Protecting London’s wildlife for the future WINTER 2012 I MAKE SOME NOISE
This winter we explore how London’s wildlife could be affected by the recent changes in planning law and proposed airport expansion. Discover how, with your help, London Wildlife Trust is working with planners and creating living landscapes through London, for the benefit of its people and wildlife.
WINTER 2012 Issue 99 Editor Kate Bradbury Editorial team Ed Dean Mathew Frith Cathy Gale Daniel Greenwood Catherine Harris Leah McNally Design Metalanguage Design Printed on 100% post-consumer recycled paper, with vegetable based inks. Front cover photograph Coots © Mathew Frith London Wildlife Trust is the only charity dedicated solely to protecting the capital’s wildlife and wild spaces, engaging London’s diverse communities through access to our nature reserves, campaigning, volunteering and education. Registered charity number 283895 President Chris Packham Patrons Lord Peter Brooke Simon Hughes MP Lord Peter Melchett Bill Oddie Lord Chris Smith Contact us Skyline House, 200 Union Street, London SE1 0LX email@example.com www.wildlondon.org.uk
Above: Weasel © Jamie Grier Right: Pollarded willows on Crane Park Island © Mathew Frith
Planning and infrastructure – where next? Following the hustle and bustle of the ‘greatest show on earth’, we’re turning our sights to the promised Legacy of the Olympics. The Games has helped us showcase biodiversity to a completely new audience through the glorious floral displays at the Park. You may have seen our recently published Vision for the Park on our website, and we continue to lobby hard for this to be sustainable, rich in wildlife and accessible to all. We remain very concerned about the relaxation in the planning laws that may mean detrimental effects for wildlife in the future. Recent planning decisions made by Ealing Council and the Mayor have left us deeply disappointed that an unwelcome development will overshadow our nature reserve, Gunnersbury Triangle. In this issue, our deputy chief executive Mathew Frith explores the planning laws in our main feature. The Trust is supportive of development and infrastructure projects which are sustainable and in the right place. With airport expansion, hardly a week goes by without a mention in the news of damaging proposals at Heathrow or in the Thames Estuary. Prominent opponent of Heathrow airport expansion Zac Goldsmith, MP for Richmond Park is interviewed on page 16, while I explore the issues around the debate on page 12 and ask: what can you do? Carlo Laurenzi OBE Chief Executive, London Wildlife Trust
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News in brief Corporate membership
Butterfly boom and bust
Numbers of common butterflies were down this year, according to results from the 2012 Big Butterfly Count, conducted by Butterfly Conservation. More than 25,000 people took part in the national count, recording butterflies for 15 minutes and submitting their sightings online. The poor spring and wet summer contributed to the lack of butterflies, which can’t fly in cold, wet conditions. Caterpillars, too, can literally be washed off plants during heavy rain. But it wasn’t all bad news – sightings of the meadow brown, ringlet and marbled white were all up on last year. There was also good news at Sydenham Hill Wood: “despite national declines, the speckled wood has had a strong year here”, said Project Officer Daniel Greenwood. Other species fared better in August: “butterfly transects conducted in June and July saw as few as three butterflies, but August brought a sudden increase – on one hot afternoon 23 butterflies were recorded in one area of bramble and long grass alone.” Visit bigbutterflycount.org for the full breakdown of results.
Top: Sydenham Hill Wood in the snow © johnrussell.zenfolio.com Above: Marbled white © Full Circle Design Right: Seed planting © London Wildlife Trust 4
Can your business help the city’s wildlife? The quality of London’s environment is one of the key features in making the capital such an attractive place to do business. Our new corporate membership scheme offers three tiers of annual membership – Peregrine, Tawny Owl and Robin – to suit your company’s specific needs. We work with corporate members in support of their environmental and sustainability programmes and explore ways to increase their engagement with London’s natural environment. Benefits of membership include free team conservation days, accreditation on our website, PR opportunities and invitations to our nature walks and events. For more information and to download the membership pack, visit wildlondon.org.uk/corporate-membership
Look to the skies
If you’re planning on installing a living roof on your shed, home or office block, take a look at our new brochure A buzz up top, which aims to encourage anyone involved with the creation of green roofs and living walls to incorporate features that benefit invertebrates. A buzz up top is the result of a collaboration between the Trust, Livingroofs. org and the Green Roof Consultancy, funded by SITA Trust’s Enriching Nature programme. The factsheet identifies the great potential of living – or green roofs – in enhancing biodiversity in an urban environment, and offers advice on creating habitats for bees, butterflies, moths and other invertebrates. Download A buzz up top at wildlondon.org.uk/other-publications
A natural legacy
London Wildlife Trust is lobbying key stakeholders such as the London Legacy Development Corporation to ensure that London 2012 fulfils its promise of being the ‘greenest games ever’ by continuing to promote biodiversity. The construction of the Olympic Park led to the loss of 45 hectares (ha) of speciesrich habitat in the Lower Lea Valley in east London. Around 20ha of habitat were replaced in time for the Games, but a further 25ha, including reedbeds, wet woodland, meadows, bioswales and ponds are yet to be created. There is also a commitment to provide 102ha of Metropolitan Open Land. The Olympic Park Biodiversity Action Plan will be integral for the Park to become recognised as a site of importance for nature conservation and will help to embed a community-led conservation focus in the area. The park is due to reopen as the public Queen Elizabeth Olympic Park in 2013. We aim to involve the local community as much as possible in the enjoyment and enhancement of biodiversity, through local conservation, volunteering, recording and education projects. For more information and to download our Vision for the Natural Legacy, visit wildlondon.org.uk/other-publications￼
Volunteer with us
Thanks to funding from the Esmée Fairbairn Foundation, we have just appointed Jane Clarke as our new volunteer co-ordinator. Jane – who has been working on the River Crane - will focus on improving our volunteer experience and encourage more people to get involved. If you’d like to know more email firstname.lastname@example.org.
