I think, in the last month, I have leant on practically everyone I have ever worked with in the field of conservation and a good few people I have never met, in order to gather information for the new Upper and Lower Medway Internal Drainage Board Biodiversity Action Plan.
Unfortunately there is no ‘one stop shop’ for the information need. Rather there are a vast array of websites and data sources which need to be picked apart to find the information needed. Local Wildlife Sites and Water Level Management Plans are closely guarded secrets it would appear but I have also discovered some wonderful sources of information such as Kent County Council’s Heritage Maps and the Online Atlas of British and Irish Flora. Praise be to the creators of these sites.
I have also learnt a huge amount. Dreamt of post Covid cycle trips through the medieval landscapes of the Weald. Marvelled at the discovery of prehistoric villages and hoards of coins found beside streams and, most of all, I have been humbled and saddened, in equal measure, at the fabulous diversity of life on this planet and how threatened it is by us.
Who cannot fall in love with Duffey’s Bell Headed Spider or the Marsh Mallow Moth? Once again, well done to the people who named these creatures. In our anthropomorphic minds, these names make obscure species come alive. They make us care, even though we no so precious little about what each needs in order to survive.
I think it is hard not to look at the endless lists of threatened and declining species that have disappeared since the 1950’s and not lay the blame at the door of modern farming practices. Not farmers necessarily but Agrochemical companies who peddled the products that poisoned our soils and rivers. Still, there is hope, in the rhetoric of the Environment Bill and in the will of farmers to play their part. Our rivers, after all, are much cleaner than they were 50 years ago. There are solutions and sometimes quite simple ones at that, scraping bare patches on banks could allow species that need periodic disturbance to spread. Placing cobbles in the river could allow fish and crustaceans to find shelter even in the more turbulent conditions predicted by the increase in rainfall bought about by Climate Change.
I know I am an optimist and quite probably naïve but I feel you need a smattering of both to work in conservation otherwise you would give up. I believe that knowledge helps and I very much hope the Biodiversity Action Plan, when complete, gives the Internal Drainage Boards the knowledge they need in order to help.