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We don't know what we're missing!

Posted: Friday 18th October 2013 by Living Rivers

Mimram at TewinMimram at Tewin

Welcome to my new-look blog, on our super duper newly revamped website!


We don’t know what we’re missing

On Monday night I went to a debate at the Royal Society about ‘Controversial Conservation’, organized by the World Land Trust and chaired by Chris Packham, who many of you will know from Springwatch and, if you’re of my generation, the Really Wild Show.

It was both a depressing and inspiring evening, covering topics such as the persecution of birds of prey by shooting estates, whether you can be both a conservationist and cat lover, and whether the conservation of large, iconic mammals such as pandas and tigers is justified, given the large amounts of time and resources it takes to make little, if any, progress.

However, it was the discussions of the UK’s conservation scene that really stuck in my mind.  In particular, Chris Packham made the point that we are in danger of accepting nature reserves as 'museums of our countryside'.  When people want to go and see wildlife, they go to visit nature reserves, as there is no longer any expectation that they will see wildlife in the general countryside.

We no longer remember what we’ve lost.  Our own childhoods become our reference point for what is ‘normal’ in the countryside.  For instance, a child growing up without the sound of skylarks will feel no sense of loss when encountering vast, intensively farmed arable fields, and consequently will feel no compunction to fight to restore skylarks to these silent acres.  Equally, someone who has never know their local muddy ditch as a bubbling, gin-clear chalk stream won’t miss it, or lament the loss of the water voles and trout which used to live there.

This ‘shifting baseline syndrome’ is perhaps one of the biggest threats to our countryside – without public outcry and lobbying, politicians will face no pressure to bring about the policy changes needed to fix the problem of our declining wildlife.


Is your home Watersafe?

A new scheme called Watersafe has just been launched.  This lists accredited plumbers who adhere to strict rules and regulations when carrying out plumbing work in homes, to try and reduce misconnections.  Misconnections occur when household appliances such as toilets, sinks, dishwashers and washing machines are plumbed into the wrong pipe system, resulting in untreated waste water ending up the local river instead of going to the sewage treatment works.


Riverfly volunteers on the Mimram



Last week 15 new Riverfly volunteers were trained in how to monitor and record various groups of pollution-sensitive invertebrates (see picture to the left - volunteers being trained on the Mimram). 

They’re all keen and raring to get started on this fantastic scheme  – a ‘neighbourhood watch’ for our rivers.



Water voles and invasive species

Last night saw the Trust’s 'Water Voles and Invasive Species in Hertfordshire' Conference, organized by our Water Vole Conservation Officer Martin Ketcher.  It was a fascinating evening of talks, and brought home just how valuable river habitat restoration, water vole monitoring and mink control have been in preserving our remaining water voles.  Well done to everyone involved!



Stort guided walk

I have another event coming up in November – a guided walk in the Stort Valley.  I’ll be teaming up Bob Reed, our Living Landscape Champion for the Stort, for a guided walk focusing on the wildlife and history of the River Stort in and around Pishiobury Park.  For more information, see our events webpage.


Project updates

Things continue to bubble along (pardon the pun), with the planning and implementation of several practical river restoration projects, various talks for local groups, continuing work with the Beane, Mimram and Stort catchment partnerships and various exciting education and people-focused initiatives (more on these later!).


Finally, I’d like to leave you with another quote from Mr Packham, from this week’s Desert Island Discs:

‘The rarest sight in the countryside is not a lapwing or skylark – it’s a child’.

This is a nice introduction to my next blog, where I’ll be writing about the importance of engaging children with their local river!


Thanks for reading!


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    Great blog Charlie.

    Tuesday 19th November 2013

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Great blog Charlie.

Tuesday 19th November 2013