From tiny acorns…
London Wildlife Trust joined forces with The Mayor of London’s RE:LEAF tree programme this autumn to involve Londoners in tree seed gathering and planting events across the capital. Family friendly events were held at a number of our reserves in September and October. Visitors were encouraged to collect tree seeds such as acorns and sweet chestnut, and plant them in pots which they could germinate and tend to at home. Families visiting our Gunnersbury Triangle took part in a tree-themed nature trail, seed planting activities and leaf and bark rubbing. It’s not too late to collect seeds and plant them, simply pop them into a pot of soil and water well, but allow the water to drain. If you attended one of our events don’t forget to share photos of your growing tree seeds on our Facebook and Twitter pages. facebook.com/LondonWildlifeTrust twitter.com/wildlondon
New floating garden
This year saw the arrival of a floating forest garden at Camley Street Natural Park, as part of our Do You Dig It? project funded by the Big Lottery Fund’s Local Food stream. The barge will have a permanent mooring outside the reserve, promoting organic food growing, biodiversity and healthy eating to school and community groups as well as the wider public. Camley Street team members are grateful to a group of volunteers from Rothschild, who together had a gruelling day filling the barge with topsoil. Rothschild took part in a year long programme of employee team days with us to mark The Wildlife Trusts’ centenary. One hundred volunteers worked with us during the year. Thank you Rothschild!
A Cool Place To Live
A new project working with social landlords and residents has started to develop natural solutions to address the impacts of climate change on housing estates. A Cool Place to Live, funded by the Trust for London, involves researching the impact and associated costs of climate change in the context of social housing. It will explore the current use of adaptation measures and will examine how Green Infrastructure such as swales and landscaping can be used to support landlords in mitigating the impacts. We have secured the involvement of UCL’s MSc Environmental Engineering students and tutor to monitor changes in a ‘live’ case study, provided by Peabody, which will assess the performance of green infrastructure measures installed in two estates. The project aims to engage residents and key stakeholders to reflect technical and strategic perspectives. Case studies are being sought and guidance is set to be produced later in 2013. If you’re a social landlord and would like to find our more contact Miles Duckworth email@example.com
The Trust has recently been appointed to create an educational and development plan for the new Walthamstow Wetlands. This exciting project is a joint venture between Thames Water, London Borough of Waltham Forest and the Walthamstow Wetlands Partnership, and aims to enable wider public access to Walthamstow Reservoirs, transforming the area into a significant visitor attraction. The reservoirs are a key part of London’s industrial heritage with a long functional history of serving London, but more recently they have been recognised for their nature conservation interest – nationally and internationally important for a range of wildfowl. The project area comprises ten major water bodies, the Lea Navigation and the Grade II listed Coppermill building, as well as the Marine Engine House, which will become the new Visitor Centre.
Crowds flock to Crane Valley
The Crane Valley was host to its second annual river festival in September. This year’s event was held at Roxbourne Park in Harrow, and visitors gained insight into the amazing wildlife at the valley from conservation groups including London Wildlife Trust, Harrow Nature Conservation Forum and the London Bat Group. Activities included tree seed collecting, arts activities and interactive falconry displays. The day was topped off with a fantastic open air performance of Wind in the Willows by Theatre Merchants company. Planning has already started for next years event which will be in Crane Park!
Ripped and torn; so much for planning? Single act for wildlife? The current law regulating wildlife is spread over a collection of Acts dating back to 1831. The resulting legal structure is made up of layers of legislation with no coherent design. Older legislation reflects previous policy standpoints, is often at odds with modern approaches, and a great deal of primary legislation has not been amended to reflect modern conditions. Conversely, the principal modern Act – the Wildlife & Countryside Act 1981 – has become so amended it’s difficult to use. The Law Commission is putting forward a number of proposals with the aim of simplifying the existing framework. Early proposals go for a single statute, covering general provisions, invasive non-native species, sanctions and compliance, and appeals. A summary to an earlier Consultation Paper sets out the proposals and seeks answers to a number of questions. It contains some interesting language; it seems that the wildlife law’s duties include ensuring wildlife does not interfere unduly with human activities, and the second duty is to allow exploitation of wildlife as a resource. The need to protect wildlife for its own sake is not regarded, apart from its contribution to society’s natural heritage. Nevertheless, the proposals to date appear promising but will require strong support to ensure we are not left with a weaker position than now. The Trust has contributed towards the consultation. For details see wildlondon. org.uk/wildlife-legislation-review-2012
Mathew Frith explores how the changes in planning law could affect London’s wildlife London is subject to more planning applications than anywhere else in Britain, and high land values place extraordinary pressures on planning authorities in trying to squeeze the ‘best’ they can out of every square metre. For two years we have been bombarded with the government’s message that planning is a constraint on economic growth and that the system we have been working to – through various planning acts – since 1947 needs a significant overhaul. As the recession bites deeper, tinged with an anti-European bias, anything that hints at protecting our environmental assets appears to be vulnerable to attack. The planning system is by no means perfect. By 2010 national guidance numbered more than 1000 pages and often contained contradictory policies. It’s clearly been difficult to navigate, but in London the system has led to the identification of over 1500 wildlife sites and the protection of many ecological assets from inappropriate development.
