Warrington Local Plan comments from the Warrington Nature Conservation Forum

Warrington Local Plan comments from the Warrington Nature Conservation Forum

 

I am writing on behalf of the Warrington Nature Conservation Forum, as Chair, to express the views and opinions of our members concerning aspects of the Warrington Local Plan.

With the number of units required increasing to 24,000 this has an even greater widespread impact across the Borough on the natural environment especially places like Moore Nature Reserve and the habitat that has taken centuries to evolve. We are not convinced that some of the policies like QE5 & QE6 are strong enough to protect the Borough’s Wildlife sites or creation of new ones.

We would have liked to have seen the addition of overlays to the local plan.

These overlays would highlight the location and extent of wildlife sites (which would map the Biodiversity list of appendix3), the Mersey Forest plan (for Warrington page 82), the Mersey Environment Gateway Trust area of interest (Upper Mersey Estuary) and the Environmental Agency’s flood map for planning. These examples would give people a spatial awareness and an indication of the impact, issues and proximity of the proposed developments within the Local Plan and Westernlink network.

In another there is a list of partners. The plan however gives no indication of the work that they are doing which could be incorporated into the Warrington Borough Council, Vision and Long-term plan. The plan should have vision that makes people want to live, visit and invest their future here whilst at the same time protect and enhance the biodiversity of the place.  If we get it right for the wildlife then it will hopefully be right for the humans as argued by Hugh Warwick in his book LINESCAPE. We don’t want a vision of a concrete jungle purely driven by the Government unit target we would like to see greater input and local control.

We expect that this may well appear in the more detailed plans that will be developed in the spring of 2018 along with the transport networks and housing developments but please not at the expense of the wildlife networks of green corridors, carbon landscape connectivity, green canopy, water network etc.

Examples can be seen on such approaches by the work of the Environment Agency and their flood defence work, the Mersey Gateway Environmental Trust monitoring the new Bridge Build and the many projects large (Saltmarsh) and small (Orchids) as well as Mersey Forest plantations to name but a few.

Our membership consists of hundreds of Warrington residents with a keen interest in Wildlife, several of whom are local ecologists and our partners such as Cheshire Wildlife, rECORd, RIMAG, Wolston Eyes, Mersey Gateway Environmental Trust, Liverpool Museum. Between them they have entered thousands of sightings into the rECORd database that is used as evidence to verify the biodiversity status of wildlife sites and scrutinise planning applications across the Borough of Warrington.

Austerity measures have unfortunately see the demise of the Warrington Borough Council (WBC) environmental office and the transfer of some of the services that they used to provide to the Manchester Ecology Unit based in Tameside. Some of our partners have had their funding from WBC reduced or withdrawn and we ourselves have lost our presence from the WBC web site after a couple of decades. It used to be an active portal with links to wildlife groups and archive of WNCF newsletters until it was removed in 2016 shortly after being updated! All these actions were confirmed as being due to cost cutting in a reply to our environmental question posed at Full Council twelve months ago.

Fortunately, some funding has been given to one partner although less than the amount they used to receive. The WNCF has found a host associated with RIMAG. They have stepped in and created a much-improved web site from the original, a new meeting place has been found, a monthly column in the Warrington Guardian established and a very strong Facebook site of with over 500 members.

None of the 3rd sector wildlife groups and individuals want wildlife sites to be reduced or threatened in any way.  We are asking for a clearer statement of how the places especially Local Wildlife Sites (LWS) they support are to be protected, enhanced, created and if appropriate linked especially between like species and environments. We believe that by doing so the final Local Plan will be improved and more sustainable for wildlife and enhance our surroundings.

Importance of  Wildlife Sites and protection from developers

Warrington has 3 European Sites of |International Importance (Special Areas of Conservation), 4 Sites of Special Scientific Interest (SSSI), 3 Regionally Important Geological Sites (RIGs), 4 Local Nature Reserves (LNR), 55 Local Wildlife Sites (LWS) and 3 Wildlife Corridors as depicted in appendix 3 (Biodiversity Designations) there is therefore a great deal to protect as described in their respective and collective citations.

 

Despite sites being listed in appendix 3 there is no map showing their location or better still their locations overlaid over the main Local Plan map. We would envisage this being better described by the adoption of interactive layers. We believe that it would also be very useful to do the same for the Mersey Forest Plan for Warrington and the area of interest for the Mersey Gateway Environmental Trust. Both organisations have been in existence between 25 and 7 years respectively and their current visions and latest plans have been around for a good time, work that has involved a great deal of analysis and design and grown in significance. As they are partners we feel that their plans are of significance to the local plan and should be incorporated.

Whilst we realise that the local plan is an overview, we would like an indication of how LWS will be protected. We remember the loss of one at Rixton a few years ago when a new enterprise application was approved after appeal to the Inspector. The applicants fought hard when appealing to the Inspector to overrule WBC planner’s decision to turn down the application. Their development was haphazard and piece meal with little or no enforcement monitoring or challenge taking place by WBC until the development was to all intense and purpose complete.

The applicant’s solicitor took apart the WBC case and even undermined the Cheshire Wildlife Trusts status of a LWS that was believed to be secure. The episode illustrated how a wildlife’s protection could be undermined if you have enough financial & legal clout, knowledge and experience and that was when we had a very competent ecologist selling their soul.

We ask that WBC’s policies, especially QE5 and QE6 be strengthened to protect the wildlife habitat and that policies are actively enforced with the policies being spelt out clearly to potential applicants who will sign up to them and that these will be enforced vigorously by WBC. Habitats such as these take centuries to mature and be recognised they very important assets in Warrington’s natural history.

Over recent years examples of rogue developers who hope to make their land more easily developed by destroying its habitat before they apply for permission to build have been on the increase. Examples exist where important green canopies have been felled, however where these have been caught because members of the public have contacted WBC – preservation orders have been served, but not often enough. It was good to see the mitigation of tree planting by the EA/WBC in Victoria Park as part of Phase one of their Flood Defence work.

A good example of a development was at a former naval base Croft site in Croft for more than 20 properties. The site was infested with invasive plants, namely Himalayan Balsam and Japanese Knotweed close by was a pond. The site plan and application highlighted these features and how the developer was going to treat the evasive plants whilst protecting and enhancing the pond to increase biodiversity as well as creating a walk and viewing areas. We hope that future developments take note of this good practice. We would like to see this as a recommendation for applicants requesting that they enhance the areas that they propose to develop instead of getting an ecologist on board as something they feel compelled to do or as an afterthought. We would like to see a Warrington Guide to good environmental practice issued to all applicants.

We do not want further wildlife sites status challenged, undermined and destroyed as they were at Rixton, where they totally ignored for several by the enforcement and planning team. We do not want to see such technical escape clauses being activated by default under stealth. We do not want to see any other Wildlife site face extinction. We would like these and other wildlife sites to receive the highest level of protection that they deserve especially if when as seems highly likely we leave the EU because of Brexit.

