Sudbury’s Wildlife In Trouble

Reporter: Angie Bentley

The speaker for our 27th February meeting was Ross Bentley, trustee of the Sudbury Common Lands and a former environmental writer for the East Anglian Daily Times. Ross identified himself as a lover of nature not an expert, although he has clearly spoken to many conservationists, farmers, scientists and writers in this area and his passion for nature was clear.

He spoke about local wildlife and the negative impact human activity is having on local flora, bird, animal and insect life. We enjoyed some fabulous photographs/tales of encounters with local wildlife including kingfishers, Daubenton bats, swifts and grass snakes and heard startling statistics evidencing how modern human life and development diminishes that of the natural world. It seems that nature is facing a crisis with huge losses of flower meadows, habitats and species across the board in the UK, but it wasn’t all gloom.

Ross shared information and inspiring lessons he has learned from a range of Sudbury figures who are doing valuable work to preserve habitats and save species. These included:

Adrian Walters who is a guardian of 2 roadside verge nature reserves in addition to being Ranger for the Common Lands. Verges are often remnants of old wildflower meadows and the home of rare plants including crested cow wheat and pyramid orchids.

George Millins, a dedicated 80 yr old activist prepared to spend many wintry nights on toad patrol in Gt Waldingfield, helping various amphibians, lessening in numbers over time, cross busy roads to reach their spawning ponds in safety as 4 x 4’s rush busily by.

Nick Miller, who has been vocal in warning of over development in Gt Cornard that threatens essential green belts around towns. Nick also campaigns to protect hedges from flailing during bird nesting times.

Juliet Hawkins is a farm advisor for the Suffolk Wildlife Trust (SWT), helping landowners to revive neglected ponds, creating thriving habitat for beetles, snails, frogs and newts. We learnt Suffolk/Norfolk’s clay soil is ideal for ponds and we are the pond capital of the UK!

Mark Prina, manager of the only reserve in the UK managed solely for dragon and damselflies. Nr Foxearth, Ross described it as a ‘mini Jurassic park’, contrasting the abundance of creatures you can see there with the moribund farmland next door.

Robin Ford has been instrumental at Cornard Mere and many other environmental projects for decades and is leader of the SWT children’s watch group. Ross described their activities including pond dipping, bat walks, examining owl pellets and moth traps, all so vital to transferring knowledge, enjoyment and an appreciation of wildlife to the next generation.

Ross raised interesting points about the importance of green space and nature for our mental health and the importance of having access to it everywhere and not just in limited enclaves. He gave us some ideas on how we can start to repair the damage of past years by simple measures: give about 10% of garden space back to nature; don’t be tidy gardeners, leave messy areas for animals and insects to make homes and see what arrives!  You can also join one or more of the many groups or charities which care for wild spaces from road verges to woodland, and there are many authors like Mark Cocker or activists like Chris Packham who are writing excellent books and manifestos for action.

Ross concluded his talk with a quote from Adrian Walters, who said that encouraging nature ‘was not rocket science, create the habitat and they will come’.

 

Thanks to Ross for a fascinating talk – we estimated the meeting was attended by around 80 people, a new record!

Did you know?

The Junior Oxford English Dictionary has removed 50+words associated with the countryside – almond, blackberry, catkin, chestnut, clover – and replaced with words from our modern age – attachment, blog, chatroom, broadband! A sign of our times.

If you are interested in taking the idea of protecting our local wildlife further, contact Ross – rossebentley@gmail.com – as he is looking at creating a Wildlife Manifesto for Sudbury with recommendations for councillors businesses and householders and welcomes ideas/input.