Author: Claire Eynon

Winter Fun at the Welsh Wildlife Centre!

Welsh wildlife centre

Our Visitor Centre’s may be closed over the Christmas period, but get ready to bring in the New Year with home cooked hangover food and exciting wildlife activities!

What’s your ultimate hangover cure?

If an all day breakfast sounds just right, pop along to our Welsh Wildlife Centre Café in Cilgerran on New Years Day! Our Parc Slip Visitor Centre will also be open serving the usual delicious meals and cakes!

For the more active (and less hungover!) why not join in with our wildlife inspired events at the Teifi Marshes Nature Reserve and Visitor Centre!

From 1st to the 3rd January come and enjoy our Winter Quiz Trail!

Fun for all the family, explore the reserve looking for letters to solve the clues!  Suitable for all ages and costing just £2.50 including a small prize. Available between 10am and 3pm each day.

Make 2020 your most organised year yet!

Join us on 2nd January to make you’re very own calendar!

Suitable for ages 3+ years and costing just £3.

Sessions are 10.30am-12pm and 1pm-2.30pm

Give wildlife a home this winter!

Pop in to the Welsh Wildlife Centre on 3rd January to choose and paint a wooden animal house to take home!. Suitable for ages 3+ years and costing just £4.

Sessions are 10.30am-12pm and 1pm-2.30pm

 

More information can be found on our Events page 

Big changes afoot: managing Ash Dieback on WTSWW nature reserves

Many of our members and supporters will have heard of ash dieback – a disease of ash trees, which was first reported in the UK in 2012, and a year later was reported in native woodland in Wales (and in WTSWW’s patch) for the first time – in Ferryside, Carmarthenshire.

What is ash dieback?

Ash dieback is a fungus (Hymenoscyphus fraxineus) which originated in Asia. It doesn’t cause much harm to its native hosts, but since its introduction to Europe about 30 years ago, it has devastated our native ash (Fraxinus excelsior), which has no natural defence against it.

Ash dieback has spread rapidly through the Welsh countryside and in the seven years since it was first reported, has affected almost all of WTSWW’s nature reserves with ash trees.

What is the impact on ash trees?

Ash is infected by the spores of the fungus, through the tree’s leaves; the cycle then continues via overwintering leaf litter which re-infects trees the following spring. The fungus grows inside the tree, and blocks its water transport system, causing the tree to die.  The extent of resistance to the fungus is not known, but a recent analysis of surveys of ash dieback across Europe reveals mortality rates as high as 85 percent in plantations and 70 percent in woodlands[1]. Latest trial data from Forest Research shows that over 5 years, less than 1 % of the trees showed tolerance to dieback symptoms[2]. The current safety guidance is that it should be assumed that any tree showing symptoms is going to die; however, the disease progresses at different speeds in different trees.

 

What is the impact on WTSWW nature reserves?

We have ash on a great many of our nature reserves. Some of our sites on limestone (such as Cwm Ivy and Llanrhidian Hill on Gower, Carmel in Carmarthenshire and West Williamston in Pembrokeshire) have woodland canopies heavily dominated by ash. Many other sites of mixed woodlands (such as Coed y Bedw in Glamorgan and Pant Da in Ceredigion) still have some substantial ash trees on them. Ash is one of our most common tree species in Wales.

During the summer of 2019, the WTSWW conservation team visited all our high risk areas (where ash trees are a risk to people, for example near houses and roads) to assess the ash trees present. What we found was that already, about half of our ash trees are in Ash Health Class 3 or 4 (i.e. they have less than half of the canopy of a healthy tree). In other words, we have a very significant problem developing, with dead and dying trees in locations that will directly affect people’s safety.

Ash Dieback casualty tree in Cwm Ivy Nov 19

Fallen dead ash at Cwm Ivy & Betty Church nature reserve, Gower. This tree was tagged as suffering from ash dieback symptoms in summer 2019.

What are WTSWW going to do?

Our staff team have spent several months surveying and carefully planning our response. We need to meet our obligations to keep people safe, but we also need to try and minimise the negative impact on the species on our nature reserves, and still encourage visitors where we can.

Our duty of care to visitors is significant; warning people of the risk does not reduce our liability. Where we are inviting the public onto our land, we have to ensure the access we provide is as safe and that we address any hazards we identify.

Our first and most important principle is not to fell a tree if we don’t have to. We are only assessing ash trees in high risk areas (these being the areas of high public presence); all other ash will be left to stand.

Many of our less well visited reserves fall into this low risk, non-intervention category. This is important for allowing any resistance to manifest, and also to support the many species that depend on ash (such as scarce lichens) and even if they die, to ensure the fantastic standing dead wood resource is available to the species that use it.

Our second step is to try and remove the risk, so that we can leave the tree standing. That means making sure that people do not come near the dangerous trees. With regret, this means that we are considering closing a few reserves, or closing paths within nature reserves- but the advantage is that we do not then have to undertake major works that will significantly affect the ecology of those sites. We will endeavour to keep alternative routes open where we can and will continue to re-assess these sites regularly.

Third: in high risk areas, where we cannot reduce the risk, we need to act to make the tree(s) safe. This will mean some substantial work to some large ash trees in the coming years, based on a hierarchy of priority. This is not something we want to do (for either the ecological or financial consequences) but the potential risk to life makes it essential, as it would for any other dying tree in a high risk location.

The way we apply this hierarchy of action may change in space and time, as we learn more about Ash Dieback and as we undertake mitigation work on our nature reserves. We are working with other Wildlife Trusts and organisations across Wales and the UK to keep our approach and decision making as up to date as possible.

What will happen to the areas where ash trees have been lost?

Our preferred approach is not to re-stock (i.e. we will not plant in new trees). Instead we wish to allow the natural regeneration of whatever is available from the local provenance seed. This avoids the import of compost, plastic tubes and so on. This is even more important when you consider this was one route by which this disease reached Wales in the first place. It also ensures that whatever grows is locally appropriate. We will monitor these areas however, and intervene if there are any barriers to the regrowth of the canopy in the long term. We may also re-stock when required to by others (for example as a condition of a felling licence).