The significance and status of these places have been achieved by our members and partners collecting huge amounts of data over decades of hard work. There are numerous prominent eminent environmentalists like David Bellamy (Risley Moss), Woolston Eyes (Chris Packham) who have put their name and support behind the Borough’s Sites of Special Scientific Interest as well as BBC documentaries that have all highlight the important wildlife sites of Warrington.

One example was when David Lindo (Urban Jungle North West) visited Warrington because he was made aware of numerous groups with wildlife stories to tell. His visit in the summer of 2013 was facilitated by members of the WNCF who showed him the Swift colonies (highlighted by the Swift renown & local expert Brian Martin), hedgehog hospital, etc. Even Jeremy Paxman travelling down the River Mersey through Warrington, not to mention the growing number of seals lending their environmental support. Both highlighted the importance of Woolston Eyes.

 

 

The WNCF has been involved in many surveys to designation many sites in compiling the evidence that acknowledges their importance as Wildlife sites. We argue strongly that they must be protected against bulldozer and tons of brick and concrete, covering the landscape beyond all recognition. Once destroyed by large developments or damaged through encroachment these habitats cannot be recreated and will be lost for ever.

We mustn’t forget that there are other areas for example where wild orchids grow that need protecting during the summer months and we are appreciative of the work and partnership that we have with WBC as we develop that protection and policies just as we did to protect birds during the breeding season that are now followed and enforced. We would like to see the growth of other places in and around the Town where for example invertebrates are thriving and provide food for the wildlife food chain, in wild flower meadows, nectar for the bees providing a safe haven for them away from pesticides etc.

 

 

 

We believe that biggest threat to Wildlife sites is by lack of management that could result in de-designation.  We believe that the local plan should also be forward thinking in accordance with NERC Duty with reference to rECORd (the Local Biological Records Centre serving Cheshire, Halton, Warrington and Wirral) and a view to exploring the potential for new sites for designation. It would be ideal if developments located near or next to LWS sites have some element to support such maintenance of wildlife sites built into the approval process as occurred in the Croft development.

Developers must be educated in the way that they can support and reduce to a minimum any impact they may cause. There is a need for plans to be scrutinised by a competent ecologist, looking for how plans can be ecologically enhanced.

It must be beholden on WBC to offer the appropriate advice, expertise and knowledge to help the developers achieve a high standard of care for the environment as part of the planning process. Following approval then the development of the site must be monitored on a regular basis to make sure that appropriate and timely action is taken to rectify any deviation from the agreed plans. On a larger scale, we expect the same to be done with larger construction projects, networks etc as they have been with the Merseylink bridge by Halton.

 

LINESCAPES – connectivity and networking

We feel that the local plan should say something about identifying new sites and joining up sites to create a eco network, maybe recognizing existing networks of paths as ecosystems worth saving.

Members of the Warrington Nature Conservation Forum believe that the Local Plan must identify the measures to mitigate, protect and even create new wildlife places. The Local Plan should be an opportunity to make sure that their boundaries are protected and that wherever possible they are connected as described by Hugh Warwick in his research and his book “LINESCAPES – Remapping and Reconnecting Britain’s Fragmented Wildlife”, along with green corridors and green canopies.

One of the largest and significant LWSs under threat is Moore Nature Reserve (originally 2 LWS but more recently combined into one). It is an incorporated as part of the Local Plan’s Waterfront encroached by the Peel Port’s development of the Port of Warrington.

 

This comes as a great shock to our members when they viewed the plans and they cannot believe the potential damage and loss to one of Warrington’s premier wildlife sites and what are the provisions to protect from flooding?

Peel Ports is offering up a huge chunk of their land for the development of the Port of Warrington. The is part of the Waterfront Development that will accommodate in total 4,000 units (houses and industry).

 

 

 

This has been a hugely successful wildlife site development of the extended Nature Reserve that has become a home to bitterns  (rated amber), heronry and so much more. ‘Friends of Moore Nature Reserve’ has many active members and it has been well supported by thousands of people from near and afar. Anyone who saw the early developments of 20 years ago and returns now will marvel at the changes, they just get better and better. However now that the funding from WREN due to closure of Arpley Tip is taking place there is an issue of future funding following the capping of the site. The transition to a regional park needs to have wildlife conservation and biodiversity to the forefront as well as a carefully thought out plan for the appropriate management features in what the MGET is already looking at being a Mountain on which hides can be sited to view the birds and tidal surges on the Upper Mersey Estuary across to Fiddlers Ferry.

 

Hides provide great leisure places for bird watchers and people travel long distances to see the type of wildlife that has been attracted to this place. Having said this at the opposite end of the spectrum are the vandals who have recently set ablaze a hide not only here but at Risley Moss. For this place to be built on or around (the map isn’t too clear) is certainly a retrograde step in our view and we wonder what consideration has been given to managing the flood plain. It is one of Warrington’s great successes that needs to be promoted not threatened by layers of concrete.

We imagine that many people in the Town are unaware of Moor Nature Reserve and to take it away from those who are yet to discover the hides, walks, peace and quiet is a great shame. Warrington needs to learn about how to promote such places and educate and inform people about where they are and their value as an asset.

Wildlife sites should be an opportunity for a promoting a positive future outcome. These places should be lauded and their benefits actively publicised. Ideally these principles could be incorporated

The proposed increase of units means that the original plan’s impact must be revisited because the surface area under construction has increased across a wider area. The impact on local wildlife sites is therefore even more of an issue than it was.

Given that these areas are spread out there should be a greater emphasis on connectivity as the smaller isolated areas run a great danger of collapsing inwardly.

Moore Nature Reserve (MNR) consists of two original LWS’s that have been merged into one circa 2012. A huge amount of data records has been gathered for Moore and is held on rECORd thanks to some very dedicated people there over the years. It would be worth not just focussing on the LWS designation for the site but how the records stack up, e.g. we suspect the records and species lists for the site compare well to SSSI’s and LNR/NNR’s. That would be one avenue to really push. We don’t want LWS’s to get dumbed down and face little or no protection in planning terms. Focus on the sites strengths such as the species and habitats as well as the huge community asset it is for recreation (don’t use the words dog walking!!)

With all this new impact, we don’t want to be having to search for the green space or be quoting from the Joni Mitchel’s song Big Yellow Taxi saying ‘they paved paradise and put up a parking lot!  Or as one ecologist has been heard to say, “we don’t mean cycle ways with strategically planted token trees!” What we need are proper creation of habitat links and enhancements to existing ones.”. This should be designated on the outline plans up front as well as the bridges ready for the later detailed plans in spring 2018. We need development that is sustainable for the natural environment.

