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.
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.
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.
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.
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.