What can you do?

Here are a few things we would be incredibly grateful to our volunteers, members and supporters, to consider supporting us with:

·         Helping us share our decision making and thinking on managing ash dieback with others

·         Respecting signage and closures of paths and reserves, and encouraging others to do the same: they are there for your safety and based on detailed inspection.

·         Checking the website for any updates on reserve closures

·         Consider donating and supporting the Trust’s core work. The requirement for essential tree work is going to cost WTSWW many thousands of pounds that we would prefer to be using for conservation. Every penny helps and we are incredibly grateful for the ongoing support we receive.

Where can I find out more?

We are just in the process of producing an Ash Dieback Action Plan which will provide more details of our approach. Alternatively for site-specific queries, please contact your local Conservation Manager:

Kerry Rogers (Cardiff, Bridgend, Vale): k.rogers@welshwildlife.org

Lizzie Wilberforce (Pembs, Carms, Ceredigion, Swansea, Neath Port Talbot): l.wilberforce@welshwildlife.org

Sarah Woodcock (Valleys, Brecknock): s.woodcock@welshwildlife.org

[1] https://www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2018/12/181205093651.htm accessed 15-11-19
[2] https://www.forestresearch.gov.uk/research/chalara-ash-dieback-resistance-trials/ accessed 15-11-19

News from Vine House Farm

Lapwing-by-Phil-Bennington.jpg

The Wildlife Trusts have been in partnership with conservation award-winning Vine House Farm Bird foods since 2007 because their business is committed to protecting and enabling the environment they work in to thrive.

Passionate conservationists, Vine House Farm are leading the way in wildlife-friendly farming – growing, packaging and dispatching the vast majority of bird seed they sell from their Lincolnshire farm, ensuring their family-run business always operates with the environment in mind.

Over the last 10 years Vine House Farm have given 5% of their sales to The Wildlife Trusts, with this adding up to more than a million pounds.

Here’s the latest update from the farm blog

The Weather and how it has affected the farm

The wet weather continues. For us, here in South Lincolnshire, it has been the wettest Summer and Autumn since 1880. We had a year’s rainfall (533mm/21ins) in five months, between June 7th and November 7th, and a further 76mm/3ins since then. 2019 is already the wettest year that I have recorded, with 725mm/28.5ins.

In those five months in 1880, 660mm/26ins of rain fell. The River Glen burst its banks into Bourne South Fen and the River Welland breached near Crowland. A total of 939mm/37ins of rain fell that year.

Our local drainage board started keeping rainfall records in 1829. During the first 60 recorded years, there were 15 years with over 762mm/30ins of rain. During the last 100 years, only two years were recorded with similar measurements of rain, so clearly we are getting less extreme events. The cause is that there is now more arable land, so more soil is getting washed into our rivers. This means rivers are getting shallower, their flow is reduced and, as we have more roads and houses, the quantity of water reaching the rivers is causing them to flood. The experts call it global warming and anticipate we will get more of these extreme events but here in South Lincolnshire we are getting fewer extreme events than we used to.

Who are these experts and what do they know about drainage? During the last week in November I went North from here in Lincolnshire to the River Witham, a river controlled by the Environment Agency. I was appalled at its condition – it is very shallow as it has not been cleared out for 30 years. Many trees were growing along its edge, their branches in the water slowing the flow.  The Environment Agency expect it will burst its banks at some time but they do nothing while the trees get bigger and the river gets shallower. I call it criminal neglect. On Friday 29th November the Martin Delph, a tributary of the River Witham, burst its banks overflowing into Martin Fen.

When anyone builds a house or a road in our drainage board district, that person has to pay some money to the drainage board. If it is a big enough housing estate that money will pay for the widening of a dyke, or drain, to the nearest pumping station, so ensuring that we can always take the water away in wet times.

Are the pumps big enough? I know they are because my Uncle, Ray Pick OBE, chairman of our local drainage board, installed some really big pumps in 1967 and not all of them have been used at the same time this summer. This means we have plenty of pumping capacity for the 80,000 acres (126sq.miles) we look after.

All the dykes and drains that the drainage board look after have the vegetation cut and it is left on the top of the bank. Our drainage board, and other drainage boards, have been cutting both sides of the water course which was not good for most wildlife. So over the past 20 years, I have been asking our board, and other boards, to only cut one side of the watercourse at a time. This saves the drainage boards money and we get more wildlife – something that is not usually appreciated by most drainage engineers. Quite a few of our drains are now only mown one side of the watercourse.

One of the drains on our farm – the North Drove drain – has only been cut one side each year since 1990. Here I can find 70 Reed Warbler nests in a 2,800metre length, a few Reed Bunting nests can be seen along with Sedge Warblers, Moorhens, Tufted Ducks and Mallard nests. Before 1990 there would only be a few Meadow Pipits nesting along its banks. Now we have a wildlife corridor. I am now on the board of the Welland & Deepings Internal Drainage Board, in South Lincolnshire.

As I write this however, dry weather is on the horizon – hooray – let’s hope we get some.

Wildlife

Certainly a lot of wildlife in the Fens have been enjoying the wet weather – ducks and geese especially. I went to do my monthly count of ducks in Langtoft Fen and I have never seen so few ducks on the lakes, I presumed they were all out enjoying themselves as there is water everywhere. By the end of November, there were 600 Wigeon and 100 Teal feeding on our 35 acre wetland site. This is similar to a field containing giant ridges and furrows The ridges are about 50 yards apart and the furrows are filled with water. Cattle were grazing the grass during the Summer and Autumn, now the Wigeon are keeping it short. This will keep it in good order for the Lapwings to nest on next April. Last spring there were 18 to 20 pairs nesting on the 35 acres.