Mersey Forest Plan

The Mersey Forest continues to develop a growing network of woodlands and green spaces across Cheshire and Merseyside, it has been creating ‘woodlands on your doorstep’ for 25 years. This organisation has won numerous awards for its planning and has a comprehensive plan for future development as well as organising international and regional conferences.

At recent conferences in Birmingham and Liverpool attention has turned to the thought provoking concept of the Northern Forest or a green Northern Powerhouse Canopy stretching from Delamere Forest, through Warrington, Merseyside, Lancashire, Yorkshire and across to Hull.

Within this is the concept of the development of associated industries to do with wood, e.g. a new Widnes power plant drawing from the management of plantation areas harvested by Eddie Stobbart down to a local level of people harvesting for their wood stoves and in doing so helping manage a sustainable woodland.

Educational resources are another activity at the micro level planting school orchards at Warrington Schools to learning forestry and carpentry skills. Skills that can be used on local projects along with training at local colleges such as Myerscough and Reaseheath.

Warrington Borough Council has over the last two years ceased to fund the likes of the Mersey Forest, Cheshire Wildlife Trust, WNCF, reCORd as well as the Wildlife Environmental Officer. This is despite the excellent work these organisations have done in the Borough. The Mersey Forest for example has a very successful first 25 years and has produced a plan for the next 25 years and the Town shouldn’t have to miss out participating in that great vision due to it’s lack of insight into a green future.

We call for rethink as to why this is going on and the impact that it is ultimately having on the wildlife and the wildlife habitat. The council has not only thrown away expertise, but it has broken links to a great Cheshire Ecology Network.

Mersey Gateway Environmental Trust (MGET)

The MGET whilst younger than the Mersey Forest shares many of its values. In the brief seven years that it has been in existence it has grown in significance and has seen successful ecological expertise that are of benefit to the Upper Mersey Estuary plan that extends from Widnes, Fiddler’s Ferry and the development and PhD research of the regeneration of the salt marshes along with long-horn cattle grazing to stimulate the recovery of wildlife to Woolston Weir were monitoring of salmon is taking place.

There is no reference within the local plan to the vision of plans of the MGET which is a key partner that has a planned 30-year interest in the Upper Mersey Estuary and therefore the Regional Park, Waterfront, Moore Nature Reserve and beyond. It is believed that the RSPB have expressed a key interest in being involved within the area.

Whilst the two new bridges/routes aren’t the same scale as the Merseylink crossing, they should be taking heed of lessons learnt and any offers of advice and help. A great deal of assistance has been received by the MGET that demonstrate assistance and co-operation can be achieved from such a partnership. It would be good to see WBC successful follow this model and develop a working relationship with the construction companies and developers to ensure that long lasting ecological benefits are accrued that will benefit the area.

Land loss offset

We understand that for any land lost e.g. greenfield or brownfield then the DEFRA Biodiversity offsetting metric should be applied, is this the case with the local plan? Has there or will there be any S106 funding available that can be used towards environmental projects or mitigation, there is talk that S106 money from Omega was destined to be spent on Gatewarth Phase 2 and on creating grassland somewhere, if so is this still in the pipeline?

Green Energy

Are there any plans for developing Green Energy sites? A few years ago, these were discussed and modelled as part of the Climate Change initiatives being considered by WBC but nothing came from those tentative ideas, for example a small wind farm on the higher reaches of Warrington. Are there any proposals to improve air quality especially near to the many sites close to the large motorway network?

Geoff Settle

(Chair WNCF)

PRESS RELEASE Warrington Local Plan and Western Link: Comments from Warrington Nature Conservation Forum

Warrington Local Plan and Western Link

Warrington Nature Conservation Forum

The 500 members of the Warrington Nature Conservation Forum (WNCF) are concerned about the threat that the proposal of 24,000 houses bring to the Warrington’s natural environment and it’s 69 wildlife sites whose patronage includes Chris Packham and Professor David Bellamy.

They want to see a stronger vision of how WBC intends to promote a sustainable natural environment. Policies such as Biodiversity and Geodiversity (QE5) and Environmental and amenity protection (QE6) of the Local Plan Core Strategy need to be more robust considering the changes.

WNCF chair, Geoff Settle said “This is an opportunity for WBC to incorporate a vision that will enhance and improve Warrington’s natural environment and make it a healthier place to live and work in. I have submitted two consultation papers outlining our views.

“We know that environmental protection is under the cosh from the answer given to our Full Council Question last year. Austerity was blamed for the loss of their Natural Environmental Officer post, our removal from the council web site, reduced funding for wildlife partners and planning application with wildlife content were transferred to the Greater Manchester Environment Unit in Tameside.”

The WNCF do not want to have any more Local Wildlife Sites de-designated. This occurred a couple of years ago in Rixton when a developer took WBC to a Planning Inquiry and won. The natural environment is also under threat from vandals destroying hides and platforms most recently at Moore Nature Reserve and Risley Moss respectively. It is also being destroyed by speculative rogue developers who cut down trees and destroy habitat that has taken centuries to evolve so that they can submit their application. Their intent is to claim that the development site has little or no biodiversity value and believing that they have outwitted the enforcement team by destroying the evidence.

Founder member Brian Martin, a renowned ornithologist and Swift expert, would like to see the inclusion of wildlife maps as overlays. He said, “Overlays would help show how the proposed Local Plan will map onto the existing 69 wildlife sites, Mersey Forest Green Infrastructure plan and the Environmental Agency’s Upper Mersey Flood plain. Without these laid on top of the Local Plan it is very hard to make sense of many parts of the plans.”

The WNCF argue that the Local Plan should be an opportunity to protect and develop wildlife networks, as advocated by Hugh Warwick in his latest book “LINESCAPE Remapping and Reconnecting Britain’s Fragmented Wildlife”, rather than create roads and estates that fragments these wildlife routes and encourage the greater use of cars adding to Warrington’s shameful pollution statistics.

Ecologist Rob Smith who is also a member of Risley Moss Action Group (RIMAG) said “Our SSSI sites are home to many birds that appear on the ‘UK’s list of ‘Birds of Conservation Concern(BoCC)’. They are a major reason why Warrington’s Site of Scientific Intertest (SSSI) and Local Wildlife Sites citations exist especially those of Woolston Eyes, Risley Moss and Moore Nature Reserve (MNR).

“The MNR site that is at greatest risk from the Local Plan and the proposed development of the Port of Warrington and the Waterfront. There are at least six BoCC Red listed (the highest conservation value) species of birds found there including the lesser spotted woodpecker and song thrush and at least nine species on the Amber list including the seldom seen but often heard Bitten that makes a booming sound.”

Forum members would like WBC and developers to commit to the development of new wildlife sites, innovative policies and agreements.

