This blog is a celebration of the nature in the South East and highlights ways you can get involved and explore nature in the region. If you've got news of the South East’s nature that you'd like to share, please contact the RSPB South East office on 01273 775333 or email SERComms@rspb.org.uk
London is officially the greenest Capital in Europe, with 40% of its area being public green space .. in fact worldwide, only Singapore (47%) and Sydney (46%) beat it.
But there's space for more trees, grass, hedges and wildflowers as well as more homes. We can build living walls and roofs. One architect recently unveiled plans for a hi-rise garden in the soon to be completed Walkie Talkie tower on Fenchurch Street. Great for the building users but not great for wildlife.
Some of our green spaces are wasteland or derelict sites. These too are slowly being transformed, as more and more people see their value for flood relief, recreation, nature and soaking up pollution.
One such plot of land has lain derelict for some time, but a devoted group of volunteers has raised money and given their time, sweat and passion to transform it from an industrial wasteland into a wildlife garden.
The Crossness Engines Trust in south east London had focused on the steam engines and industrial heritage on the Victorian site they manage. That was until they could find time to consider the adjacent yard. They've tranformed it, as the following images show, charting the change from an overgrown rubbish tip with contaminated soil, right through to blooming oasis.
I'm delighted to say that RSPB London had a tiny part to play in this magnificent project. Some of the wildflowers on the site came from seeds sent out as a thank you to participants in our Cockney Sparrow Count. Other people have sown theirs in pots on balconies, grass verges, flower beds and edges of lawns. Our Giving Nature a Home webpages offers free advice and ideas but what we really want is details of what YOU'RE doing for London's wildlife. @rspblondon
Staff at our Rainham Marsh nature reserve know when it's Wimbledon, even if they've stayed away from any newspapers, radio, TV, Magazines or the internet, because they suddenly get a rise in the number of tennis balls washing up along the Thames foreshore down the one side of the reserve.
It's not Serena William's whacking balls from Wimbledon into the river, it is more likely to be inspired fans dusting off racquets and stealing half-chewed balls back from their pet dogs for a quick knockabout in the parks and open spaces alongside the Thames.
Wimbledon sparks a reaction and people respond by imitating their heroes. So when Sir David Attenborough launched our State of Nature report, there was a mini-flurry of activity and support for nature conservation. It flags a 60% decline in the UK's wildlife; a scary fact. Flurries are welcome. Nature is relentless though and, like Andy Murray or Laura Robson, maintaining and managing it requires equally relentless hard work, investment and constant modification to allow for the nuances and impacts of other factors.
The RSPB is undergoing modification right now. We need to be match fit to deliver for nature and quite frankly, we'd let ourselves go a little bit. We've won many battles, but we're losing the war. Nature does well on our reserves, but less so elsewhere. We're now working on the structural European and national laws which support nature, from farming regulations right through to what some people with vested interests call the "red-tape binding the hands of development".
At the weekend I was working at the BBC Summer of Wildlife event at the London Wetland Centre, one of four events the RSPB London Team attended over the weekend. I was staggered by the blinkered mentality of some who claimed to support and enjoy wildlife and nature, yet whined about the changes the RSPB is undertaking. They did not want to enter into a rational discussion about why change is needed and simply believe it's a ploy to make money. Well, yes we DO want to increase our income, but only so we can do more for nature.
What we really want to do is build support and awareness for nature, so that more people are active for nature; not necessarily with the RSPB. We want nature to be top of everyone's agenda. It touches everyone's lives every day and without it, there would be no society.
Nature is in trouble and we're getting close to match point. Without mass support and effort, the investment required to sustain conditions for life will become intolerable. That's why it matters when house sparrow numbers fall. If such declines are left unchecked, my children will be among the last generation to hear cuckoos or see hedgehogs in the wild. What sort of parent would really want to pass on a depleted and ailing world to their off-spring? The ball’s in your court.