One species which has not been enjoying the wet weather is the Barn Owl as their feathers are not waterproof. They have been lucky that there are a lot of voles around. We have seen the odd one flying in the daytime which means that despite all the rainy weather, they have still managed to catch all their food in the hours of darkness. Tawny Owls are quite scarce in Fenland because we don’t have much woodland, I have never seen any flying in the daytime, have you? If they’ve not been able to catch enough food at night I rather suspect they sit on a branch with their eyes open during the day waiting to pounce. Tawny Owls would prefer to live on voles, but they do have more birds in their diet than Barn Owls. In 2018, when Barn Owls and Tawny Owls had very small broods (if any at all because of a shortage of voles) I was asked to go and ring a brood of three young Tawny Owls. The nest was in a spinney where there was a rookery and I suspected that the Owl was taking young Rooks out of nests at night to feed its young. Voles don’t do well in wet climates either, so that is why there are more Barn Owls in eastern England where there is the least rain resulting in more voles.

We have more Long Tailed Tits about than usual this winter. I put it down to the dry April this year, which is when Long Tailed Tits nest, as last year’s wet April meant there were very few about last winter. A Long Tailed Tit’s nest is a work of art, but I suspect that in periods of heavy rain they would not be waterproof, which could affect chick survival.  I’d be interested to hear about the status of Long Tailed Tits in your area this winter.

Fieldfares have arrived in good numbers and we have 500 or 600  feeding on the hedgerow fruits.

As well as doing my bit on the farm, I am also a trustee of the Countryside Restoration Trust, the CRT, which was started by Robin Page. It promotes a working countryside using sensitive and sympathetic farming practices that encourage and protect wildlife to produce quality food. The CRT knows that good farming is essential to wildlife, which I fully endorse. Some of you might like to follow their activities.

 

Habitat Management at National Grid Electricity Transmission’s Margam Substation

After habitat management at National Grid site in margam

In 2019, National Grid approached The Wildlife Trust of South and West Wales (WTSWW) to work with them on a sustainability project located on National Grid Electricity Transmission (NGET) non-operational land surrounding Margam Substation located in Margam near Port Talbot, South Wales. The land consists of approximately 14 ha of reedbed, marshy grassland, scrub and brownfield habitats.

Hannah Urquhart, a National Grid Electricity System Operator graduate working on the project, said:

“In February 2019, the project team began planning a sustainability project as part of National Grid’s annual Natural Grid project, contributing to National Grid’s corporate target of improving the environmental value of 50 of our sites by 2020. WTSWW have provided invaluable advice and support throughout the project, from how to best enhance the land from the early planning stages through to the current stage of implementation, by sharing knowledge on preferred habitats for onsite species to carrying out reedbed clearance.”

Historically, the land has not been managed in any way other than standard maintenance around the National Grid infrastructure. While it already offered very good potential for wildlife there were clear opportunities to enhance it for a number of species.

The expanse of dense reedbed provides home for a number of amphibians and breeding birds

These include Cetti’s warblers, harvest mice and potentially water voles. There is also potential for scarce species such as bitterns to hunt amongst the reeds. Predators like otters and grass snakes will no doubt hunt the amphibians which are likely to be breeding in areas of standing water; a freshly-sloughed grass snake skin was found on our first visit to the site as immediate proof!

In addition to supporting species such as these, the reedbed is also a dense monoculture with little open water, so it was suggested that a number of scallops were cut into the reeds by WTSWW (ably assisted by National Grid members of the project team!).

Instead of struggling beneath the reed canopy, these newly created open areas will allow fresh vegetation to flourish. The open water will also benefit invertebrates such as damselflies and dragonflies, whose larvae will hopefully appreciate the raised temperatures in the areas now exposed to direct sunlight. The fresh shoots will also provide egg-laying sites for newt species and the removal of the thatch of previous years’ reeds will improve the habitat for frogs and many invertebrate species.

Willow and birch scrub is present in a number of areas around the site and is an important resource for many species but it was cut back in a few places where it was starting to encroach into the reedbed and therefore starting to dry it out. The cuttings from the scrub clearance was stacked into dense habitat piles upon which the cut reeds were placed. As this vegetation slowly rots it will provide ideal egg-laying habitat for grass snakes and will also hopefully be used by small mammals and invertebrates.

Signs of harvest mice (old nests) were seen amongst the reeds but sadly no water vole evidence was found despite searches at various points around the site. Hopefully we will be able to go back in spring to look for them during the optimum survey period as well as monitoring how the newly-created scallops are developing.

Alongside reedbed management, areas of the wet meadow were cut by contractors with brushcutters with the cuttings again used to create habitat piles. Not all the area was cut and it is hoped that different patches can be cut on rotation ensuring that it doesn’t all become rank and that there is a range of flowering plants throughout.

During the initial visit to the site, kestrels were seen hunting over this area, no doubt taking advantage of the field vole population, of which there were frequent signs. It was suggested that a number of specialist kestrel boxes were placed at suitable locations around the site. These have been purchased and will hopefully be installed in time for the breeding season.

School visits to talk about sustainability

In addition to the habitat management work, WTSWW has been visiting schools around Margam with members of the National Grid project team to talk about sustainability and the small things that school children can do to contribute. As part of this a competition to design bug hotels was run with the aim of creating a large bug hotel on the Margam site. This will hopefully provide extra habitat for the invertebrates present on site. The land contains areas of brownfield-type habitat around the tracks and pylons where flowering plants and the exposed gravelly soil supports solitary bees and wasps. There are also records of two rare bumble bees there: shrill carder bees and brown-banded carder bees.

Zaryab Suddle, a National Grid Electricity Construction graduate working on the project, said:

“We have delivered a significant amount of transformation on site that will bring great benefit to the local ecosystem and the environment. The project has met major milestones and is now 80% complete. A significant difference on site is already evident, which we hope will promote biodiversity and attract wider variety of species known to be present in the local area. It has been a pleasure to work with WTSWW on this sustainability project – their commitment to ensuring land in south and west Wales is well managed for the benefit of local species is clearly apparent.”