A housing developer in Croft has recently removed invasive plants like Himalayan Balsam from their site and enhanced a wildlife pond as part of its development commitment. Brian Martin has advised a Cheshire house builder how to incorporate special bricks for Swifts to nest in the eaves of new houses. This has resulted in re-establishing a colony when they return from Southern Africa to breed. WBC have in the past taken advice from the WNCF to deliver policies to halt to hedge cutting during the bird nesting season and more recently agreed to protect rare and sensitive Wild Bee Orchid sites from being mowed down in Stockton Heath. Two years ago 50 Bee Orchids were seen at the site but this year only 4 flowered after the site had been mowed and churned up, hopefully it will not be too late to save this beautiful specimen that imitates a bee.

These are just four examples of what may seem like small things but the WNCF believe that they do make a big difference to wildlife and if WBC can encourage developers to do more things like this through their policies then Warrington will be a better place to live in.

Dr Paul Speake social media officer said “The WNCF do not want to be quoting from the Joni Mitchel’s song Big Yellow Taxi saying, ‘WBC paved paradise and put up a parking lot!’ The Local Plan should be a vision that makes people want to live, visit and invest their future here whilst at the same time protecting and increasing the biodiversity of the place. 

“We want a healthy sustainable natural environmental strategy that protects the wildlife and in turn the people of Warrington and as Hugh Warwick argues if the wildlife habitat is healthy then so will the associated population’s health and wellbeing.

“You can read the full transcripts of the two documents we have submitted as part of the Local Plan and Western Link consultation on our new web site  https://www.wncf.co.uk/ and Facebook page.”

Geoff Settle

Chair Nature Conservation Forum

Fly tipping, happening more and more often

Dear Editor,

Warrington Nature Conservation Forum (WNCF) are asking people to respect the countryside whilst we still have some left in Warrington.

A couple of years ago they campaigned and got WBC to place a waste bin on Delph Lane at the start of the footpath to Croft and Houghton Green Pool. It was the time when the BBC’s weather lady Diane Oxberry featured the fly-grazing horses grazing on the land in her news programme North West Tonight.
Secretary Roger Lamming said “I have enjoyed visiting Houghton Green Pool for many years but one issue that annoys me is the way litter is discarded by visitors, BBQs and fires in the summer months.
At our last annual litter pick we collected several black bin bags full of plastic bottles, crisp packets, cigarette cartons, dog poo bags hanging from branches and two dinghies.
Visitors could easily have carried most of these things to our waste bin or taken them home!”
Last Wednesday WNCF chair Geoff Settle was running from Cinnamon Brow to the wildlife site to check on the Pool’s water level. He crossed over the M62 Delph Lane bridge and headed downhill towards the footpath. He stopped halfway down the hill when he saw a mass of rubbish tipped down the steep embankment. It looked like it had come from a low loaded lorry that had fly-tipped plastic crates, toys and all sorts of household rubbish.

He said “I had my camera with me and shot a small video of what I saw there and 20 meters further on by the waste bin where there is lots of litter and five tyres
https://www.facebook.com/geoff.settle/videos/10215172648890607/
“I also took some photographs and logged details on the WBC fly-tipping web page
https://www.warrington.gov.uk/flytipping

ref: 412130.

The problem doesn’t stop here, farmers in Winwick are constantly battling to stop fly-tipping on their land by barricading field entrances with straw bales. The countryside is following the rest of Warrington in having to deal with these issues unfortunately everywhere is under siege.

Geoff said, “Not only does it look unsightly, but the rubbish poses a great threat to local wildlife. There must be smarter ways that will lead to convictions of these cowboys and litter louts such as:

  1. Use of wildlife cameras featured Countryfile and record details of the fly-tippers, perhaps their vehicle registration.
  2. Litter warden scheme my local Parish Council, Poulton with Fearnhead Parish have started a pilot scheme. The warden has already collected a lorry load of rubbish and two car tyres in a few days. However, the Parish shouldn’t be duplicating the work that we are paying WBC to do.
  3. More educational visits to schools by Phil Chadwick, WBC’s educational waste and recycling educational officer. He does fantastic work and hopefully the children go home through peer pressure spread the word of a cleaner environment.
  4. We need more people reporting and logging details about fly-tipping, litter and dog fouling. The more evidence gathered leading to prosecutions and fines the better.

Kind regards
Geoff Settle – Chair WNCF

WNCF AGM and a talk on the Carbon Landscape Project

 

The Warrington Nature Conservation Forum (WNCF) met at the Fiddlers Ferry Power Station Educational Resource Centre again this year on Saturday 2nd December. The centre is a great resource centre used by many schools in Warrington and Widnes and they wish to thank Gemma for hosting the event.

Our speaker this year was Jenny Griggs (Community Engagement Officer) of the Lancashire Wildlife Trust (LWT). She gave a brilliant talk on “The Carbon Landscape Project” click on this link http://www.carbonlandscape.org.uk for more details and short video.

Her talk was followed by a lengthy exchange of some very interesting questions with the WNCF members passing on to Jenny a list of partners details and what they could offer.

One of the outcomes for the Carbon Project is to link up the mosses and coalfields of parts of Manchester and Warrington. They will be attempting to map for visitors a wildlife corridor with a marathon 26-mile central spine and involve volunteer groups and individuals over the next 5 years.

The chair pointed out that the WNCF had expressed a view to link up wildlife sites as part of the Warrington Local Plan developing the ideas of Hugh Warwick in his book Linescapes.  Jenny said “The LWT have estimated that there are over 100,000 people within 10 minutes walking distance of the Carbon Project or half of Warrington Town’s population.

David Nowell (New Cut Heritage and Ecology Trail) posted later in the day on the WNCF Facebook site “Very interesting meeting. Particularly, Jenny Griggs’ presentation on the Carbon Landscape.” It was Dave’s first WNCF meeting and we hope that he will spread the word and return for our spring meeting, details will appear on our new web site www.WNCF.co.uk  where you can join up or ask questions via our contact page and don’t forget out Facebook site “Warrington Nature Conservation Forum” which usually has at least one update per day of interest.

The Treasurer (Brian Martin of Woolston Eyes) and Chair, Geoff Settle reported that two years after Warrington Borough Council divorced itself from the WNCF the Forum had a bit of money in the bank and a developing media base on which to go forward. The treasurer had found a venue for the quarterly WNCF exec meeting in exchange for him doing their gardening.

With a membership of almost 550 LIKES one issue is to translate that into bums on seats at meetings so that more can find out about the great Nature Conservation work going on in the Town by the many wildlife groups can be further highlighted.

In interview on Radio Warrington earlier in the week presenter the Tuesday and Thursday afternoon slots, Steve Lewis made a remarked “people don’t appear to be that interested in Wildlife in Warrington”.

Geoff replied “Well some are very enthusiastic, and they are beavering away quietly in small groups actively trying to conserve what we have. We were set up by WBC following the World Rio Conference in 1990’s to act as a voice for Warrington and shout about Nature conservation and Biological Diversity and get people to learn more through doing stuff.

