Thursday, 10 April 2008

Where I Live - A village under threat

Where I live is under threat from developers. There are plans to build an unbelievable 1500 new houses not far down the road, tearing through our parish, bulldozing ancient woodland, blotting out tiny single track roads and tranquil green lanes, interrupting wild life corridors and filling in ditches and ponds.

The intention is to build on one of the few remaining areas for miles where it's possible to ride a bike in safety, where the only other traffic you'll meet is on horse back or the occasional tractor. Where it is possible to walk a dog or tramp footpaths far away from the noise of cars that threaten to swamp us all.

The fields destined for this outrage are home to a huge variety of flora and fauna. I know this as, for the past four years, I have been part of the village biodiversity survey. We've now surveyed 70% of our surrounding parish. No mean feat as the area is huge.

Our owl box project has encouraged barn owl and tawny owls into the area, we've discovered and recorded all sorts of rare and unusual plants and trees, including several previously unrecorded Wild service trees. We have ponds with crested newts and possibly even a colony of water voles. But when this large scale housing project goes ahead, and it’s likely it will, this will mean nothing.

This urban expansion isn't for local needs, there is actually a small surplus of homes in the local town; the people who will live in these houses are likely to work in an ever expanding area of urbanisation over ten miles from our parish. To get there they will have to drive on unbelievably congested roads as the trains are full and nobody relies on the buses.

We've wheeled out our local celebrities, marched in the rain, petitioned and written letters of opposition, now all we can do is sit and wait, dreading the result. Watch this space, you may yet see Lampie chained to a tree trying to hold back the bulldozers.

(The picture is of a Wild Service Tree, often an indicator of ancient woodland)

Wednesday, 2 April 2008

Strange Little Visitor

I spent last night paddling in fog shrouded backwaters narrowly avoiding crocodiles, snakes, rapids and creepy crawlies, deep in Africa's Heart of Darkness. Sadly it was only in my mind. As an avid reader of travel literature, I've been hooked by 'Facing the Congo', a brilliant account of paddling the Congo River in a hand built canoe.

My evening of sofa exploration had me curled up and shivering as fist sized beetles, electric catfish and whistling cockroaches the size of a baby's foot, coloured my imagination. ( Well I have actually stroked a cockroach that whistled, but that's a story for another time.)

On finishing a really squirmy passage where the author camps in the underbush full of snakes, ferocious bees, black flies that leave bleeding holes in exposed flesh and every other kind of predatory insect imaginable, I jumped up to make a cup of tea and gave the most almighty scream.

A scary beast was creeping towards me. Don't ask me why but somehow, after breaching two closed doors and a sleeping cat, a newt was heading purposefully across the carpet, heading towards the Turkish rug. Where the tiny creature came from is a complete mystery. There isn't even a pond in my garden and why it chose to brave the kitchen floor and start a journey across an expanse of carpet instead of a cosy night on the damp lawn is a real puzzle.

It can't have been brought in by the cat as he's not that gentle, and this little creature was completely unharmed. It's more than welcome. I'm wildlife friendly, but I want more warning next time. It took ten minutes before my heart stopped racing and I could repatriate it back to the garden.