It has been very rewarding working on this lovely site with National Grid. The habitat improvements will benefit the local wildlife, while the education work will enthuse local children about the wildlife around them. We will build on our relationship with National Grid and follow up with surveys in the spring and potentially future habitat work to ensure that the site continues to support a diverse range of habitats and important species.

Keep an eye on our website and social media pages for future updates!

Give wildlife a voice this General Election

Ratty, Mole, Badger & Toad campaign for a Wilder Future

The upcoming General Election is a crucial moment for wildlife in the UK

Our natural environment is in crisis – the UK is one of the most nature-depleted places on earth and over half of our wildlife species are in decline.

Our politicians need to stand for nature’s recovery.  

We are utterly dependent on nature for our wellbeing and prosperity, and Nature-Based Solutions can provide over one-third of the most cost-effective, long-term and globally scalable climate mitigation needed between now and 2030 to stabilise warming to below 2 °C.  Therefore it is vital that the next government enacts the kinds of ambitious measures that will guarantee wildlife’s recovery. There is evidently widespread support among the public for such decisive action.

In a recent YouGov poll, 27% of voters cited the environment as one of three top issues – behind Brexit and health. That puts it on a par with crime and the economy. 45% of 18- to 24-year-olds put it as their second-biggest concern after Brexit.

We’ll be challenging the parliamentary candidates in Wales about the actions they will take for a Wilder Future.

We have written to all the candidates that have provided contact details and asked them the following questions:

1.       How will you and your party act decisively to tackle the crises in the natural environment?

2.       What will you do to ensure we have farming policies that support land managers in contributing to nature’s recovery?

3.       What will you do to ensure we protect and revive our seas?

4.       With funding for the natural environment and conservation declining dramatically in the last 10 years, despite the climate and ecological emergencies, what will you do to reverse this trend?

Over the coming weeks, election candidates will be going door to door and talking to you about what they stand for.  They need your vote, so you might also like to use these questions to let them know how much you care about wildlife and show them that nature matters to us all.

We received the following responses to the above questions:

Madeleine Moon MP, Welsh Labour, Bridgend

“It’s always difficult for Welsh MP’s to respond to your questions since many of the decisions are made in Cardiff not in Westminster. The new EVEL (English Votes for English Legislation) rules mean we also don’t have votes in English legislation though of course Wales does benefit from the Barnett Formulae funding implications of spend in England.
To cut to the chase yes I will support improved funding, the failure to take real action on Maritime Conservation and establishing maritime reserves is shocking.
I am not a member of the Environment Food and Rural Affairs or the Environmental Audit Select Committee but I know they are both focussed on farming and land management policies.  There is considerable concern as to the implications of lower environmental protection policies should there be a hard Brexit. This will be an area we must all keep our focus on.”

Tonia Antoniazzi MP, Welsh Labour, Gower

“As you’ll have seen from our manifesto released today as well as our animal welfare manifesto available here that the Labour Party has a series of policy solutions to tackle the issues raised in your email.”

Rhys Taylor, Welsh Liberal Democrats, Cardiff North

  1. How will you and your party act decisively to tackle the crises in the natural environment?

The Liberal Democrats have a credible and detailed plan to tackle the climate emergency as soon as possible, to transform our government to place the environment at its heart and to reverse the damage we’re doing to our planet. We will also set targets for the recovery of our natural environment – tackling the climate emergency goes hand in hand with nature recovery.    A Liberal Democrat government will pass a new Nature Act modelled on the Climate Change Act to see binding targets and interim targets for nature’s recovery.
Nature recovery and tackling climate change go hand in hand so we will also set a new legally binding target to reduce net greenhouse gas emissions to zero by 2045 at the latest, and implement a comprehensive climate action plan, cutting emissions across all sectors.
By stopping Brexit, we can build a brighter future for our natural environment across the EU – a Liberal Democrat government will work with the EU to set binding targets to help nature recover and achieve net-zero emissions across 28 countries.

2. What will you do to ensure we have farming policies that support land managers in contributing to nature’s recovery?

The Liberal Democrats will support the shift towards a greener agriculture by funding streams of at least £18bn over five years, or £3.6bn each year. This would allocate about £400,000 more to the UK agricultural industry each year than the current CAP-funded pot under the current government (£3.2bn/year).
This would involve effective land management, including restoring nature and protecting the countryside, flood prevention, and measures to increase soil carbon and expand native woodland to combat climate change.
Other measures include: a £5bn fund for flood prevention, the planting of 60 million trees a year by 2025, investment in workable vaccines to control bovine TB, higher animal welfare standards and a budget increase for Defra and its agencies.
In addition, the Lib Dems would reduce support payments for larger farmers and redistribute the savings to support public goods projects.

3. What will you do to ensure we protect and revive our seas?

Commit to a Plastic-Free Charter to eradicate unnecessary plastic waste from Government Departments and set an example to businesses and consumers.
Tackle our throw-away culture by providing incentives for reuse and recycling, including a plastic bottle return scheme and a 5p charge on disposable coffee cups.
Encourage businesses to reduce plastic packaging and introduce plastic free aisles in supermarkets.
Work closely with other countries to find global solutions to tackle the crisis of ocean pollution.
Invest in research and development into non-plastic alternative materials which are cost effective and sustainable in the long-term.

4. With funding for the natural environment and conservation declining dramatically in the last 10 years, despite the climate and ecological emergencies, what will you do to reverse this trend?

A Liberal Democrat government would spend £100bn tackling the effects of climate change and protecting the environment. This would include a new £10bn “renewable power fund” to leverage more than £100bn of extra private climate investment. Other priorities include insulating all of Britain’s homes by 2030, having at least 80% of UK electricity generated from renewables by 2030, banning fracking for good, planting 60 million trees a year, electrifying Britain’s railways and ensuring all new cars are electric by 2030.”