Hence our 11 pages of evidence to the Local Plan and the Western Link.

It was good to hear from Jenny say, ‘WBC was one of the 22 partners in the Carbon Landscape Project.’

So, maybe we are not shouting and writing in vain, hopefully are views and are being read and considered. We will continue to be a conduit, but people should remember that we are all volunteers with limited resources (time and money) so the more people that we can get involved the better chance we can have of raising awareness along with our partners.”

Geoff Settle

Chair Nature Conservation Forum

Nature Natters (6) Wild Flower Campaign

WNCF – Wild flower campaign: Bee-Orchids – Nature Natters (6)

Bee Orchids (Ophrys apifera) are wild flowers that look like bees on a spike but they are sensitive to disturbance and can be difficult to spot however when you do you will be amazed at what you see. The Bee Orchids of Stockton Heath inspired me to make them the subject of a watercolour painting that I submitted in the local arts competition.

It was one of our members who first reported seeing them at a Greenall Avenue site. He sent me a map of their location which I passed on to Warringgton Bourogh Council so that they would protect them by leaving an unmown strip. It turned out that a trainee didn’t receive the message in time and mowed them down. Fortunately, no damage was done to the 50 Bee Orchids that were in the adjacent small wood.

A year later, as part of a cost saving exercise, WBC stopped mowing grass verges across the borough allowing the landscape to return to its natural habitat of tall grassland. In one of these patches in Birchwood, alongside the expressway, more than 100 Bee Orchid spikes and 50 Marsh Orchids (Dactylorhiza praetermissa) flourished, hidden amongst the tall grass.

Unfortunately, since then both sites have been mowed annually destroying any chance of them growing. To make matters worse this year some of the young saplings in the Greenall Avenue wood were cut down and turned into saw dust which was scattered across the wood and over the Bee Orchids. The net result was that this year only 4 Bee Orchid spikes were found in the wood and none at the grassland area.

This summer our eagle-eyed member has found a new site further on a grass verge further up Greenall Avenue but before the land owner could be alerted their grass cutter operative had mowed them down.

These examples go to show just how fragile wildlife is and why it needs to be protected. We hope that WBC will adopt policies like Suffolk Wildlife Trust’s web page that states “Bee orchids are protected, as are all wild flowers, under Section 13 of the Wildlife and Countryside Act (1981). This section prohibits unauthorised and intentional uprooting of any wild plant. In addition, because orchids are particularly slow growing and may only flower once in their lifetime, it is important to never pick the flowers.”

We are more hopeful for next year because both the private landowner and WBC have agreed to refrain from mowing these grassed areas during the Bee Orchid’s brief flowering season and for future years.

We are so lucky to have at least three sites in Warrington and our aim is to protect them as best we can. We need your help, so If you come across any wildlife sites that you feel need protecting then please contact the WNCF via our contact web page www.wncf.co.uk and tell us about what you have found.

 

Geoff Settle

Warrington Westernlink Red Route

Warrington Westernlink Red Route comments from the Warrington Nature Conservation Forum

 

 

 

I  am writing on behalf of the Warrington Nature Conservation Forum, as Chair, to express the views and opinions of our members concerning aspects of the Warrington Red Route Plan.

Red Route

Our membership consists of hundreds of Warrington residents with a keen interest in Wildlife, several of whom are local ecologists and our partners such as Cheshire Wildlife, rECORd, RIMAG, Mersey Gateway Environmental Trust(MGET) and Liverpool Museum. Between them they have entered thousands of sightings into the rECORd database that is used as evidence to verify the biodiversity status of wildlife sites and scrutinise planning applications across the Borough of Warrington.

We have already spelt out and submitted our concerns about aspects of the Warrington Local Plan several aspects of which are broadly applicable in this case and hope that they will be taken on board with this submission.

We hope that our suggestions and ideas will be incorporated into the final plans rather than be ignored at the expense of the wildlife networks of green corridors, green canopy, water network etc. Examples can be seen on such approaches by the work of the Environment Agency and their flood defence work, the Mersey Gateway Environmental Trust monitoring the new bridge build and the many projects large (Saltmarsh) and small (Orchids) as well as Mersey Forest plantations to name but a few.

The red route is only a few miles away from the construction of the £600 million Merseylink Bridge. This has been the first major engineering project in the UK, maybe in the World, to have been built in association with the Mersey Gateway Environmental Trust (MGET). It also runs close to the construction of a second bridge that links Chester Rd to Slutchers Lane/Centre Park where an environmental impact assessment screening has been requested by Warrington Borough Council on the absorption capacity of habitats identified as sensitive. We will be watching with interest.

It would seem appropriate that WBC should consult with the organisations to see what lessons and practices by for example Merseylink can be learned that can benefit the Westernlink. The Merseylink Project did for example deal with expected and unexpected pockets of waste especially chemical, a huge traffic management exercise either side of the bridge, demolition of many buildings, extensive wildlife monitoring (that will continue for several decades) which includes birds on the estuary, aquatic life within the Mersey, the estuary embankments of salt marsh, transfer and relocation of wild orchids etc.

Following the opening of the new Merseylink bridge the monitoring will be managed by the MGET. The MGET’s area of interest includes part of the Warrington’s red route Westernlink network maybe WBC should contact them to see what is involved rather than duplicate effort as they both share the same water course of the River Mersey.

The route doesn’t simply mean the construction of bridges across the Manchester Ship Canal and the River Mersey but it also means development of a network of roads (yet to be shown – but whose intersections give an indication of) for housing development. These roads of course are the nodes from which the Local Plan will be developed. It would be of great benefit if the whole network is shown on the Local Plan map so that people can see the intent and extent of the routes planned to be constructed.

If this route does get government approval and funding then we have concerns for the green areas that it will change particularly Sankey Valley Park, Morley Common, the United Utilities tree plantation memorial garden and others. It would appear from the Red route map that adjacent green pathways and networks will be untouched and hopefully maintained as Rights of Way. These are of great importance to both wildlife and humans be they walkers, cyclists and horse riders to name but a few.

We would argue for the need for great care with these and other local natural environments with EIAs where appropriate. These sites all require monitoring against impact, before and after, the networks construction with detailed measures, processes and procedures to mitigate any potential damage to these places and the River Mersey.

As stated in our comments, submitted for the local plan consultation, it would be very useful to be able to views overlay plans that WBC partners have in mind. These include Peel Holding and its Port of Warrington, Environmental Agency Flood Plains, Mersey Gateway Environmental Trust’s area of interest etc along the lines of map overlays already featured on the WBC interactive maps where various layers can be switched on and off.

