Boring as it may seem, but signed off paperwork like the document pictured here is the final hurdle for landowners to leap before ACTION to improve the environment is made. I am flabbergasted at the time it has taken so far to get this agreement signed so that work can be done to increase biodiversity at Halford Flood Meadow. It seems the agreement template that is pursuant of the Wildlife and Countryside Act 1981 needs to morph into a Biodiversity Net Gain (BNG) agreement 2022 to accelerate the process. I am sure every agreement for BNG going forward needs careful inspection by lawyers from each party but the more aligned with BNG it is in the first place the quicker these will go through. Once BNG gets traction County Councils will need more resources to sign the agreements off because every day that agreements aren't signed is another day lost in the diminishing time we have left to save our planet from falling across the tipping point of no return. As we know there is something that is potentially terminally wrong with our planet (2000 leading scientists across the world say so) and I can't understand why the solution (nature regeneration) is still not at the top of people's "to do" list!
by Mike Hopkins
Halford Flood Meadow features in Seville Conference.
Halford Flood Meadow featured in The Council of European Surveyors conference in Seville, Spain on 27th October. Mike Hopkins, director of Storm Wildlife and a Member of the Chartered Institution of Civil Engineering Surveyors was asked to present at the conference in the "Blue Surveying" session. Mike had recently written an article in the Civil Engineering Surveyor publication titled "Why the geospatial profession is critical to saving planet Earth" and the presentation was centered around the vital points made in the article. Although Mike wasn't able to be there in person, he sent on a video which was played in the Blue Surveying session which can be watched on YouTube via the link here:
It would be great to start planting the orchards this autumn/winter. One of the three orchard areas was cleared in September in preparation for harrowing and seeding. I have been told by the Environment Agency that there are restrictions on planting trees within 8m of the top of the riverbank unless we apply for land drainage consent, this limits the space we have within some of the tight bends of the river where two of the orchards are planned. An orchard is defined as a minimum of five trees together and the spacing of our trees will need to be 10m as they are on a standard rootstock (big trees!). Initially the plan is to plant whichever fruit trees are available and then fill in later with trees that are a rare species which will add to the biodiversity of the meadow.
by Mike Hopkins
I can't be entirely sure that our wetland seed planting back in April is producing the wildflower purple-loosestrife in abundance but there is certainly more around this summer than I have seen before. It is great to see something battling back against the nettles with their magenta spears conquering some ground on the river bank. This is an invaluable source of food for long-tongued insects like elephant hawk-moths, so we will be looking out for those around the river.
Since the hay cut we have put 100 weaned lambs on the meadow - only for six weeks just to keep the grass down before preparing the meadow for seeding. We are still waiting for the important Section 39 agreement to be reviewed by Warwickshire County Council before we can firmly commit to our 30 year management plan. September and October will be busy months in the meadow with seeding and tree planting but we must have the agreement signed before we can make the investment. Watch this space!
by Mike Hopkins
We had four days of hot weather that started on 23rd June so thanks to a great team of local farming friends we managed to make hay. This has two purposes - the no.1 reason is to strip nutrients out of the soil (which are drawn out by the grasses and then taken away as hay) and no. 2 to provide a quantity of hay that is enough to pay for the cost of the harvest as a minimum. We were lucky that we made this cut and got reasonable hay made as it started raining as we were carting it off the field. 192 bales (4 string) were made and we expect this yield to diminish over time as the soil nutrients reduce. The photo shows just three of those bales on the back of my 1962 Fordson Super Major so you can imagine how much storage is required for the remaining 189!
by Mike Hopkins
Sowing the seed!
We have been trialing some UK wetland seed mix in the very margins of the River Stour around Halford Flood Meadow. At current river levels the dominant vegetation in 95% of the bank faces is nettles - which is great for caterpillars and butterflies. We are taking small steps to introduce different UK wetland plant species to provide a richer habitat within the riparian zone. This will attract more birds and insects near to the water and a better riverine ecosystem for existing fish and invertebrates and any new species that want to move in. It's an experiment and we will soon see what level of success is achieved. We will be monitoring this and we'll report back in our future diary entries.
It is likely that we will sow spring barley in some areas of the meadow soon. This is known as a catch crop which will draw excess phosphorus out of the soil in an effort to take the nutrient levels down to a point which is tolerable for a species rich meadow. It is well known that species rich meadows are very difficult to establish so we need to follow the management plan for the soil preparation to give the meadow the best chance of success.
by Mike Hopkins
The time is now!
We submitted our flood meadow management document to Warwickshire County Council just before Christmas. The document was well received and there have been one or two clarifications made about the type of vegetation to be established and how it will be managed. We are now in the coldest part of our winter so far and we are looking forward to getting the green light on our designs so we can move forward in February with some initial preparation. We feel we are close to getting approval and moving forward with this so we can make a difference to our local environment and beyond.