Robert Morgan, The Brexit Party, Bridgend Candidate

“Firstly, thank you for the amazing work you and all your supporters do. Our wildlife is so important.  The answers to your questions are as follows:

1. We are fighting for our country and the future of our country, there are serious things that we need to do and in some ways lead the way and be an example to other countries. We want to invest in the environment, in addition to planting millions of trees throughout Wales and the UK we will promote a global initiative at the UN.
2. Farming in Wales is a huge industry and a huge source of our natural wildlife. Farming receives funding from the EU, the money that we give them. By leaving the EU saving billions a month, we will have more resource to provide to farmers. The EU not only gives us approx a third of the money we pay in, but also tells us where to spend it and when. We want to invest what we want when we want in our vital farming industry, thus negating the need for farmers to sell land for development.
3. This is what is very high on our agenda, we want to recycle our own waste and make it illegal for it to be exported across the world to be dumped at sea. We will take back the control of our fishing waters, lessening the amount of trawlers in our waters from France in particular.
4. Taking back the control of our spending we will have the ability to invest in our natural environment and conservation as and when it is needed. It is needed now! We want better living for us and our wildlife. With all the things we are pledging in our ‘Contract with the people’ we can protect what is dear to us, with our land and wellbeing for us and our wildlife being high priority.
I sincerely hope that you find these answers favourable Sarah, these can all be found in our Contract which was launched yesterday.”

Michael O’Carroll, Welsh Liberal Democrats, Swansea West

1. How will you and your party act decisively to tackle the crises in the natural environment?

With regards climate mitigation to stabilize warming, myself and the Liberal Democrats would:
– accelerate the deployment of renewable power, to reach 80% renewable energy generation by 2030
– reduce emissions from buildings by redtrofitting insulation in all low-income households by 2025, and by requiring all new homes and properties built from 2021 to meet a zero carbo standard
– roll-out infrastructure to support electric vehicles, culminating in a ban on the sale of new petrol and diesel cars and vans from 2030 onwards
– use the UK’s global reach to achieve positive change globally, including requiring all companies listed on the UK stock exchange to set targets consistent with the Paris Climate Agreement; and working with EU partners to keep cloimate change at the top of the global agenda
More broadly, we would introduce a new Nature Act to restore the natural environment through setting legally binding near-term and long-term targets for improving water, air, soil and biodiversity, and supported by funding streams of at least £18 billion over five years

2. What will you do to ensure we have farming policies that support land managers in contributing to nature’s recovery?

I support the Liberal Democrats policies to:
– Reduce basic agricultural support payments to the larger recipients and redeploy the savings to support the public goods that come from effective land management, including restoring nature and protecting the countryside, preventing flooding and combating climate change through measures to increase soil carbon and expand native woodland.
– Invest in large scale restoration of peatlands, heathland, native woodlands, saltmarshes, wetlands and coastal waters, helping to absorb carbon, protect against floods, improve water quality and protect habitats, including through piloting ‘rewilding’ approaches.

3.  What will you do to ensure we protect and revive our seas?

I would:
– Ensure that sustainability lies at the heart of fisheries policy, rebuilding depleted fish stocks to achieve their former abundance. Fishers, scientists and conservationists should all be at the centre of a decentralised and regionalised fisheries management system. Immigration policy should also be flexible enough to ensure that both the catching and processing sectors have access to the labour they need.
– Establish a “blue belt” of marine protected areas covering at least 50 per cent of UK waters by 2030
– Ban non-recyclable single used plastics

4. With funding for the natural environment and conservation declining dramatically in the last 10 years, despite the climate and ecological emergencies, what will you do to reverse this trend?

In terms of funding, we would commit:
– an additional £18bn over 5 years to support the aims of our new Nature Act
– a further £5bn fund for flood prevention and climate adaptation
– a total investment spend (i.e. not current account) of £80bn through a revived Green Investment Bank, to support projects to tackle climate change.”

John Davies, Plaid Cymru, Gower

“I have created a wild meadow myself, of about 4 acres on land that we have, specifically to increase the bio diversity, and create a safe zone in north Gower for wildlife.
I can not comment at present on policy as the Manifesto will not be announced till Friday, but I can assure you that we will continue to be green. I was at a meeting the night before last in Swansea run by various groups of green activists, and it was good to have confirmation from Friends of the Earth that we are regarded as greener than the greens.”

Wayne David, Labour Candidate for Caerphilly
Thank you for your email enquiring my views about the environment. I believe that the environmental challenges of today are of a different order to those faced in the past and require a more comprehensive package of measures.
 Just before Parliament was dissoloved for the general election, the UK Government published its Environment Bill which proposed a wide range of new duties and legal requirements for England.  These included providing for environmental targets, environmental principles and a new environmental watchdog. If it had been brought into law, there would have been new legal requirements covering air pollution, water resources, water management and quality, waste and recycling, biodiversity, nature recovery and conservation covenants.
While I welcomed these proposals, I believe the Bill was a missed opportunity. For example, it did not go far enough in bringing in measures to help reduce water consumption in England in the face of the climate emergency. I would have liked to have seen the Bill amended to ensure that after Brexit the UK won’t fall behind the EU on environmental standards. I fear that the Conservatives are threatening our environment with reckless new trade agreements after we leave the EU that would undercut Britain’s environmental standards. I do not believe that the measures contained in their proposed Environment Bill would have done anything to  protect against this.
I was also concerned about the independence of the Office for Environmental Protection (OEP) proposed in the Bill. The only reason the Conservatives at Westminster made any movement on waste, landfill and air quality was because of the threat of EU fines. With that in mind, I found it disappointing that the OEP would have had no powers to issue fines. Also, while it was welcome that the OEP would be able to carry out investigations on its own initiative, I would have like to have seen it given the power to conduct inquiries into systemic issues, make recommendations and issue guidance.
The measures contained in the Bill were mainly for England only because, as a result of devolution, environmental matters in Wales are largely the responsibility of the Welsh Government.
The Welsh Government recently held a consultation, Environmental Principles and Governance in Wales Post European Union Exit. It asked for views on what will provide the most effective and coherent approach to improving environmental governance in Wales, including if improvements could be made to the existing structures or whether a specific oversight body is required. I will follow the outcome of this consultation closely.
Wales has a Nature Recovery Plan for 2020 and beyond, aimed at addressing the underlying causes of biodiversity loss. The plan has a number of objectives, including to increase the resilience of our natural environment by restoring degraded habitats and habitat creation.
I welcome the fact that Welsh Labour Ministers have made a commitment to ensuring there is no drop in environmental standards in Wales and that they will continue to improve environmental regulation as the UK leaves the European Union.
Can I suggest that it would be advisable for your members in South and West Wales to contact  their local Assembly Member for an update on what action the Welsh Government is taking to protect the natural environment in Wales? For your members living in the Caerphilly constituency they can contact the AM for Caerphilly by emailing Hefin.David@assembly.wales
For your members living in the Caerphilly constituency, I can assure them that I will continue to work in Parliament to press the UK Government, whichever party it is, to do more to tackle climate change and improve the environment.