Obviously, the impact of commuters has led to the need to find a solution to the Warrington Town grid-lock issues and need for change, but has the additional volume from industry and the Port of Warrington been considered as these organisations adapt by changing and modifying their routes, what is the networks sustainability life-span? Will there be a need for any form of sound proofing for the neighbourhoods along the route?

Talking of networks, we would like the planners to explore the need to mitigate the natural network of species in the area. We would like to see a review of the data held on the RODIS data base managed by rECORd and Cheshire Wildlife Trust to ensure that any such networks found are not destroyed. It might be that such investigations might lead to the creation of a new Local Wildlife Site that if designated would enhance the quality of the place and show that WBC has a VISION that incorporates and respects the NATURAL ENVIRONMENT. If it’s right for the wildlife then it will be right for the humans as argued by Hugh Warwick in his book LINESCAPE. We don’t need a vision of a concrete jungle purely driven by the Government targets we would like to see greater input and local control.

Austerity measures have unfortunately seen the demise of the WBC environmental office and the transfer of some of the services that they used to provide, to the Greater Manchester Ecology Unit based in Tameside. Some of our partners have had their funding from WBC reduced or withdrawn and we ourselves have lost our presence from the WBC web site after a couple of decades. It used to be an active portal with links to wildlife groups and archive of WNCF newsletters until it was removed in 2016 shortly after being updated! All these actions were confirmed as being due to cost cutting in a reply to our environmental question posed at Full Council twelve months ago. We hope that such action hasn’t reduced are ability to influence decisions, after all it was WBC who set up the WNCF decades ago.

Risley Moss

None of the 3rd sector wildlife groups and individuals want wildlife sites to be reduced or threatened in any way instead we are asking for a clearer statement of how the places especially LWS sites they support are to be protected, enhanced, created and if appropriate linked especially between like species and environments. We believe that by doing so the final version of the Local Plan will be improved and more sustainable for wildlife and enhance our surroundings.

 

Moore Nature Reserve

The Immediate area contains the Moore Nature Reserve, a vibrant footpath network, plans for a new Regional Park, Sankey Valley Park and Morley Common and more. We believe strongly that these natural resources should be linked in some way and an environmental plan drawn up to pull them closer together in an accessible way for nature to thrive and people to appreciate.

We feel that the local plan should say something about identifying new sites and joining up sites to create a eco network, by using existing networks of paths, rivers, tributaries as ecosystems worth saving, along the lines of the thoughts of Hugh Warwick in his book “LINESCAPES – Remapping and Reconnecting Britain’s Fragmented Wildlife”,

Members of the Warrington Nature Conservation Forum believe that the Local Plan must identify the measures to mitigate, protect and even create new wildlife places. Any plans should be an opportunity to make sure that their boundaries are protected and that wherever possible they are connected as described by Hugh Warwick in his research and his book along with green corridors and green canopies.

It must be beholden on WBC to offer the appropriate advice, expertise and knowledge to help and encourage developers to achieve a high standard of care for the environment as part of the planning process.

Following approval, the development of the Westernlink must be monitored on a regular basis to make sure that appropriate and timely action is taken to rectify any deviation from the agreed plans. On a larger scale, we expect the same to be done with larger construction projects, networks etc as they have been with the Merseylink bridge by Halton.

Having cited networks for the good they can be used for there is also a need to keep at bay wherever possible the evasive plants that are common alongside river and stream banks and using the water course networks on an inappropriate way. A policy for eradicating or at the very least preventing further expansion of the evasive species would be very welcolmed.

We would welcome the inclusion of being able to identify potential water vole’s habitat and increase the opportunity of improving their environment of any tributaries in the area for them and other species. We know that Cheshire Wildlife Trust have done an extensive study upstream in the Sankey Brook. One thing that this did highlight was the extent of evasive plants covering and destroying the banks of the rivers and streams which have eroded the water vole’s habitat, let’s not add to that negative situation.

One of the largest and significant LWSs under threat is Moore Nature Reserve (originally 2 LWS but more recently combined into one). It is an incorporated as part of the Local Plan’s Waterfront encroachment by the Peel Port’s development of the Port of Warrington. This new Westernlink routes, will open developments in the area whilst at the same time increase the risk to wildlife.

Our members are still coming to terms with what impacts the proposed changes will bring and is a great shock to them to see how close this construction and the rest of the local plan impact on Moore Nature Reserve and the surrounding area. It would be good if compensation could be made to mitigate any disturbance(s) that might accrue.

This has been a hugely successful wildlife site development especially the extended Nature Reserve which that has become home to at least six BoCC Red species of bird including the lesser spotted woodpecker and song thrush and at least nine species on the BoCC Amber list. ‘Friends of Moore Nature Reserve’ has many active members and it has been well supported by thousands of people from near and afar. Anyone who saw the early developments of 20 years ago and returns now will marvel at the changes, they just get better and better. However now that the funding from WREN, due to closure of Arpley Tip, has been ended from this resource once the remedial work to cap the Top is complete.

The transition to a regional park needs to have a formal wildlife conservation and biodiversity management plan in place as well as a carefully thought out plan for appropriate management features such as what the MGET is already looking such hides being sited to view the flocks of birds and tidal surges on the Upper Mersey Estuary across to Fiddlers Ferry.

Hides provide great leisure places for bird watchers and people travel long distances to see the and learn about the wide variety of wildlife that continues to be attracted to this place. Having said this at the opposite end of the spectrum are the vandals who have recently set ablaze a hide at MNR and a few miles away at Risley Moss. For this place to be built on or around (the map isn’t too clear) is certainly a retrograde step in our view and we wonder what consideration has been given to managing the flood plain. It is one of Warrington’s great successes that needs to be promoted not threatened by layers of concrete.

In conclusion although to some this is simply a road network it is on our view a very complex and rich natural resource. We await details of a more detailed plan and would like to anticipate receiving details of endeavours to protect and managed the rich wildlife that will be found within the ecologists reports and analysis. There are also local wildlife groups, organisations, experienced individuals and ecologists and rangers that WBC can draw from.

We believe that by doing so measures and suggestions at a finer level will be forthcoming that will be of benefit to the wildlife, people, diversity of ecology and future vision for Warrington adding to its many great wildlife sites provided it broadens its approach and outlook as it has done in the past. We need to be creating an environment for people and wildlife to live in harmony and thrive alongside each other enhancing each groups wellbeing.

 

Kind regards

Geoff Settle

Chair Warrington Nature Conservation Forum.

Nature Natters (5) Borough Bird Life

Borough Bird Life – Nature Natters 5

Even in the depths of our wintertime our resident birdlife is busy protecting its own little piece of land.  Our lovable robin will sing its delightful song throughout this time and we may be forgiven for indulging ourselves to think he is singing those honey sweet harmonies just for us, but what to us is a sweet melody, to other robins is a warning to keep away as they will fight fiercely, even to the death to preserve their food source for themselves and any future mate and young family.

