Ten to One

Once or twice a week, at 10 to 1 pm, the conservation team (or those of us who are around at the time) climb the precipitous stairs up to the Sunley Solar. This is the informal meeting space at the top of the farmhouse offices, named after a generous benefactor of the Trust. The ten to ones, as they have come to be known, are a chance to share knowledge and help us keep up to speed with the latest in conservation, or simply to ask if anyone knows the answer to question that has cropped up in our work that day.

meeting in the Sunley Solar
Half of the Conservation team gather in the former attic of the 17th century farmhouse that now houses our offices, so that Chloe can update us on the latest in wetland conservation.

For example, last week, Chloe fed back to us about a conference she had just been to, Wetland Futures, which was focused on those areas where the rivers meet the sea. These wetland areas can look desolate, but the marshes, mudflats and saltmarshes that characterise them are some of our most wildlife rich areas. We are looking at what we can do to improve wetland biodiversity, it is an important area of our work at the moment; Chloe brought back lots of information about projects that are happening around the country, and ideas for things that would work in Kent.

Marine species like the sea walnut can be carried in ballast water and in the absence of local predators, multiply and form extensive populations. The sea walnuts then consume zooplankton, including fish eggs and larvae, reducing the food available to native species, and having a knock-on effect along the food chain and a devastating impact on local fisheries. Image from: http://ocean.si.edu/ocean-photos/sea-walnut-mnemiopsis-leidyi
Marine species like the sea walnut can be carried in ballast water and in the absence of local predators, multiply and form extensive populations. The sea walnuts then consume zooplankton, including fish eggs and larvae, reducing the food available to native species, and having a knock-on effect along the food chain and a devastating impact on local fisheries. Image from: http://ocean.si.edu/ocean-photos/sea-walnut-mnemiopsis-leidyi

She also provided an update on the problem of invasive non-native species, which are particularly difficult to deal with in these environments. It is vital to track the spread of invasive species, to understand how they colonise areas and where we should target work. Anyone can help to do this, simply by recording species that they come across and sending this information to the various recording schemes which record the spread of invasive species. There is even an app for that to make it really easy to do -download the That’s Invasive app.

Ivy bees have only recently been found in Britain, and are spreading across the South.
Ivy bees were first found in Britain in 2001. Since then, they have spread throughout the south of England. If you see a very stripy looking bee, with a furry thorax, on ivy in the autumn, it is almost certainly an ivy bee. They are mining bees, which means they create a nest in the ground. Although they are solitary bees, each creating a single nest, you can get large aggregations of bees nesting in one area.

Sometimes, at ten to one, we go for a wander instead. It gets us away from our screens, provides some low level exercise, gives us time to catch up with what other people are up to, and we usually learn something new as well, or at least I do. It’s the good kind of multitasking. Last week, on a lunchtime walk with some of the conservation team, we were practicing wild walks, Greg was spotting spiders, Paul found a badger latrine and I learned about ivy bees.

 

Summer story

Autumn has finally arrived, the woods and hedges are starting to blaze with fiery colour and despite the gloriously sunny and warm weekend, it must be time to let go of summer.  Time, then, for a round-up of what has been happening at the Trust over the summer months before it becomes ancient history.

In July, I did this!
In July, I did this! And found that it took a lot more organisation that I suspected, but we did have an amazing day with family and friends.

It has been a remarkably busy summer, with lots of new beginnings; new work to do, new staff and for me, the option of a new surname (although, to keep things simple, I’ll be sticking with the old one). To celebrate, we spent two weeks camping in France, trying (not entirely successfully) to outrun the rain. It was brilliant, even though we slightly blew our camper van up.

Meanwhile, back at work, we have been successful with two of the funding applications we were working on earlier in the year and so two new projects have begun.

 

Wetland at Newlands Farm
An area of wetland at Newlands Farm adjacent to the River Eden which is being enhanced and managed to buffer the river and provide breeding wader habitat. © Kent Wildlife Trust

The East of Eden project, funded by  Biffa Award, started in July. Sam, who has been delivering a very successful project in the Eden Valley, working with landowners to restore habitats along the River Eden, saw an opportunity to use similar techniques in other river valleys, as well as working on new sites in the Eden valley to connect up the sites already restored. He worked with Natasha, one of the Trust’s funding officers, to put together a proposal for funding to do this work.

Native seed broadcasting
Native seed being broadcast by the farmer, (Heathdown Partners) into an existing sward at Hobbs Hill Farm adjacent to the Kent Water, a tributary of the Upper Medway. Image © Ray Firminger

This kind of conservation work is vital – you may have seen reports that very few rivers and water bodies in England are classed as being in good or excellent condition, many suffer from pollution and poor biodiversity. By improving the habitats alongside rivers, we can prevent silt being washed into them and help filter out pollutants as well as increasing wildlife. A particularly important habitat that Sam will be helping landowners to restore is flower-rich meadow – a habitat which has declined by 97%.

Another exciting success story is the granting of funding from the Heritage Lottery Fund to develop a marine project called Guardians of the Deep. This project will enable us to share with people why the Marine Conservation Zones that have been identified around Kent’s coast are so important and in need of protection, and help us to involve people in looking after them. Fiona, our Marine Officer, will now be working full-time, spending 3 days a week building links with community groups, schools and other partner organisations, running pilot projects and getting everything in place to deliver the full, three year project. This work will all come together in the Phase II application that, if all goes to plan, will unlock the funding for the project.

We have a new team member, Vinny, who will be leading the advisory work of the team, improving our ability to give advice on planning issues and to landowners and businesses. Vinny has been running the national Grow Wild project for the Kew Royal Botanic Gardens and before that worked at Groundwork for many years.

Nightingale © Amy Lewis
Nightingale © Amy Lewis

Our work to protect the wildlife of the Lodge Hill Site of Special Scientific Interest has intensified since the announcement was made that the application to develop the site would be decided through a Public Inquiry. We have now appointed a barrister to present our case and Greg is putting together the evidence that we will need to demonstrate that this development would have a wholly unacceptable impact on a site that is not only of great wildlife value to Kent but is of national importance because it holds over 1% of the country’s breeding nightingale population.