New national policy
In March a new National Planning Policy Framework (NPPF) was launched, which consolidates previous guidance. It reinforces the plan-led system as the key way to deliver sustainable development over the long term, and aims to enhance proper engagement with communities. What’s more, it supposedly allows local authorities to have greater control of the planning of their area. The presumption in favour of sustainable development is now the operational principle for plan making and development management. To conform with the NPPF, both plans and other development proposals must fully consider their obligations to protect and enhance the natural environment. The crux of the NPPF is in the robustness of the plans developed by the local authorities. The legacy of developing a succession of plans since the 1980s has led to some good policies put in place, but also to an exhaustion for those trying to keep an eye on planning applications and revisions to policies.
In October a new Growth & Infrastructure Bill was put before parliament. This unveiled further attempts at weakening protection for greenspaces, including: • stopping misuse of town and village green applications to undermine planned development; • fast-tracking decisions for large scale business and commercial projects, such as mobile communications masts, wind turbines and other infrastructure. Whilst there are notional commitments to retain local consultation, this Bill has already been described as a ‘developer’s charter’, and it supports a distinct flavour of centralist dictat playing hard and fast with the natural environment. Left: Stoke Newington East Reservoir © Mathew Frith Top: The living George Carey school roof, Barking Riverside © Mathew Frith 7
The Trust has been working with the development to ensure the landscapes maximise their potential for biodiversity, and the earliest examples – such as rainwater swales – are now bearing fruit. Embedding wildlife into urban regeneration Down at the wetlands
Woodberry Down is a large estate in Manor House undergoing a major regeneration project that will provide over 4000 new homes by 2031. Delivered by a partnership of Berkeley Homes, Hackney Council and Genesis Housing, it involves not just the demolition of the existing 42 blocks and the construction of new homes, schools and community centres, but also the creation of a high quality landscape overlooking Stoke Newington Reservoirs. The Trust has been working with the development to ensure the landscapes maximise their potential for biodiversity, and the earliest examples – such as rainwater swales – are now bearing fruit. Given the significant changes to the estate, and the potential of bringing the assets of the reservoirs closer to the people that live near them, London Wildlife Trust has coordinated a partnership project to develop a vision for the Woodberry 8
Wetlands. This has involved the support of Berkeley Homes, Thames Water (owners of the East Reservoir), Hackney Council (owners of West Reservoir), Manor House Development Trust, Hackney Homes, Genesis and Natural England, who have collaborated in developing an options appraisal study, completed earlier this year by the Trust and Allen Scott Associates. This appraisal sets out a range of options to significantly enhance the ecological interests of the reservoirs (for example roosting waterfowl) and New River, and increasing public access so that greater numbers of people can enjoy and learn about the biodiversity of the reservoirs, and their role in the supply of water to London.
The Trust is now developing a range of costed projects, the first of which now forms part of a significant grant application to Heritage Lottery Fund. This focuses on improvements to the East Reservoir through the restoration of the derelict Gas House as a volunteer centre, the building of a footbridge from Woodberry Down over the New River and onto a new boardwalk, and habitat improvements in and around the reservoir. These are exciting steps to take to realise our vision for the Wetlands, and help make Woodberry a good example of integrating new housing with high quality habitats. For further details on Woodberry Wetlands visit wildlondon.org.uk/woodberry-wetlands
On the riverside
Barking Riverside is one of the largest development projects in Europe. It will become a new community of 10,000 homes, schools and infrastructure on the banks of the River Thames, in the London Borough of Barking & Dagenham (LBB&D). Much of the development is on the site of postindustrial – brownfield – land but its design has a clear rationale: to respond to flood management, protect and enhance key habitats and species’ populations, while adapting to climate change and integrating new and existing residents into the Barking Riverside community. The development is being delivered by Barking Riverside Limited (BRL), a joint venture between Bellway Homes and the Homes & Communities Agency, in partnership with Southern Housing and LBB&D. Greenspace will constitute 40 per cent of the total land area; a ‘green bracelet’ linking greenspace areas will be safeguarded and landscaped to maximise the diversity and connectivity of habitats, plant and animal species. The Trust has been working with Barking Riverside Ltd since 2010 to promote
biodiversity on site, and engage volunteers and the local community. Since then, over 2000 volunteer hours have been spent in habitat management, wildlife garden creation and wildlife surveying. The Trust, in partnership with BRL and the University of East London, were Highly Commended in the Integrated Habitats Design Competition 2012 for Barking Riverside, with the judges stating that it “included a thorough analysis with impressive proposals for green infrastructure and green housing. This planning project goes beyond the scale envisaged” and is “commended for the ambitious way that it tackled complex greening issues throughout a district.” For more details see: ihdc.org. uk/#/barking-riverside/4570104811 For further details on the Trust’s work at Barking Riverside: wildlondon.org. uk/Pages/Category/barking-riversideconservation We are extremely concerned about the proposed Growth and Infrastructure Bill which will make it more difficult for local people to protect some cherished spaces in the face of development threats. Watch wildlondon.org.uk for further updates.