You may have seen a local thrush indignantly, striving to preserve its berry crop from marauding winter visitors such as Redwings and Waxwings intent on plundering his winter larder.  Mixed flocks of small birds move busily through our tree lines scouring the canopies for the smallest of live morsels or tiny pine cone seeds.  In this day and age many people help our wild birds by supplying seed and insect impregnated suet feeders etc, important at all times of the year but especially so throughout the colder months.  Our benevolence will save an infinite number of lives but do please remember to keep your feeding stations clean and free from harmful bacteria.

In the latter part of March, through April and into May, while our winter visitors are departing our shores, driven by instinct towards summer breeding grounds, we are blessed with the return of our own migrant birds to their place of birth here in the British Isles. Many of these birds will have flown thousands of miles from sub Saharan Africa very likely to the same bush or singing post it sang from last spring.  How many of us, even those who know little about our birdlife will still comment with pleasure on seeing their first Swallow arriving for the summer.

Other migrant birds are passing through our lands in this vast movement, perhaps Fieldfares to northern Europe, Redwings to Iceland or Wheatears to Greenland.  This is a great time of the year to keep a look out for special birds.

The harsh months are now behind us.  Summer is here and we have already observed the solstice, our feathered friends have sung their enchanting songs and attracted a mate although some species pair up for life. Now they have built their nests, many that are literally works of art like the Long-tailed Tits’ domed creation which takes several weeks to complete, made with the softest materials of mosses, interwoven with fine spiders’ webs and camouflaged with lichen, then lined inside with up to 2000 feathers; so designed as to expand as the family grows inside – a masterpiece, surely the favourite for a Turner Prize.

In these modern times there is concern for our environment. Over the last half century records show much of our wildlife including birdlife has been in steady decline, due to a number of factors; however most concern is for the dramatic losses of our farmland birdlife: Skylark numbers down more than 60%, Corn Buntings, Tree Sparrows, Grey Partridges down by around 90% others such as Yellowhammers have suffered greatly due to changes in land management, farming intensification, increased pesticide, herbicide and fertiliser use, the removal of hedgerows and other non cropped features resulting in a massive loss of suitable feeding and nesting habitats causing a reduction of available food.

Equally since farmers are now growing two crops a year there are few or no fields being left in winter stubble which would help prevent mass starvations.  Some of our farmers have realised the gravity of the situation and are working very hard with programmes to help remedy the situation by creating rough field margins where weed and insect life can thrive and sometimes planting winter seed crops for wild birds but we need more farmers to become proactive if we are to halt these declines.  Countryside Stewardship schemes are still available from the government.

During our summertime there are countless thousands of fledgling birds which have left the nest but may not yet be able to fly and may be hiding in shrubbery in your garden or a local park etc waiting to be fed by parents.  Sometimes people mistakenly believe these birds have been abandoned or injured.  If you come across young chicks in your garden which are not yet able to fly, unless they are in immediate danger they should be left alone.  You can observe them from inside your property.  The parents are usually close by and will return to feed young once you are out of sight. If a bird is obviously injured, ring your local wildlife hospital or RSPCA for advice. Domestic cats kill millions of young birds every year. If you own one try to keep your pet indoors or away from this area for a few days until young birds are able to fly.  Cat collars are available with bell attached to help warn birds of an attack.

If you would like to get more involved or just keep up with local wildlife events then go to our new website at: www.wncf.co.uk

Les Jones.

Warrington Nature Conservation Forum.

Les Jones 28/6/2017

 

 

 

Nature Natters (4) Batty About Warrington

Imagine being able to fly at speed, day or night, weave in and out of natural or structural objects, detect, catch and eat food as you go and communicate with others whilst doing so?  Tricky maybe but not if you are a bat!

Bats are amazing creatures, a warm-blooded mammal that truly flies and often only noticed at dusk but which can be active throughout the night consuming thousands of insects in the process.  Most insects are eaten on the wing and although bats have good eyesight they prefer to hunt in the dark using a specialized form of sonar known as echo location, a high-pitched signal emitted by the bat which not only enables it to locate and avoid objects from the ‘echo’ it receives back from its calls but also as to where its prey is and even what size it maybe.

Although echo location is generally inaudible to most adult’s young ears can sometimes pick up the bat calls whilst the rest of us must rely on a piece of technology called a bat detector, a device which converts the high frequency sound of the bat to our level of hearing which in the process and with practice, allows us to identify the bats moving around us.

Of the 18 species of bat recorded in the UK, 17 species are known to breed here with a further 6 species regarded as rarities or vagrants.  Previous records show that in 1986 there were just six species of bat recorded in Cheshire with a further four species being added to the list by 2012 (The Mammals of Cheshire) and additional species being added since.

Species to look out for around the Warrington area include the Noctule one of the largest British species and usually the first to appear and easiest to recognize as they feed out in the open, often above tree top height where they are frequently noted going into sudden steep dives when chasing insects.  The Leislers is a bat of similar size and characteristics which also emerges before sunset and feeds in a similar manner to the Noctule.  Although Leisler’s bats are found throughout the UK there have only been a handful of records in Cheshire.

Other bats widespread in the region and most likely to be seen include the fast weaving flights of the Common and Soprano Pipistrelles, Daubentons and Natterer’s bats and in contrast the slower butterfly like flight of the Brown long Eared bat.  Two other species found around us include Whiskered and Brandt’s, both of which are similar in appearance and frequency of their echo location and only really identifiable in the hand or by use of sophisticated computer programs analysis of their calls.  In addition, albeit with limited data of its status and distribution, is the Nathusius Pipistrelle, a migrant species which appears to be on the increase in the UK generally and has been recorded on few occasions in Cheshire in recent years.  The Lesser Horseshoe is known to hibernate in the county and possibly recorded on rare occasions whilst there have been unverified records of two further species the Serotine and Barbastelle.

Although our knowledge of bats in the UK and Cheshire is continuously improving we still get the odd surprise and additions to the list when – through DNA analysis, a new species of bat is found to be present among similar types of bat as for example the Nathusius pipistrelle being separated from the Common and Soprano pipistrelle and more recently, the Alcathoe from Whiskered and Brandt’s.

You are never quite sure where you are going to find bats but generally if you venture out on a warm, calm night they can be seen and heard as they forage for insects in various locations such around barns, buildings, gardens, hedgerows, tree lined canals and waterways, ponds and lakes and where it is possible with the aid of a bat detector to listen too several individuals and species feeding there.

Although bats are warm blooded and very active between early spring and late autumn they are an insectivore and as such are dependent on temperature and especially the availability of insects.  Once temperatures fall and insects disappear bats are forced to go into hibernation which they might do so in caves, trees, tunnels or cavities in buildings during the winter period but may reappear for short periods during this time to drink or change location before going back into hibernation.

