Preaching to the choir …
in the early planning stages at Three Hagges Jubilee Wood in 2012, our prime concern was simply to avoid creating yet another plantation with a ground flora of nettles and brambles. Two years down the line, this now seems achievable given careful planning and management. Our initial costings indicate that it may be just possible within the existing Forestry Commission grant framework for new community woodlands, though we mustn’t overlook the cushion provided by a supportive landlord in Charlie Forbes Adam, the owner of Escrick Park Estate. Not least of which is a 35-year lease at a peppercorn rent, with permissive access dawn-to-dusk year round.
though our initial objectives are worthy, in the light of subsequent researches they’ve expanded in scope and ambition into the realms of ecosystem creation. Our approach is ‘broad brush’; it does not have a single species focus, but rather, to put it simply, relies on the plant diversity of wood and meadow to provide an extensive base to the ecological pyramid. And, as George Peterken says, “…both meadows and woods are part of a common mosaic …”1 and … “taken together, they amount to one of the most biodiverse systems that we know.”2
Our initial motivations, however, were not purely scientific.
it’s possible that all of us that care for plants, gardens and landscapes in our daily lives are familiar with the small and seasonal joys that make engagement with the living world such sustaining pleasure. First bumblebees on pussy willows, first anemones and primroses, the return of the swallows in April, early purple orchids and bluebells in May, larks ascending and bees and butterflies in the summer meadow; all health-giving sustenance for body and soul. A life without access to any of the above is, for many of us, inconceivable, and the loss of such wonders unconscionable.
But it seems that in the current State of Nature3, even in rural areas we risk that our children will one day soon awaken to a silent spring. The decline in biodiversity has been rapid, it has happened in my lifetime and we believe that puts special responsibilities on older generations to try to ameliorate the damage, while we can still remember what we’re in danger of losing.
I quote the ecologist Margaret Pilkington: Those of us with a country upbringing who can remember back to the middle of the last century know how impoverished our countryside has become in comparison with that of our childhood. It has all happened in the last 60 years. 4
which brings me to thoughts that have been lurking in my subconscious since we began our enterprise. In 1988 I made the first of several visits to one of those joyous places that changed my perspective on education about the natural world, the Jac P Thijsse Park in Amstelveen, NL. You can visit it here: http://www.thijssepark.nl
Jac. P. Thijsse (1865-1945) was both an inspired educator and a pioneer of plant ecology. He taught natural sciences with passion and enthusiasm, and an insistence on a combination of book learning and visiting nature in the field, encouraging children’s natural fascination and curiosity through careful observation of plants, insects, birds and mammals. To ensure that such fieldwork was accessible to every child, Heem Parks were created in schools’ neighbourhoods all over the Netherlands. Like the tiny park-jewel at Amstelveen, the parks were planted naturalistically with native species arranged in ecological associations. (See also, 5 )
Old fashioned as it may be, we think it’s a model to follow.
it’s our belief that techniques and methodologies we’ve used at Three Hagges Jubilee Wood will have created something akin to a Heem Park. Hagge Woods can be rolled out across the wider rural landscape to create linking corridors of great value to many forms of wildlife, including, critically, many pollinators. With local schools, we intend to monitor changes in biodiversity at least over the next 7-10 years to gather supporting evidence. We hope that these activities will be key features in our educational offerings, and to that end, we’ll be seeking partnerships with other environmental groups.
Our wood has the security conferred by family commitment to the project and will continue to develop in perpetuity, and by the time its progenitors have left it will probably be safe to allow it to develop largely spontaneously, as does the Jac P Thijsse Park in Amstelveen.
Stop Press: Yesterday, I came across another affirmation from the pen of naturalist, Chris Packham: … we have an arsenal of abilities, techniques and technologies that could not only arrest the decay but almost immediately increase the numbers and diversity of our wildlife. Yes, we have it mapped, we have monitored its populations and we have developed and practiced methods which really work. It’s not beyond recovery, not if we summon the honesty, the energy, the motivation and determination to get up and get on with it.
It’s time to talk truthfully about whats going on Read the full text here:
1. Peterken, George, Meadows. British Wildlife Publishing, Gillingham, Dorset. 2013, p.23
2. Peterken, George. p.c.
3. Pilkington, Margaret, Wildflower Meadows. Papdakis, 2012. p.7
4. State of Nature. Burns F, Eaton MA, Gregory RD, et al. (2013) State of Nature report. The State of Nature partnership
5. The Dynamic Landscape: Design, Ecology and Management of Naturalistic Urban Planting. Eds. Nigel Dunnett, James Hitchmough, pp 50-58