Rewilding Childhood

Tree for every child scheme launched

Cambrian Mountains left in a 'tourism black hole'

State of Britain's Mammals Report for 2007

Electricity cables from Highland wind farms would destroy the Cairngorms, say opponents

Landowner flies in elk to get a really wild show off the ground

Long-term solution needed for Chagford’s Commons

Rewilding Childhood

Rewilding Childhood December 2007

A new initiative is being launched to promote childern’s interaction with nature. Rewilding Childhood is a high profile multi-media initiative highlighting how children in different parts of Europe experience wild nature and investigating how that affects their social and emotional development. When it comes to children's direct enjoyment of nature, marked cultural divisions have emerged in Europe in the space of just one generation. Now, in many places, their freedom to enjoy wild nature is being severely curtailed. The vision of this initiative is to improve understanding amongst decision-makers that children need green space; enhance coordination of disparate "rewilding" and environmental education programmes; and encourage more children into their local green space and finding fulfilment from being there.

Rewilding Childhood

Tree for every child scheme launched

Coed Cadw (Woodland Trust) and Forestry Commission, 18th December, 2007

This is an innovative scheme to plant a tree for every new baby and adopted child in Wales will begin in the New Year, forging a strong link between children and their environment. The scheme, called “Plant!”, was originally announced in February this year and is a commitment in the One Wales programme as part of the Welsh Assembly Government’s drive to have a sustainable environment. By planting up to 30 hectares of new woodland a year, the scheme will make a significant contribution to the creation of a Welsh National Forest of native trees.

Approximately 35,000 children are born or adopted in Wales each year, and when Plant! gets under way the families of every child born or adopted will receive a certificate telling them where their child’s tree is planted and how they can go and visit the site. The scheme has been set up on behalf of the Welsh Assembly Government by Coed Cadw (Woodland Trust) and Forestry Commission Wales.

The First Minister said: “This scheme is a win-win for us all, as it not only contributes to regenerate our native woodlands but also links children with the natural environment. As they grow older they will be able to follow the progress of the site of their very own tree and appreciate the importance of protecting and supporting our native species of plant and wildlife. Plant! will connect young people with the world of nature, and will also show how they can take action themselves to make their local communities better places environmentally.”

Jerry Langford of the Woodland Trust said: “The symbolism of planting a tree to mark a child’s birth marks the beginning of their life with a positive environmental action. It will inspire further positive steps by all families involved in the project.”


Cambrian Mountains left in a 'tourism black hole'

Western Mail 17 December 2007

Members of Cambria Active, a group of 60 business people and accommodation providers in mid Wales, maintain that the Cambrian mountains have fallen into “a tourism black hole”, but are now aiming to reclaim their “lost land”. They want to see the rural region which stretches between north Carmarthenshire, Ceredigion and Powys and is sandwiched between the Brecon Beacons and Snowdonia national parks given Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty (AONB) status.

Richard Tyler, chairman of Cambria Active, said the level of protection would put the Cambrians on a par with the Gower Peninsula in South Wales and the Cotswolds in England. He told the Western Mail, “The Cambrian Mountains have been something of a black hole that people tend to drive through to get to other places in Wales. Covering 400 square miles, it is one of the largest wildernesses left in the UK... The problem is that it is sparsely populated and those of us who live here have to shout louder to get heard. We don’t want to end up in a queue to get up a mountain like they do in Snowdonia but we could do with a higher profile.”

Roger Stevens, owner of Lasswade Country House Hotel in Llanwrtyd Wells, Powys, said the area suffered from such a lack of promotion that even people living nearby are often unaware it exists – let alone tourists from abroad. He said, “Visit Wales spend all their time promoting the Brecon Beacons and Snowdonia so even people living in Swansea and Cardiff don’t know where the Cambrian Mountains are. As a result we are a forgotten area and have been left underdeveloped.

“It is one of the oldest ranges on the face of the Earth and the Cambrian period is one of the earliest periods recorded in geology. It is home to the red kite and Plynlimon is the source of the River Severn and the River Wye, that is rich in salmon, trout and otters.

In the early 1970s, the Cambrians looked close to becoming a national park after spending seven years going through the designation process. Around 460 square miles of wild country between Machynlleth in the north and Llandovery in the south were on the brink of being accepted. The area had first been suggested as a park in the 1930s and was on the list of parks-in-waiting when the legislation was drawn up in the 1940s. By 1972 the Welsh Office was expected to rubber stamp designation, but the Cambrians got the thumbs down, amid rumours of political dark dealing.

Professor David Bateman, chairman of The Cambrian Mountains Society (CMS), said the Cambrian Mountains have lost out on opportunities generated by the tourist pound as a result. He said, “Sadly, the area seems to be a dumping ground, somewhere that suffers from more than its fair share of wind turbines... Whatever happened in the 1970s, we didn’t get a fair crack of the whip. It seems high time now that somebody put that right.”

State of Britain's Mammals Report for 2007

Wildlife Conservation Research Unit December 2007

The Wildilife Conservation Research Unit has just published its report on the state of Britain’s mammals. This has been produced by the Mammals Trust UK and WildCRU and reports on a wide range of species including mountain hares, wildcats, bats, deer, beavers, lynx, otters etc.