Ash collapse The ghosts of a landscape blasted by Dutch elm disease are stirring with the news of outbreaks of a fungal attack on ash trees in October. Ash dieback, caused by Chalara fraxinia, was first reported in Poland in 1992; it has since devastated the ash population in Denmark. Spores have arrived through imported saplings, and by mid November over 200 sites had reported presence of the disease. Ash trees make up almost 30 per cent of England’s woodland cover and are found along the many thousands of kilometres of the country’s hedgerows. A common component of London’s woodlands, it is widespread across the capital, and is a valuable tree supporting much other wildlife. Government convened a Summit on 7 November, which served to clarify our understanding of the disease. Infection is via spores from fruit bodies on leaf litter, although transmission can be by wind and planting infected material. Young trees are particularly vulnerable. Keep a look out for trees which may have been affected, and report any you see to the Forestry Commission’s Plant Health Service: firstname.lastname@example.org/ For more information on ash dieback visit wildlondon.org.uk/News/ash-diebackalert
Top: Woodberry Down swale © Mathew Frith Right: Barking Riverside haycut © Luis Ortiz Sanchez 9
A living landscape Joining the dots
London’s Living Landscapes could help to: • Deliver the All London Green Grid • Act as a focus for the improvement of the Mayor’s pocket parks for biodiversity and people while the planting of suitable street trees could be aligned with areas such as the Great North Wood • Address the nature conservation vision of London’s Local Nature Partnership • Act as a parallel to the Greater Thames Marshes Nature Improvement Area for the rest of the capital • Provide a new focus that would deliver Biodiversity Action Plans • Ensure that the capital’s wildlife sites are not isolated reserves but connect to form whole corridors, chains and landscapes.
London’s Living Landscapes will help to create and connect natural green spaces to safeguard London’s wildlife through an unprecedented period of change, writes Alister Hayes
Top: Hampstead Heath © Michael Brydon Above: Sledging © Brykaylo Yuriy Right: Crane Park Island © Mathew Frith
London needs the infrastructure to support growth and jobs, but we must also maintain and improve quality of life. Our health and welfare is improved if we have access to natural green spaces, while protecting and improving biodiversity and enhancing resilience to climate change. All provide opportunities for learning, health and wellbeing. We also need to protect wildlife. The growth of London has had a huge impact on its wild species, including the creation of new habitats from brownfield sites. Our native wildlife has to accommodate the arrival of new species to the city.
Historically, our focus has been on the protection, conservation and enhancement of specific sites of wildlife value. There have been many successes but we still face continuing decline of biodiversity, especially of green spaces such as front gardens, where the cumulative effect of their loss can be significant. A changing climate exacerbates the risk of habitat fragmentation, which could stop species migration, survival of sensitive species and habitat resilience. We are now increasingly adopting a landscape scale approach to land management, as part of The Wildlife Trusts’ A Living Landscape initiative. This will
restore core high quality habitats and link them together in order to connect whole landscapes. London Wildlife Trust is working towards eight Living Landscape areas. There are many people and organisations already involved in these areas; in some we may take the lead and in others we’re helping
to support existing partnerships. The key will be to collaboratively develop a vision for each landscape and work together to secure resources to make our vision a reality. But we must also put people at the heart of biodiversity policy, reduce environmental pressures and improve our knowledge and enjoyment.
Crane catchment plan On behalf of the Crane Valley Partnership (CVP), London Wildlife Trust is working with stakeholders to help the production of a landscape-based management plan for the River Crane. It will set out a shared vision, outcomes, milestones and actions to secure Water Framework Directive good ecological potential and other benefits for stakeholders and user groups. Two stakeholder workshops have already taken place to start identifying outcomes and projects for the Yeading Brook and River Crane. The CVP has also held a community consultation entitled Your Local River – The River Crane and Yeading Brook for people who live or work in Harrow, Hillingdon, Ealing, Hounslow and Richmond. If you’re interested in getting involved with the Crane Catchment Plan please contact Alister Hayes, Living Landscapes Manager at email@example.com
Expanding airports; reducing habitats
are we saying that the good people of Surrey might be persuaded when those of Buckinghamshire could not? I don’t think so!