Help us secure a #WilderFuture for wildlife.

A Tribute to Nigel Ajax-Lewis

Nigel and his family celebrate the re naming of the Northern Wetland hide

If you’ve been to Parc Slip Nature Reserve recently, or follow us on social media, you might have noticed that the previously named Northern Wetland Hide is now called The Nigel Ajax-Lewis Hide.

The hide’s namesake is the longest serving staff member of the Wildlife Trust of South and West Wales, having worked for the trust for over 30 years. He has been instrumental in many projects over the years, but arguably his biggest and earliest project was the creation of Parc Slip Nature Reserve.

As is common in most areas of South Wales, Parc Slip Nature Reserve has a long industrial history associated with coal. It has been mined for coal since the nineteenth century. At first there was a deep mine, Parc Slip Colliery, which is infamous locally because of the fatal disaster on the 26th August 1892. Tragically 112 men and boys died in the disaster, eradicating whole families from the local area.

These men are still remembered today by their descendants and the memorial that sits where the entrance to the mine would have been. After the colliery closed in 1904, the site was left derelict with old coal tips still left behind. In the 1960s, British Coal Opencast took over the area, removed the old coal tips and mined what remained of the coal reserves through opencast mining until the 1980s.

Thirty years ago on the 15th November 1989 a younger Nigel Ajax-Lewis, still a fresh face at the Trust (known then as the Glamorgan Trust), secured an agreement with British Coal Opencast that once the land had been backfilled the Trust would create a nature reserve where wildlife could thrive and people could enjoy and appreciate nature.

Today, the 300 acre reserve boasts several different habitats, including woodlands, wetlands and meadow, and is home to great crested newts, adders, and glow worms. Since its creation over 20 species of dragonfly and over 130 bird species has been recorded here.

To say thank you to Nigel for creating a wonderful wildlife haven for all to visit and for his other achievements and work for the Trust over the years, we renamed the hide after him on the anniversary of the agreement for Parc Slip Nature Reserve to be created. The hide overlooks the Northern Wetlands pond which Nigel created many moons ago.

Nigel continues to dedicate his life to the protection and monitoring of wildlife.

On behalf of the local community, the Trust and most importantly the wildlife – thank you Nigel!

The renaming of the hide is just the beginning of a year of exciting developments for Parc Slip, make sure to keep an eye on our Facebook, Twitter and Instagram  as well as our website for updates.

25 bee species identified on Allt Rhongyr!

Bilberry Bumblebee

During this summer, bee expert Janice Vincett, carried out a survey of aculeate (stinging insect) species of Allt Rhongyr.

The aim of the survey was to identify the diversity of aculeate and other pollinator species presentAllt Rhongyr has rich ground flora and consists of lowland acid grass lands, upland calcareous grasslands and upland ash woodland. Patches of bare earth and short grass provide suitable habitat for ground nesting species and the variety of flora provide plenty of pollen and nectar.

After a reconnaissance visit in April, Janice visited the reserve, situated high in the Brecon Beacons above Craig Y Nos Country Park, four times between May and September.  Samples were collected at identified sites by sweep nets and five sets of three coloured pan traps containing water with small amounts of detergent.  The latter samples were collected after four hours for identification.  A variety of sites were chosen including warm sunny spots, some with bare soil for the burrowing species as well as those with wild flowers or dead wood.

In all 25 bee species were identified. These included five social species and 20 solitary nesting species.

Eight of these were cleptoparasitic species indicating that their host species was present even if it was not recorded in this survey.  In addition one social, one solitary and one spider eating species of wasps were recorded.  All were fairly common in the UK apart from Andrena falsifica and Andrena chrysosceles.

It was interesting that the greatest diversity of species occurred in the May sample with six Andrena species, five Nomada species, three species each of Bombus and Lasioglossum. 

The highlight was Andrena falsifica (thick margined mini-mining bee) which is listed as Nationally Scarce.

There are only two confirmed records on NBN Atlas in Wales; one near Bangor, north Wales and one near Cowbridge, south Wales. However there were several unconfirmed finds in south Wales, mostly near the coastline.

Another species recorded was Sphecodes molinicornis (box-headed blood bee).  This species which has a blood-red abdomen is a cleptoparasite of several furrow bee species (Lasioglossum sp).  The female forcibly invades the pre-stocked cells and destroys the eggs or grubs within.  She then lays her own eggs in the cell before resealing the cell.

Other insects noted included seven diptera, seven butterfly, two moths and a dragonfly species.

Our reserves have so much to offer. Spectacular views and exciting wildlife encounters!

Keep an eye on our Events page for future wildlife walks and a truly WILD experience.

