A wooded landscape delivering the benefits but due for the chop?!
I imagine that if I said there was an area of urban-fringe countryside which delivered the following, you would expect its future to be safe, secure, and even celebrated:
- UK Biodiversity targets – a local biodiversity hotspot for birds, badgers and other mammals, and for invertebrates such as butterflies, bumblebees, hoverflies, and more…
- Floodwater mitigation and sustainable drainage targets – holding back the flow to sustain local watercourses and contributing to reducing flood-risk downstream
- Climate-change mitigation targets – the site is actively sequestrating carbon from the atmosphere to reduce greenhouse gas impacts – and this landscape provides resilience to adverse changes
- Health and wellbeing benefits to local people – the site surrounds a local health centre and is much loved and well-used by local citizens – it supports people’s mental and physical wellbeing – and important during COVID, has been freely available during LOCKDOWN
- Conservation targets and includes supposedly protected ancient woodland
- The ‘government’s Future Treescapes Strategy’ through safeguarding existing ancient woodland and through a spontaneous (natural) new woodland which has self-set on former farmland abandoned thirty years ago. This is now a dynamic and incredibly exciting habitat with diverse tree species, orchid-rich grassland, and extensive bramble scrub providing rich shelter and feeding for birds like bullfinches and long-tailed tits, for a wide range of butterflies, and yes, badgers, foxes and roe deer. Above all though, it is growing a huge number of new trees for the future. It is quite literally, buzzing with nature…..
- It is helping to address Sheffield City Council’s stated aim to deal with the ‘climate change crisis’ and the climate emergency….
And even better still, this site has cost nothing to create and costs nothing to run. Nature does it for free. Moreover the area is owned by the City Council on behalf of us, the community. So with all these positives you would be sure that its future would be safe in their hands ….. wouldn’t you?
Well no – read the action group’s blog to find out about the threats to this wonderful area
A house-builder aims to develop this as new housing, to divert drainage away from the woodland, to remove almost all the regenerating future treescape and scrub (badger, bird, and butterfly habitat), and to build way too close to the ancient woodland boundary. Furthermore, if the development does go ahead the City Council benefits from the sale of the land and from a sum paid by the developer to off-set the adverse impacts but which will be spent away from the site – I am sure that the local badgers will be relieved by the off-setting……
Selling nature by the pound……
Sadly, this situation is being repeated across the city and across the country and nature is on its knees. Politicians make noises about climate change, about biodiversity extinction, about halting the floods, about improving health and wellbeing, and about giving future generations a world fit to live in ………..well, actions speak louder than words.
Rewilding from the window-box to the mountain top
Across the UK, there is a massive need and indeed a desire to rewild our countryside from the urban heartlands to the rural zones. Indeed, this is not a mere ‘option’, a choice if you like, if we genuinely want to halt or at least minimize the bad effects of climate change, to reduce biodiversity extinctions, and to reduce catastrophic flood-risk; and the clock is ticking. If we fail to do this then the long-term consequences for future generations will be dire indeed.
If the UK government is serious about addressing these issues and if local authorities such as Sheffield City Council are genuinely committed to dealing with the climate change emergency, then it is over sites such as this that the battles must be won. And believe me, there are battles ahead if we really are to have any chance of slowing or halting the insidious death of nature. OK, so the struggle is not over if this site is bulldozed and built on, but this is one of many sites across the country and that are going down one by one. This is death of nature by a million pin-pricks and each one is an individual decision that those in charge will say ‘oh it really doesn’t matter’ and ‘it isn’t significant’. But add together all the individual sites and spaces for nature on the doorstep, and sure as can be, they each contribute to a national catastrophe that is unfolding.
We have a one-off opportunity to set this right and to help trigger the rewilding and renewal of nature that future generations will be proud of, or not. Owlthorpe Fields is just one site of many where this drama is unfolding but it is here and now and for Sheffielders, it is on your doorstep. For others away from the city, you can bet that there is something similar coming your way very soon.
Owlthorpe Fields Action Group’s website is here: https://www.facebook.com/Owlthorpe-Fields-Action-Group-476779306142625/ . Please visit them and lend your support by commenting and by networking.
At present, the authorities and developer don’t even accept or recognise that the woodland is ‘ancient’ or that the young, regenerating woodland has any significant conservation value. They dismiss the trees and other vegetation as young, self-set, of poor quality, short-lived, and of little interest – how wrong they are! This is a biodiversity powerhouse for that whole area. If you live around Westfield, Hackenthorpe, and Owlthorpe and love to see birds, butterflies, or badgers perhaps visiting your garden, then this is where they are coming from. For local people closed in at home during COVID this contact with nature on the doorstep can be a life-saver, but blink and they will have taken it away. You need to act now and support the actions already taken by the group and their partners such as the Sheffield and Rotherham Wildlife Trust and supported by the South Yorkshire Biodiversity Research Group.
Thanks you for reading this and if it resonates with your own views then please a) make a comment; b) network it to others via social media etc; c) join the Action Group – they need (and deserve) your support.
ps more to follow