Aviation expansion reduces the quality of life for everyone and will damage the already fragile natural world
AVIATION concerns Aviation is the fastest growing source of greenhouse gas emissions. Airlines don’t pay tax on fuel for international flights. Four fifths of all UK flights abroad are within Europe. Travelling by plane can emit up to four times more greenhouse gases than travelling by train, and emissions at altitude are more damaging than at ground level. Scientists predict surface air temperatures could rise between 1 to 3.5o C over the next century, more than at any time in the last 10,000 years. WHAT YOU CAN DO Fly less frequently – consider taking holidays in Britain and take the train, ferry or coach instead. Use conference calls as an alternative to business flights. Lobby your MP to reject calls for airport expansion. Statistics taken from foe.co.uk
Carlo Laurenzi looks at the issues surrounding the airport expansion debate The current debate about airport expansion in the south-east seems to have got itself tied up in intellectual knots. The focus on location doesn’t address more fundamental questions as to whether we should exert more pressures on our environment, and the suggestion that fuel efficiencies and noise are the only environmental matters worthy of consideration display a worrying flippancy towards the natural world. What’s more, we have proposed changes to the planning regime coupled with the worst global recession since the 1930s.
Thames Estuary Airport
A new transport hub in the heart of the Thames Estuary, comprising an airport as well as new road, high speed rail and water routes. Those in favour of the proposal claim that links between Kent and Essex will reduce pressure on the M25, and that the number of planes flying over London will be reduced and therefore so will air and noise pollution over the city.
Carlo says: There have been several proposals for airports in or around the Thames Estuary, which have all been ruled out. There are many areas of special conservation interest here, including several nature reserves, and the estuary plays an important role in maintaining North Sea fish stocks. The area is also one of the last strongholds of the extremely threatened Shrill carder bumblebee, Bombus sylvarum. This hugely environmentally destructive proposal would take decades to produce any discernible economic benefits (let alone counter the economic damage to west London). Let’s dismiss this one out of hand!
This idea suggests building a new railway infrastructure across Sussex and Surrey, which would link up Heathrow and Gatwick airports and so provide a four-runway facility. Carlo says: The many campaigns against High Speed 2 (HS2) are showing us how hard it is to upgrade railway infrastructure;
‘The regional airport necklace’
This would create a network of new roads and railways to join up existing regional airports and connect them all to Heathrow. Carlo says: The amount of new roads and rail routes necessary to make such an upgrade would be prohibitive as well as complex. Joining Stanstead and Luton airports to the hub at Heathrow seems utterly improbable. Again, are we saying that Home Counties residents and homeowners would somehow be happy with this option? Highly unlikely!
There are plans being developed for both a third runway at Sipson and a fourth one, possibly at Northolt. This is probably the most obvious choice for government, despite London Wildlife Trust being fiercely against any further expansion. Carlo says: A fourth runway at Northolt would effectively trash three of the Trust’s nature reserves: Ickenham Marsh, Gutteridge Wood and Ten Acre Wood.
Why airport expansion?
Those in favour of expansion talk about business going to other countries such as Paris, Amsterdam or Frankfurt. I find this argument fraught with problems – the same is said about changing tax regimes or tighter
regulation of the ‘City’. People want to live and work in the UK and London because it’s a great place to live and do business. Increasing regulation or taxation, or even being slow in expanding flight slots to China or Brazil, are not going to seriously dent our competitiveness. There’s also an argument that suggests such expansion would stimulate the economy. But, rather than road and aviation expansion, let’s start with sustainable homes; upgrading schools and hospitals; investment in greener alternatives such as the canal network; high speed broadband; and renewables. Airport expansion is not the key to getting the UK or London out of the recession; we need to find meaningful, sustainable, long term growth which benefits both people and the natural environment. Aviation expansion reduces the quality of life for everyone and will damage the already fragile natural world.
Wildlife in the Thames Estuary The Thames Estuary is an exceptional wildlife habitat and is of global importance to many species. Dover sole and sea bass breed in the Thames but it’s also home to less well known species such as the John Dory and snake pipefish, and the critically endangered European eel. Dolphins, porpoises and seals are regular visitors, while the estuary’s mudflats provide a feeding ground for birds like avocet, plovers, dunlin and Brent goose.
Why fly at all?
If, for economic reasons, we must increase slots to Rio or Beijing, then why not drop the large number of internal flights and flights to Paris, Lille, Brussels and Amsterdam? It’s so much easier to go by train! What’s more, a number of representative bodies say face-toface interaction is essential for business. I have some sympathy for this line of thought, especially for those seeking new contracts in the early stage of relationship building. But beyond that, much of relationship development and reenforcement could be done by video links and other media. We need to stop outdated privileges such as flying when there are other means of transport, and we should also scrap the air miles schemes as they simply encourage more people to fly.