Sadly over the past 100 years the UK bat population has declined dramatically due in part to loss of roosting, hibernation and maternity sites, fragmentation and loss of habitat and in particular hedgerows which form important links between roosting and foraging sites but also the use of pesticides on crops which not only kill the insects but often the bats themselves whilst some timber treatments and roofing materials can also be harmful to bats.   Added to this is that UK bats also have a slow reproduction rate and only produce a single pup each breeding season as such population increase is slow and more long term but which can be quickly undone if they or their maternity sites are lost.

As a result, bats are now designated as a European Protected Species and are protected under the Wildlife and Countryside Act (1981) which not only gives individual bats and their roosts legal protection from harm or destruction.  Where building works are likely to impact on roosting or breeding bats then there is a legal and licensing process to follow as determined by Natural England, a necessary precaution in this day and age of fast change.

Bats are harmless mammals which do a great deal of good in the environment and cause no damage to property but if you are looking for more information and advice on bats check out the Bat Conservation Trust web site or ring the National Bat Help Line on 0345 1300 228.

You can also send Warrington Nature Conservation a message via our website http://www.wncf.co.uk/

Rob Smith is a founder member of the Warrington Nature Conservation Forum and a Consultant Ecologist.

 

Rob Smith

May 2017

Nature Natters (3) – Garden Bees

Nature: natters (3) – Garden Bees

The first bees to visit the garden in early spring are the bumblebees, the queens emerge from hibernation in early spring usually after the first spell of warm weather. Often the Buff-tailed Bumblebee is the first to emerge, this is our largest bee and as its name suggests has a buff coloured tip to the abdomen, the similar White-tailed Bumblebee is smaller and has a white tail, both have two yellow bands on a black body. The Red-tailed Bumblebee is jet black with an orange-red tail and the ginger-haired Common Carder Bee are also common garden visitors. Initially they will visit early flowers for nectar before seeking out a suitable nesting site, they will then begin to collect pollen to feed their offspring.

Bumblebee nests will often attract unwanted visitors in the form of Cuckoo Bumblebees, these have no workers and do not collect pollen, instead relying on the host species to rear their offspring. There are six species which have similar appearance to the species whose nest they take over, although they are less hairy and have a dark tinge to the wings.

The Honey Bee is another spring species, often appearing just after the bumblebees, these are slender bees and less hairy than bumblebees which live in large colonies. They collect both nectar and pollen straight away to replenish the stocks of supplies for the hive, the pollen is often visible on the hind legs of the bee.

Many species of solitary bee visit gardens, unlike bumblebees and honey bees they do not live in colonies although many nest in large numbers in close proximity. The female will construct a small nest often in the soil, in dead wood or even in soft mortar, she will then lay a small number of eggs. The eggs are provided with a supply of nectar and pollen and sealed within the nest, the majority will not hatch until the following year. The majority of solitary bees emerge in spring and are particularly important pollinators of fruit crops. Leaf-cutter Bees are an interesting group of solitary bees, the females of these insects are often responsible for cutting neat semi-circles from the leaves of roses. They will carry the cut section under their body back to the nest where they are used to line the cells in which the eggs are laid.

Solitary bees can be encouraged into the garden by providing suitable nesting sites, both natural and artificial, south or east facing situations work best, especially if there are nectar sources nearby. Holes up to 10mm in diameter can be drilled in logs or other wooden structures to various depths, these will attract a variety of species. Otherwise short lengths of bamboo cane or even drinking straws can be placed in bundles in suitable sites around the garden.

As with bumblebees the nests of solitary bees may be taken over by cuckoo bees which enter the nest where they lay their own eggs. These hatch out before those of the host species, they then feed on the contents of the nest cells prior to emerging. The so-called Nomad Bees are often the most obvious, these are almost hairless bees often with red, yellow and black stripes on the abdomen giving them a wasp-like appearance.

Recent declines in populations of many bee species has seen gardens and allotments become increasingly important as food sources and nest sites for many bee species. As part of the project to produce a distribution atlas of Hymenoptera in the Cheshire region RECORD are looking for volunteers to record visits by a selection of those bee species which regularly gardens or allotments. Details of the species concerned, their identification and recording form are available from the RECORD websitewww.record-lrc.co.uk or by post from the Zoology Department at World Museum, William Brown St, Liverpool, L3 8EN.

You can also send Warrington Nature Conservation a message via our new web sitehttp://www.wncf.co.uk/

Tony Parker – Assistant Curator Vertebrate Zoology

Zoology Department at World Museum

Digital Path Wardens take to Facebook

Digital Path Wardens take to Facebook

 

Path Warden Geoff Settle has just started his annual audit of footpaths within the Parish of Poulton with Fearnhead. His duties, like those of other volunteer Parish Path Wardens are to send regular reports to the Rights of Way lead officer, John Thorp about the condition, accessibility and signage of footpaths across the Borough.

Building on his time as the first Digital Mayor of Warrington and Knowledge Management advisor for Vertex Data Science, Geoff has trialled social media to see what benefits it can bring.

He set up a new Facebook page called the Warrington Rights of Way Forum and posted photographs and comments about six definitive footpaths (i.e. the ones with green signs).

The trial went well and John said at last week’s quarterly meeting of the Rights of Way “This looks like it could be very useful. I could get on the Forum page you’ve set up to view the photos and comments. Thanks for those. I intend to be in the area soon so will walk the paths and consider your requests.”

The obvious benefit is that a picture is worth a thousand words said Geoff and I he found the current paper forms a bit cumbersome.

He continued “I used to deliver simple web sites using Microsoft SharePoint as part of a Knowledge Management Team for clients like United Utilities and Westminster County Council and I am applying the basic principles we developed.

The Facebook is a free resource that path wardens can use to share information, it is easily accessible, paperless and we can quickly alert John by sending a photograph or video of the issue.”

As Chair of Warrington Nature Conservation Forum, we have been using it as an effective tool for many years. We have also added a Twitter account to make the process even better. They are both proving to be very successful and effective tools that have broadened our area of influence and enhanced our ability to communicate with our partners, members and the public.

The only problem Geoff has experienced so far has been when he I decided to start getting fitter. He combined path audits with his passion for running. Unfortunately, two weeks ago, whilst running fast along a footpath he tripped over some concealed branches and fell head first.

He said, “As I flew through the air I knew that it was going to be painful but as I sat on the ground getting some wind back into my lungs I managed to take a selfie to view the damage to my head.”

He has of course posted the selfie on Facebook and recovery is progressing well but don’t make him laugh as his ribs are still a bit tender.

Everyone is encouraged to get out and use the footpaths and post any comments etc on the Facebook site. To access just enter Warrington Rights of Way Facebook into the Facebook search engine or use this link.

https://www.facebook.com/Warrington-Rights-of-Way-Forum-411639655698624/

Geoff Settle 6/8/2017