Rare Greater Horseshoe Bats found on Skomer Island!

Greater Horseshoe Bat

We have had some great news this year with a project confirming that Skomer Island is not only a location for a diverse range of bats but is a regular roost site for the rare Greater Horseshoe Bat.

The study was undertaken by one of the long- term volunteers on Skomer this year, Rob Knott, as his personal project. Rob completed his MSc at Southampton University this year, using acoustics to study bird and bat populations in the tropics so this was a great opportunity for us to find out more about what bat species can be found on the island.

Bats are a species that are important for ecosystem health but unfortunately are highly susceptible to habitat loss and degradation of foraging areas. For this reason there has been a severe decline in some of the 17 bat species in the UK, notably the Greater Horseshoe bat, which has suffered a 90% decline over the past 100 years (Bat Conservation Trust 2010). This species is now only found at a few sites, Pembrokeshire, South West England and more recently in North Wales (Bat Conservation Trust 2018).

Greater Horseshoe Bat

Greater Horseshoe Bat

A bat study was completed on Skomer in the 1990’s and a report produced in 2014 but in both these cases recordings were only obtained in the courtyard at the Farm. This study used the Farm location as well as other sites around the island. Using his experience of picking out potential locations for bats Rob positioned a bat detector in several places on the island including the Farm, Moorey Mere, North Pond and North Haven.

Bat detector on Skomer

Bat detector on Skomer 

During an abseiling excursion for seal monitoring, he was also able to position a bat detector just above the Lantern, which is a large cave looking out from the east side of the island. Visitors to the island may have noticed the bat detector (in his words looking like a NASA moon landing contraption) at the Farm between July and September.

There are six confirmed species of Bat on Skomer

Results of the study found that over the seven recording sites, 380 recordings were obtained with six confirmed species of bat: Common Pipistrelle, Soprano Pipistrelle, Leislers, Noctule, Serotine and Greater Horseshoe. Barbastelle and Greater Long-eared Bats were also suspected but sample sizes were too small for confirmation during this study.

One of the most interesting findings was the presence of the Greater Horseshoe Bat. Rob obtained 58 recordings of this species, which is much higher than in 2014 despite having fewer recording days. Interestingly this species was also found at inland sites, North pond and Moorey Mere as well as at more traditional cave sites at North haven.

One of the factors causing the decline of this species nationally is the use of pesticides which affects the bats’ food source. Skomer is an island free from pesticide use and this may be one of the reasons for the success of Greater Horseshoe bats on the island.

This project has highlighted that Skomer is potentially supporting stable populations of not only a diverse range of bats, but significantly a nationally rare bat species. Hopefully this pilot study will be a justification for further bat study on the island in years to come.

For your chance to see the bats of Skomer Island, why not book a stay in 2020?

Welcoming our new Interns!

Jade Cooper, one of our new interns
Jade Cooper, one of our new interns

Jade Cooper, one of our new interns

Each year we welcome a student placement or intern to our WILD family. They spend the next 10 months or so gaining as much experience and knowledge as possible, in the hope that they go on to be the conservationists of the future.

This year is a little different as we have the delight of welcoming two interns to the team!

Introducing Jade Cooper:

Hello, my name is Jade and I am currently taking part in a placement with The Wildlife Trust at Parc Slip and Gower. As well as helping take part in the ‘Connecting the Dragons’ project with Amphibian and Reptile Conservation (ARC).

I am currently studying a HND course in Environmental Conservation Management which is situated at Pencoed College, and I also take part in volunteering session run by the college and have begun sessions with The Wildlife Trust. I really enjoy taking part in these sessions as they allow me to expand my knowledge and skills which will help me with a multitude of different management activities and conservation tasks.

Throughout my time at the placement I hope to further expand my knowledge, gain new skills and help improve on ones that I may already have, and gain confidence throughout the time. This opportunity will help me to understand and access more career prospects within the sector that I can get an insight to in order to help me to find a definitive job that I will love.

Alex Gorman in action

Alex Gorman in action

Secondly, we would like to welcome Alex Gorman who had this to say:

Hello all, Alex here. I’m one of WTSWW’s interns for this year.

In hope of a career change that would be beneficial to the natural world I gave up my job as an electrician and returned to academia to restudy in a field of interest to me. During this time, I took the opportunity to volunteer for WTSWW, giving me an insight to some of the work they do.

I recently graduated in Environmental Conservation Management at the University of South Wales. So, as the next step it is thoroughly exciting to have been offered this placement. Whilst here, I hope to expand on my knowledge and skillset, learning as much as I possibly can.

We would like to extend a very warm welcome to the both of them and we look forward to seeing what the next year has in store for them!

New leader for The Wildlife Trusts – environmental campaigner Craig Bennett

Craig Bennett - the new CEO of TWT

 

Craig Bennett - the new CEO of TWT

Craig Bennett – the new CEO of The Wildlife Trusts

Craig Bennett, has been appointed as the new CEO of The Wildlife Trusts.

One of the UK’s leading environmental campaigners, Craig Bennett, has been appointed as the new CEO of The Wildlife Trusts. Craig brings with him huge knowledge and experience of nature conservation issues, campaigning and leadership within the sector.

Early in his career, which spans over 20 years, Craig led a move to bring peat cutting to an end on Thorne and Hatfield Moors and he helped secure better wildlife legislation through The Countryside and Rights of Way Act. More recently, Craig has led successful campaigns to highlight climate change and to protect and restore bees.

Craig will join The Wildlife Trusts – a UK-wide group of 46 nature conservation charities – a year into their campaign for a Wilder Future.

Though a time of great political uncertainty and ecological crisis, The Wildlife Trusts are determined to reverse nature’s decline, restore broken ecosystems and enable people to take action for nature. They are uniquely placed to do so because the Trusts are a grassroots movement with land and sea management expertise; they have the ability to reconnect people with the natural world and to work with local communities everywhere.