The land bordering the estuary provides habitats such as bare ground, flower- rich grassland and saltmarsh essential for endangered invertebrates such as the shrill carder bumblebee, white eye-stripe hoverfly, saltmarsh short-spur beetle and Mellet’s downy-back beetle. These species have suffered dramatic declines in recent years and any development of the Thames Estuary would result in further loss of habitat. The Wildlife Trusts are campaigning for the creation of 127 Marine Conservation Zones across England – including one in the Thames Estuary. To find out how you can support their campaign go to wildlifetrust.org/MCZfriends
Opposite: Departure from City Airport © Metalanguage Design Top right: Snake pipefish © Paul Naylor Marine Conservation Society Bottom right: Shrill carder bumblebee © Dave Goulson / Bumblebee Conservation Trust 13
Signal failure for crayfish Our largest native aquatic invertebrate - and only crayfish species - is now well on the road to extinction, says Mathew Frith.
If you catch crayfish Catching and killing non-native crayfish is unlikely to benefit our white-clawed species. Fishing equipment can harbour crayfish plague as well as tiny juveniles, which may be transported to previously unaffected waterbodies. What’s more, current trapping methods only catch adults, leaving juveniles to go free. Signal crayfish eat their young, and therefore unco-ordinated trapping may actually increase local populations. The whiteclawed can be mistaken for some nonnatives and may themselves be caught, making them further vulnerable to extinction given their slow reproduction and growth rates. However, it is perfectly legal to catch crayfish once you have written consent from the Environment Agency (EA) and EA permission tags are fitted to your traps.
You must also: • Disinfect traps and other equipment to prevent the spread of crayfish plague. • Only give dead and/or cooked crayfish to others. Giving away live crayfish could lead to the crayfish escaping or being set free in unaffected waterbodies. • Never re-release crayfish back into the water. If you don’t want to keep any, you must kill them humanely before you leave. • Obtain permission from the landowner who owns the pond or river you wish to trap in. • Use traps which conform to EA guidelines and are otter and water vole friendly. Both species have been killed in illegal crayfish traps. Avoid placing traps near water vole burrows. For more information on crayfish: environment-agency.gov.uk
The shrimp Dikerogammarus haemobaphes has recently been found on the River Thames between Windsor and Staines over a distance of approximately 10km. Discovered at other locations across the Midlands, investigations are underway to determine the extent of the distribution. This shrimp is from the Caspian Sea region and is related to the invasive ‘killer shrimp’ (D. villosus) although it is uncertain at this stage what its impact might be.
Wildlife on our Waterways (WoW)
Skulking under stones and logs, only emerging to grab a passing leech or gorge on carrion, the white-clawed crayfish was originally native to the rivers and streams of the south-east. A cheap source of protein it was once undoubtedly transported elsewhere in Britain, finding its way into rivers where the water was clean and suitably alkaline. And there it went about its way like most crustaceans - out of sight and out of mind. But things have changed. Attempts to farm American crayfish in Italy in the 19th Century led to the release of pathogens that killed off populations of native crayfish elsewhere in Europe. This led to them being replaced by other species for food consumption, mainly Turkish or narrowclawed crayfish and signal crayfish from North America. In the 1970s a number of crayfish farms primarily stocked with signals were established in Britain and, inevitably, some escaped or were let free into river systems. Since then another four species of crayfish (noble, red swamp,
spiny-cheeked, and virile) have been introduced to Britain, with two more certainly present, if not yet breeding. In London in the late 1990s records suggest that some white-clawed crayfish survived, probably in some cleaner refuges on the chalkier waters such as Colne, Cray and Darenth. No introduced species appeared to have been present. The picture now emerging is one where signals are dominant, with red swamp being found in particular waterbodies such as the Regent’s and Grand Union Canals. Both these species are large, aggressive, and can tolerate a wide range of water conditions and even survive out of water (meaning they can colonise new waterbodies by walking to them). Virile, spiny-cheeked and Turkish crayfish are also present, with the latter species now in decline and the other two probably increasing. White-clawed crayfish are now extinct in London. However, the species still survives in a number of clean river catchments, mostly in the uplands of Britain where the
impacts of introduced crayfish and their pathogens have yet to reach. But, like the red and grey squirrel relationship, experts believe that the difficulty in containing the impacts, crayfish plague in particular, mean the white-clawed crayfish will become extinct in British waters within a few decades. Attention is now focussing on designating refuges – Ark sites – where new populations can be established, safe from non-native crayfish and plague. London’s dynamic nature has made it a melting pot, and often the source of animals and plants taking their first steps into Britain. This can make it an ecologically exciting place – and five species of crayfish in London arguably adds to our diversity. However, the speed of change and the impacts of introduced species are often not realised until well past the time they can be effectively controlled – and the likely loss of white-clawed is the price we will pay for society’s ignorance.
When introduced crayfish come into contact with white-claweds they may out-compete them for food or physically expunge them. A more pernicious impact is the spread of crayfish plague, a fungus-like disease carried mostly by signal crayfish, which are unaffected by it. White-clawed crayfish are
not immune to plague and once introduced it quickly kills off all that are present in an area. Plague is easily moved between sites as it can be transported on wet angling equipment and wet clothes, which means that it represents a severe threat to the survival of white-clawed crayfish in Britain.
