Thursday, 16 March 2017

Langley Vale Farm update

This afternoon I was able to attend a meeting between The Woodland Trust and a few of us local naturalists who have voiced concerns over the Langley Vale Wood project. I don't believe this post to be an appropriate place to name those present or to quote directly from any specific conversation. Three senior WT staff were present, with 'concerned' representation coming from several birders, botanists, entomologists and general all round naturalists / conservationists. The discussion was robust and direct from both sides.

In brief, the provision for the care of the existing arable flora is, on the whole, better than I could have hoped for. Plantlife are preparing a working document for the WT, and there is provision to have an eminent botanist as part of a specialist steering group. There is a commitment to continually monitor the plants and adjust management on a rolling plan. The designated 'arable plant areas' are in the correct places. That's the good...

The not so good is the situation concerning Downs Field, the largest field on site and the best for breeding Lapwings - it also has its own arable plant assemblage (possibly the largest numbers of Night-flowering Catchfly on site being present). The WT were adamant that this field is to still be planted with trees, even though they are aware of what is present within it (and breeding on it). Much time was spent on this subject, in the end time being called on what was becoming, at times, a heated discussion.

It is hard not to take onboard some of the WT's rationale - after being on the market for six years, and with the threat of building speculators sniffing around - their purchase of the farm saved the land from being abused and also allowed public access for the first time in recent history. They are totally aware of the Lapwings, and readily admit to having knowingly planted trees on two fields that have historically hosted breeding birds, and, as mentioned above, plan to plant on a third. That leaves just one field that this species has used for breeding in the past. The WT reason that, with sympathetic management of the designated open spaces (of which there is plenty) Lapwings will have other 'new' fields to choose from. I did voice my reservations. I'm convinced that these 'spare' fields have been shunned by Lapwings in the past for a variety of reasons, such as smaller size, poor horizon visibility, reduced invertebrate food supply and sward height. The loss of the arable plants on Downs Field, as regrettable as it would be, is not as drastic as the Lapwing situation in my opinion (but I am whispering that...)

Much more was discussed and it was agreed to meet again. I applaud the WT for taking the time and making the effort to listen to our concerns - they didn't have to do so. I will continue to lobby for Downs Field to be saved, but will do so in the spirit of acknowledging that the WT are taking their role as protectors of the wildlife on site seriously. We need to understand that they are a woodland charity that do not normally have arable weeds and Lapwings under their care. It makes no sense to oppose the good that they are undoubtedly doing, even if there are parts of their plan that seem incredulous to some of us. As I said, the fight to keep Downs Field as open land continues...

5 comments:

  1. Let's just hope that it isn't all lip service, and that the three senior WT staff present are still senior WT staff this time next year. So much good will and hard-worked for understanding is lost through staff turn over it can sometimes positively hurt. WT are in this for the (very) long-run, thank you all who are fighting the good fight and may you also be in this for the long run.

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  2. I think the biggest threat will be the passage of time. 5 years on, 10 years on etc, relying on someone like you "sniffing" around reminding people to plough this and that. ....
    But good job Steve.

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  3. A partial success then Steve, I guess that the WT are correct in that anything that they do is preferable to it becoming a housing estate, etc. Lapwings do indeed need specific management for them to succeed, as we have found here on Sheppey. Correct sward length is vital and that is normally achieved by grazing with livestock at certain times of the year. Predator management is also vital, (control of corvids during breeding season). You're doing a lot of good Steve, keep it up.

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  4. Interesting, I will keep an eye on the fields they like round here

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  5. Thanks for your words of encouragement chaps - I will keep you posted.

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