Chair of The Wildlife Trusts, Peta Foxall says:

“We are confident that Craig will ensure that The Wildlife Trusts continue in their ground-breaking landscape restoration work at the scale required to address the ongoing nature and climate crisis. The Wildlife Trusts are spearheading natural climate solutions, peatland restoration, species recovery, solutions to farmland wildlife decline and marine protection – and Craig’s leadership will be invaluable as we strive for a wilder future at this critical time.”

Craig Bennett says:

“At long last, the world is waking up to the need to reverse nature’s decline and restore broken ecosystems both for their intrinsic value, but also to help fix the climate, protect our soils, prevent flooding, and improve people’s physical and mental health.

“The Wildlife Trusts are an extraordinary grassroots movement that is uniquely placed to work with local communities to make this happen and ensure a wilder future, and I could not be more pleased to have been asked to lead them at this incredibly important moment.”

Craig will fulfil his existing commitments as Chief Executive of Friends of the Earth and join The Wildlife Trusts in April 2020. He succeeds Stephanie Hilborne OBE who left this summer after 15 years in post; Patience Thody is acting CEO of The Wildlife Trusts.

Mayor’s Visit to Parc Slip Visitor Centre

Mayor of Bridgend Visits parc slip visitor centre

Its not every day that the Mayor comes for tea!

Mayor of Bridgend Visits parc slip visitor centre

The Mayor of Bridgend visits Parc Slip Visitor Centre

This month we were delighted we welcome the Mayor of Bridgend; Cllr Stewart Baldwin and Tracy Mortimer, Senior Economic Development Officer at Bridgend County Borough Council to our Wildlife Trust Parc Slip Visitor Centre and Nature Reserve.

The visit was arranged following the teams success at the Bridgend Business Forum Awards last month where Parc Slip won the ‘Bridgend Tourism Business’ award category. Parc Slip attracts approximately 30,000 visitors per year and continues to raise the profile of the wildlife tourism offer in Bridgend through engaging and innovative visitor experiences.

Cllr Stuart Baldwin, Mayor of Bridgend County Borough said,

“I visited Parc Slip Nature Reserve as part of my visits following the Bridgend Business Awards.  It was a very informative visit and to see how the area has transformed from a mining environment to a nature reserve in such a short period.  I was pleased to be awarded with a certificate of adoption for a hedgehog and the certificate now sits in pride of place in the Mayors Parlour.”

The Mayor is presented with a hedghog adoption

The Mayor is presented with a hedgehog adoption

Parc Slip is considered as the jewel in the crown of Bridgend’s epic valleys. The visitor centre opened in May 2013 and continues to build on its excellent reputation for exceptional customer service and mouth-watering home-cooked food. Before flourishing into a breath-taking wildlife haven the land was once used as an opencast coal mine. Visitors of all ages can discover the history of the reserve with our new interactive heritage and history trail.

Gina Gavigan, Marketing and Development Manager at The Wildlife Trust of South and West Wales said:

“We were delighted to welcome the Mayor to our Visitor Centre and Nature Centre. Parc Slip is one of our Wildlife Trust flagship nature reserves and home to over 1,000 species of wildlife. We are extremely proud of what our Parc Slip Visitor Centre and Nature Reserve team have achieved over the past year and it was great to have the opportunity to show our guests around the centre and discuss some of our exciting plans for the future.”

Parc Slip Visitor Centre, Tondu is open 6 days a week Tuesday to Sunday 10am – 4pm. The Visitor Centre coffee shop serves a range of delicious home cooked food including vegetarian and vegan options as well as more traditional meat options. And of course there is always cake!

Entry is FREE to the Visitor Centre and Nature Reserve. Check out www.welshwildlife.org for events and further information.

Award for Parc Slip Nature Reserve and Visitor Centre!

Parc Slip Visitor Centre Tondu

Congratulations to Parc Slip Nature Reserve and Visitor Centre on winning the Bridgend Business Forum ‘Tourism Business of the Year’ Award.

Parc Slip is a beautiful mixed habitat nature reserve located at the gateway to the Llynfi Valley and lovingly managed by The Wildlife Trust of South and West Wales. The award was presented to The Wildlife Trust at the prestigious Bridgend Business Forum Awards evening on the Friday 13th March at the Coed-y-Mwstwr Hotel, Coychurch. The Awards evening was hosted by popular TV Presenter Sian Lloyd and celebrated the very ‘best of business’ in and around Bridgend.

Gina Gavigan, Marketing and Development Manager at The Wildlife Trust of South and West Wales said:

We are absolutely delighted to have won the ‘Tourism Business of the Year’ category at the Bridgend Business Forum Awards. Parc Slip is one of our flagship nature reserves and home to over 1,000 species of wildlife. The reserve and accessible visitor centre has something for everyone. We are extremely proud of what our Parc Slip Visitor Centre and Nature Reserve team have achieved over the past year and winning this award is the icing on the cake. We would like to thank the Bridgend Business Forum and Handelsbanken Bridgend for sponsoring the award category.

Illtyd Francis, Handelsbanken Branch Manager said,

Handelsbanken Bridgend were delighted to be a sponsor of the Bridgend Business Forum Awards again this year, and I was thrilled to present Gina Gavigan from The Wildlife Trust of South & West Wales  with the award for the Tourism Business of the Year 2019. The Parc Slip Nature Reserve and Visitor Centre in Tondu is a fantastic facility where you can really appreciate the natural beauty of the countryside and wildlife in our local area, with 300 acres of nature reserve in a family friendly environment. Congratulations to all involved who help maintain and look after this valuable, local resource.

Parc Slip Visitor Centre, Tondu is open 6 days a week Tuesday to Sunday 10am – 4pm. The Visitor Centre coffee shop serves a range of delicious home cooked food including vegetarian and vegan options as well as more traditional meat options. And of course there is always cake!

Entry is FREE to the Visitor Centre and Nature Reserve. Check out www.welshwildlife.org for events and further information.