlife and Suffolk Wildlife Trust.

The critically endangered fen orchid has flowered for the first time in Suffolk since 1975.

Fen orchid (image: Plantlife)The return of the rare orchid, which was locally extinct and whose location cannot be disclosed for security reasons, is the result of a partnership between Suffolk Wildlife Trust and British conservation charity Plantlife.

Fen orchid (image: Plantlife)

The species, which is notable for its pale, yellow blooms and is dependent on the unique, open conditions of fenland, disappeared from the county due to habitat loss – a result of wetland being reclaimed for agricultural use or fens being allowed to “scrub over” and slowly revert to woodland.

For the past 30 years Suffolk Wildlife Trust has been working to restore a number of fenland sites by improving the amount of water, removing encroaching scrub and re-instating traditional mowing techniques.

While birds, dragonflies, damselflies and other mobile species have returned to the fens, the unique plant communities have needed more direct action.

In 2017, with habitat again suitable for the fen orchid, Plantlife began a programme of translocations to sites in the valley fens, the culmination of a ten year conservation strategy funded by Natural England. The fact they are now flowering for the first time in over 40 years is hugely significant and is the result of painstaking work between Plantlife, Suffolk Wildlife Trust and other members of the partnership (RSPB, Norfolk Wildlife Trust, Butterfly Conservation and the Broads Authority) to bring this species back from the brink of extinction.


Swaledale survey highlights need for ecological network investment - Yorkshire Dales National Park

Special Scientific Interest has found that only 60% of them are, by area, in good condition.

The survey – which was carried out between May and September last year – and was the first of its type for Swaledale – confirms that significant investment is needed to create a resilient habitat network.

A summary of the survey results has been published today (20/7).  It shows that less than 10% of native semi-natural woodland, rock outcrops and upland flushes, and only 23% upland hay meadow, was in good condition.  More encouragingly, 80% of blanket bog, by far the largest priority habitat surveyed, was in good condition.

Swaledale, by Stephen Garnett YDNPA.Swaledale, by Stephen Garnett YDNPA.

The Swaledale survey was part of a ten-year programme of surveys funded by the National Park Authority.  When completed in 2020, they will give a much better picture of the condition of priority habitats right across the National Park.

YDNPA Member Champion for Natural Environment, Ian McPherson, said:  “There are pockets of astonishing beauty and diversity in Swaledale but, as in other parts of the National Park, too many of our nationally-important habitats are in a poor to middling condition. Much of the data confirms what we already suspected from previous surveys of habitats inside Sites of Special Scientific Interest"

Read the report (PDF)

The latest review of the overall trends and status of priority habitats and species in the Yorkshire Dales National Park can be found here.



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