Electricity cables from Highland wind farms would destroy the Cairngorms, say opponents

The Observer, 9 December 2007

Pylons that would form part of the upgrading of the power link between north and south Scotland could impact heavily on some of the best scenery in Scotland. Extra electricity from new wind farms being built in the Highlands must be transmitted to power users in cities in the south. Scottish and Southern Energy says the £320m upgrade - on the line between Beauly, near Inverness, and Denny, near Stirling - would consist of 600 pylons, 40 to 64 metres high, with a section going through Cairngorms National Park.

The idea has horrified landowners, wildlife groups and walkers: 18,000 people have formally objected to the Beauly-Denny plan. A public inquiry, one of the biggest held in Scotland, is hearing evidence and is set to finish deliberations in a few weeks. A report is to be presented to the Scottish Executive next year.

The problem, according to experts, is that the issues raised by the Beauly-Denny inquiry go far beyond local concerns. They focus on a more general, national problem: should Britain's commitment to renewable energy take precedence over its need to preserve its wild places? Objectors say no, and in this case urge that the cable be built underground or rerouted to run on the seabed. But Scottish and Southern Energy says that would raise costs fivefold.

'This is a serious issue,' said Professor Nick Jenkins, a renewable energy expert based at Manchester University. 'We have built our cities in places that are not windy but now want to get more and more of our power from remote places that are swept by gales and high winds. It is a point backed by Nigel Hawkins of the John Muir Trust. 'Carbon emissions are a real threat to the environment. We don't want climate change wrecking the hillsides of Britain. But at the same time we don't want action that could result in serious ecological damage. [The inquiry] is concerned only on the impact of the upgrade on one part of Scotland. We need to consider a range of other issues: the role of sub-sea cables, their costs and the impact of onshore wind farms.'

The Observer

Landowner flies in elk to get a really wild show off the ground

The Times, 3 December 2007

Paul Lister has brought in two European Elk from Sweden – known also as moose in North America - to his Alladale Estate and Wildlife Reserve in Sutherland. The European Elk has not lived in the wild in Britain for 3,000 years. Despite heavy rain, they appeared to be adjusting quickly to their new home on a boggy hillside. "They're already using the shelter we built for them," said Hugh Fullerton-Smith, general manager of the estate and reserve.

The two European elk are part of a deeply serious project to build the first wilderness reserve in Northern Europe. Paul Lister, multimillionaire son of MFI retail entrepreneur, also hopes to bring back wolves to Britain along with other long-lost carnivores, including brown bear and lynx. The wild animals would ultimately take over 50,000 acres of restored pine and birch forests. Scotland. Initially, the elk will be let loose in a 450-acre (180ha) enclosure. Their interaction with 15 wild boar and about a dozen roe and red deer will be closely monitored by zoologists from the University of Oxford.

"Every animal we bring back is a piece of the jigsaw - the bigger picture is the carnivores and that takes time," Mr Lister, 48, said yesterday... I'd like to think that we could have the wolves within the next five years. These carnivores don't need the vegetation and the tree cover that takes so long to grow. If we were to have a 250sq km area now, the wolves would survive in there beautifully."

Although his estate already has 23,000 acres, Mr Lister needs an area more than double that to sustain two packs of wolves - up to 15 animals – three pairs of lynx and up to 30 brown bears. He hopes to enlist the support of some of his neighbours, who include farmers worried that wolves will devour their livestock. The reserve is to be enclosed by the longest electrified fence in Britain, measuring 3m (9ft) high. He hopes to attract up to 30,000 visitors a year, who would tour the park in Land Rovers or on horseback. Rather than buying the surrounding land, Mr Lister's preferred option is to find neighbours willing to go into partnership with him. He said: "It's really going to be in the hands of the community as to whether or not this is going to happen."

Although a dangerous wild animals licence is needed for the wolves, one of the biggest obstacles is likely to be winning over his critics, including the Ramblers' Association, who would have to agree to a change in their access rights to the land.

The Times

Long-term solution needed for Chagford’s Commons

Open Spaces Society 3 December 2007

The Open Spaces Society, Britain’s leading pressure-group for common land, has submitted a strong objection to proposed cattle-grids around the Chagford commons on Dartmoor in Devon. It has called instead for all the interested parties to meet and agree a sensible long-term solution for the management of the commons.

The proposed cattle-grids, at Langaford Bridge, Higher Stiniel and Weddicott Cross, will be considered by an independent inspector at a public inquiry to be held next week, starting on Monday 10 December. Says Kate Ashbrook, the society’s general secretary: ‘These commons are lovely open spaces, of historic and cultural value, much loved and enjoyed by the people of Chagford and the many visitors to the area... The effect of placing cattle-grids at the proposed locations will be to enclose the commons completely. This could well lead to deterioration in their character, with some parts being overgrazed while could be undergrazed and become scrubbed over, to the detriment of wildlife and public access... The cattle-grids will result in complete enclosure of the commons and will encourage their ranch-style use, as farmyard extensions for just a few farmers, instead of being managed in the traditional manner,’ Kate argues.

The Open Spaces Society recommends that consideration is given to reverting to the tried-and-tested practices of burning the gorse, mowing the bracken, and stocking the commons at the right level to maintain the vegetation at its optimum for the stock, the wildlife, the archaeology and public enjoyment. ‘This would ensure a sustainable future for these valued commons—which the proposed cattle grids do not,’ Kate concludes.

Open Spces Society