A new project, funded by Heritage Lottery Fund, based at Camley Street Natural Park will focus on the management and enhancement of a stretch of the Regent’s Canal running from Camden Lock to Islington Tunnel. Working in partnership with the Canal & River Trust and other stakeholders, the project aims to explore wildlife habitats along the 192-year-old waterway and establish ways in which they can be maintained. Community events and practical work days will involve local people in improving access to this exceptional waterway. To get involved email Martin Thompson, WoW project officer based at Camley Street Natural Park firstname.lastname@example.org Far left: White-clawed crayfish © Mathew Frith Left: Signal crayfish from the River Lee © Mathew Frith Above: Dikerogammarus haemobaphes © Environment Agency
Your wild London
Help London’s birds
London Wildlife Trust runs a range of events each year. Find out more at wildlondon.org.uk/getinvolved
Unlike many wild animals, birds don’t hibernate, so have to forage in all conditions, stocking up on calories to gain enough energy to stay warm. Because day lengths are so short in winter, small birds have to eat almost continually from dawn to dusk, so they have a much better chance of making it to spring if they know there’s a reliable source of food nearby. If you have a garden, erect feeders near the cover of a tree or shrub, which the birds can fly to quickly to escape danger. Fill feeders with a variety of food to attract the most species: sunflower seeds, peanuts, niger seed and suet products are all rich in fat and therefore calories. Ground-feeding species such as wrens and blackbirds will benefit from halved apples, rehydrated sultanas and cake crumbs left on the ground. You don’t need a garden to help birds as they happily visit balconies and even windows. It may take a while for the birds to notice any food you’ve left out for them but they should come eventually. Leaving food in your local park will also make a difference.
We now send out monthly events emails to our members. If you are not receiving emails from us please send your email address to email@example.com
Zac Goldsmith New member and former editor of Ecologist magazine and MP for Richmond Park and North Kingston is a vocal champion of wildlife and environmental causes. He’s also just joined London Wildlife Trust. Why join London Wildlife Trust? Far from being a sterile, concrete environment, London is in fact teeming with wildlife, and for children particularly, joining London Wildlife Trust is a valuable way to learn more about it. What does urban nature mean to you? I’ve always been passionate about nature. Over the past few decades, we’ve been increasingly insulated from the natural world to the extent that most young people today cannot identify an English oak. I would like to see far more emphasis on 16
nature and outdoor learning in the school curriculum so that we can begin to reverse these trends. If we don’t understand and enjoy nature, we are unlikely to want to give it the protection it needs.
facing business hub, relieving pressure on Heathrow. We also need to incentivise operators to run fuller planes and to divert point-to-point flights to places like Cyprus and Greece to other underused airports.
What is your favourite wild space in London and why? Richmond Park is London’s jewel – a nature paradise on the edge of a heaving city. God only knows how it has survived the pressures, but it has and its ancient trees and habitats should remain loved and protected.
How do you envisage London’s wildlife coping with a growing population and urban expansion? Wildlife will always have a home in London for as long as people and communities stand up for their green spaces. Some areas will always be safe, not least the Royal parks. But it is the smaller patches of green and woodland that need our active protection.
Do you think the recent changes to planning laws are enough to safeguard London’s wildlife? I think the first draft looked too much like a blank cheque for developers, and would have been a disaster. Thanks to the pressure applied by NGOs and some newspapers, the revised version of the NPPF is a dramatic improvement. But with talk about revisiting the rules yet again, we need to remain alert. You’ve spoken out against a third runway at Heathrow. What’s the alternative? The priority is improving Heathrow, not expanding it, and making better use of existing airport capacity. More people fly in and out of London than any other city, and we’re well served in terms of runway capacity. In Europe, only Paris has more runways (eight compared with our seven). As a start, we should focus on improving rail links to Stanstead, which is only half used at present and which could easily become an Eastern-
Interview by Kate Bradbury
Help us grow If your friends and family are interested in wildlife and London’s green spaces, why not treat them to a Gift membership of London Wildlife Trust? From just £30, it’s a gift that lasts for a year and is perfect for any special occasion. For details email firstname.lastname@example.org or call 020 7803 4272. Or why not promote membership of London Wildlife Trust at your local library, community centre or favourite cafe? Just contact the membership team and we can provide you with membership leaflets and other promotional materials.
Woodland workdays Frays Valley 6 January Help us improve the diverse habitats in this large and varied area of wet woodland, meadows and old railway embankment Hazel coppicing Fishponds Wood 27 January Learn how to coppice hazel and discover why coppicing creates the perfect conditions for bluebells. Wildlife After-School Club East Reservoir Community Garden From 4 February Drop your children off for an hour of naturebased educational activities from 3.45-4.45pm. Woodland workdays Gunnersbury Triangle and Gutteridge Woods 3 March Join us for a day of winter woodland work, including coppicing trees, cutting back vegetation from meadows and paths and clearing ponds. Frog Day Centre for Wildlife Gardening 24 March Frog day, pond dipping, tea and refreshments.
100th issue Next issue of Wild London is our 100th issue. We want to find out what you would like us to celebrate in our centenary edition. We’d love to hear your stories and memories of the Trust. Please email membership@ wildlondon.org.uk or do send your ideas in the post.
