No filler in my stocking!
Wardening a place for the first time is always exciting. But a heathland that’s undergoing restoration and has a tower, now that has to be top of the list. Pleeease, could every heathland site have a TOWER? Not only is it a great place to escape carol singers (in the spirit of bah humbug) but it’s the perfect place to admire heathland landscape. Which is exactly what our team did on a site visit to MoD owned Tweseldown, a former racecourse and one-time Olympics Eventing host.
Former Wildlife Trust Living Landscapes Manager, Elliott Fairs (pictured), who’s overseeing the heathland restoration, accompanied us to the top of the tower (once a commentary box) and explained the conservation work with enthusiasm and confidence. It was great to view the scrub clearance, new scrapes, ponds and south-facing banks from the air, knowing the amazing long-term effect this will have on the heath.
A few days later I took a walk around the perimeter of Tweseldown. People emerged out of the adjoining woodland one by one in front of me, and what struck me most – more than the obvious resemblance to a scene out of Gosford Park – was the cheerfulness of everyone. Must be something in the air. Referring to the heath, one gentleman said: “it all looks great….it’s getting back to how it used to look.” Fantastic. POSITIVE COMMENTS with bells on….now that’s a smile-inducing stocking filler.
Also going onto the stocking wish list is NEWNESS. Our Education Officer, Michael, is getting into his stride, as is our new Senior Warden, Annie. And last week we welcomed two new wardens, Nick and Jamie, to the Thames Basin Heaths Partnership. With all this ‘new blood’ I know their combined conservation experience and colourful personalities will bring a fresh perspective to our project as well as a wealth of ideas.
Next I’d like a sparkly, tinselled DOG LEAD in my stocking. This represents all the fabulous and wonderfully behaved hounds I’ve met on the heath, not to mention the eclectic mix of owners. I find their stories inspiring – from the man who said his spaniel had changed his life for the better after his wife died, to the group of ladies who are pug fanatics, with over twenty pugs between them. Dogs make a positive contribution to peoples’ lives and it’s great to see well-trained ones, setting a good example.
Which leads me nicely into PEOPLE. But if I put people in the stocking together they will jostle. So I’ve chosen instead a new Greenspace Booklet, which represents the coming together of people, dogs, recreational activities and the partnerships that endeavour to improve wellbeing for everyone. We look forward to publishing an updated version next year.
Obviously, I can’t have a stocking that doesn’t include WILDLIFE. It’s what we’re all in it for! I was going to choose a blue butterfly – maybe a silver studded blue. But then blue stocking….hmm. Maybe I’ll choose a nightjar. Of all our wonderful heathland wildlife, I’ve yet to see a nightjar during the day. It’s top of my wish list…..maybe next year!
And finally, to ensure that there are no holes in this stocking, SCIENTIFIC DATA because all monitoring projects rely on data and analysis to inform the work we do. There are mixed fortunes for our ground-nesting birds this year. Unfortunately weather can have an adverse effect, and extreme weather conditions especially, but that just highlights the need for us to ensure that the variables within our realm of influence are favourable. On the positive side though, recent reports show Nightjar numbers are at a record high – that’s great news and one definitely worth raising a glass of prosecco for!
And on that encouraging note, I wish everyone a HAPPY CHRISTMAS and look forward to more blogging in 2019.