Don’t forget to provide a source of water – not only do birds need to drink but they also use water to preen and insulate themselves from the cold. Any shallow container – such as an old plant pot dish or even a metal dustbin lid would make a suitable bird bath. Raise it on bricks and place a tealight beneath it to stop it freezing over.
Enter our photography competition Fancy yourself as a bit of a wildlife photographer? Well here’s your chance to show off your skills. Simply join our Flickr group and upload a photo of an urban landscape or wildlife from your daily commute. The photo could be taken on your walk to work, school or college, or even from the bus or train. The winner will be judged by a team of experts and awarded a copy of Animal London A Spotter’s Guide by Ianthe Ruthven – an exploration of the capital’s animal sculptures. Join our Flickr group – flickr.com/ groups/1209948@N23 – and name your photo Wild commute. Congratulations to Janet Digby, the winner of our summer competition. She won a copy of The Green London Way by Bob Gilbert.
Top left: Deer in Richmond Park © Photogregory London Top: Redwing © Graham Carey 17
“Each woodland is unique with subtle variations of habitat within its boundaries, but conserving them is not like preserving a museum piece. The concerted protest against building in and around these woods has highlighted the need and desire to protect all that now remains of the Great North Wood. But woodland continues to change, it is never static, and it is this aspect which not only this generation but future generations should be allowed to experience.” Lucy Neville (The Great North Wood: A Brief History of Ancient Woodlands from Selhurst to Deptford, London Wildlife Trust, 1987)
Sydenham Hill Wood Our oldest reserve is a stand of ancient woodland saved from development in the 1980s, and will be the focus for new ambitions for a Great North Wood Living Landscape What is it about trees that captures the imagination of the nation? In 2011 half a million people signed an online petition to halt a proposed sell-off of English public woodlands as part of a new age of government austerity. Online groups sprang up all over the place – ‘Save the Forest of Dean’, ‘Save Cannock Chase’, ‘Save our woods’ – not all were grounded in place but they shared the same feeling: woodland is precious; it’s a part of who we are. A new argument emerged, that woodlands should be exempt from political wrangling. The life of a mature tree is far longer than the career of a politician.
The campaign to save England’s public woodlands gained momentum through online social networking sites, but it reflected a centuries-old battle to protect our heritage. London is no stranger to such battles, and one case in particular shows the importance of protecting wild landscapes from the encroachment and segregation of development. In September we celebrated 30 years of managing Sydenham Hill Wood as a nature reserve. Volunteers sold cakes and ran a tombola, and free walks were held to highlight its cultural and natural history. But this day would not have been possible without a vocal ‘save the woods’ campaign in the 1980s to thwart repeated development threats. In days before Facebook and Twitter, the campaign was acted out on the steps of Council offices. Locals turned up with branches and twigs, and bearing signs reading ‘Save the woods’ in order to sway
VISTING THE WOODS The nearest train station is Sydenham Hill via a short stroll through Dulwich Wood, with buses from Peckham Rye, Forest Hill and Sydenham stations. Conservation workdays take place every Wednesday and Thursday, and on the second and fourth Sundays of the month. For more details about events and workdays email email@example.com
planning decisions. The corrugated sheets of iron that spanned the Sydenham Hill fence line were painted with the same slogan in large white letters. But what were these volunteers, local residents, naturalists and public figures fighting for? It wasn’t just the idea of turning Sydenham Hill Wood into a nature reserve, but a battle to save it from a new wave of development. Without the efforts of local people during this time, Sydenham Hill Wood simply wouldn’t exist as we know it today. Along with the adjoining Dulwich Wood, Sydenham Hill is one of the largest remaining fragments of the Great North Wood, a vast working woodland with
possible origins in the wildwood that colonised the land after the retreat of the last ice age. This stretched northwards of Croydon (hence its name) to Deptford, supporting economies of charcoal production, leather tanning and the timber trade (oaks from Great Stake Pit Coppice now Convent Wood in Norwood were used for Sir Frances Drake’s ships). It was also rich in wildlife. All has not been lost – Dulwich and Sydenham Hill Woods are still home to ancient woodland flora such as English bluebell, wood anemone, wood sorrel and wild garlic, and a variety of fungi, indicating pockets of an undisturbed and natural landscape.
In reality, Sydenham Hill Wood is far from undisturbed. The development of the Crystal Palace just up the road saw the opening of the Crystal Palace High Level Railway in 1865, which ran from Nunhead via Honor Oak and Upper Sydenham. The slopes of Sydenham Hill were developed for grand Victorian villas, but now only their footprints and garden plants remain. The Crystal Palace was famously lost to fire in 1936 and the railway closed in 1954, never to reopen. However, the Cox’s Walk footbridge and railway tunnel remain in the Wood as reminders. The peoples of south London have drifted through centuries of economic boom and bust but there still remains a love for the raw wildness and intrinsic value of their woods and wild places. Nationally and locally, our woodlands feel as important as ever. Daniel Greenwood, Sydenham Hill Wood Project Officer
Top: Cox’s Walk footbridge © johnrussell.zenfolio.com Left: Cox’s Walk on a snowy winter night © Mathew Frith Opposite: Tawny owl flying at dusk © Daniel Greenwood