October, 2013

Our work

Our work
You might be surprised to read that our work is far broader than nature reserves and Big Garden Birdwatch. Read more about what else we do.

Bugs, Birds and Beasts in the East

All of our up to date fun and frolics in the East from office antics to great conservation stories and those magical connections with nature.
  • Nature’s heroes do battle in the Capital

    Blogger: Simon Tonkin, RSPB Senior Conservation Officer

    Andrew and Allison Bond are brilliant examples of wildlife friendly farmers, and like their namesake, 007, they too are heroes, in their own, understated, way. 

    Whilst they are not seen in pursuit of baddies across the vistas of iconic cities, their ideals and actions are just as heroic as any Bond plot line.  Andrew and Allison Bond are protecting the very foundation of our day to day life – our environment, and with it, some of our most cherished countryside wildlife.

    They’ve seen declining species such as turtle doves, lapwings and corn buntings come back to the farm together with fields full of butterflies, all as a result of taking the time and effort to manage their farmland to create a home for nature.

    But like any hero, they have battles to fight.  It costs money to manage their land for wildlife, and it often requires them to keep some of their land out of production. 

    As their work results in significant public benefit, it receives a public payment through the Common Agricultural Policy via Europe known as ‘agri-environment schemes’.

    But recent changes to these schemes have resulted in less money for protecting wildlife.

    RSPB together with our Birdlife partners across Europe continue to campaign tirelessly to get a fairer policy for farmers, wildlife and the taxpayer. We do have some possible saving grace for those doomed turtle doves or farmland butterflies through a process called modulation. Modulation is where a member state has the option of transferring up some of the funds from other areas of the Common Agricultural Policy that are widely recognised as wasteful and inefficient to the far more beneficial agri-environment schemes that pay for wildlife friendly farming. It is not about more money from tax payers, its just about being more sensible about how you spend the money available, and as a UK tax-payer, I know where I’d rather my money went!

    Farmers like Andrew and Allison Bond farm with wildlife in mind because they want to, but also because they can afford to, thanks to agri-environment funding.  However, when their scheme comes to an end, and without modulation, they may not be able to continue this great work and the tumbling lapwings, purring turtle doves and fluttering fields full of butterflies that now call Bryher Beef Farm home will be homeless.

    Like James Bond, all heroes need a little bit of help.  As well as being saved in the nick of time by some pretty innovative gadgets created by Q, 007 is at liberty to drop in for a bit of help from the British Government.  And that's exactly what Allison and Andrew Bond decided to do last week, when farmers from across the UK got together and went to Westminster to share their concerns with their MPs.

    In addition to this, Local MP Douglas Carswell, visited The Bond’s Bryher Beef Farm recently and recognised the importance of the work on the farm.  He is supportive of more funds for agri-environment schemes being made through transferring of the funds and has promised to write to the environment minister supporting this view.

    Agriculture holds such dominance in our European landscape and the Common Agricultural Policy is of pivotal importance for our farm wildlife.  You can help by:

    Showing the government that you care about farmland wildlife by taking part in the RSPB poll. (It takes just 5 seconds to complete and will make a huge difference)

    Writing to your MP to ask that they support wildlife friendly farmers.

    If you’d like to understand modulation in more detail, check out Martin Harper's Blog.

  • It’s time to re-wild our kids with more wild time

    Blogger: Rachael Murray, Communications Officer

    With Halloween around the corner, scary stuff is pretty de rigueur, but when the fear inducing fodder relates to our children’s connection with nature, we at the RSPB get unseasonably jittery.

    Recent news stories on the subject have highlighted that our future generation are on average spending four and a half hours a day surfing the internet or watching TV and time playing outside during the week and at weekends has halved in one generation.  And if that’s not enough, it’s also been found that fewer than 1 in 10 children regularly play in wild spaces, versus about half a generation ago.

    I told you it was frightening stuff!

    Which is why I am delighted that the RSPB has joined with over 370 partners including the National Trust and Play England to launch the UK’s biggest ever campaign to reconnect children with nature this week.

    Our mission is to encourage the nation’s parents to swap some of their kids’ screen time for wild time.

    Swapping thirty minutes of screen time for an extra half an hour of wild time every day would decrease children’s time in front of screens by ten per cent. This could help increase levels of physical activity, alertness and ultimately improve their well-being.

    This new campaign is being launched on the back of an important and compelling new documentary film, ‘Project Wild Thing’, which is being shown at over fifty cinemas across the UK from the 25 October.

    Three years in the making, ‘Project Wild Thing’ takes a funny and moving look at one of the most complex issues of the age – the increasingly fragile link between children and nature.

    In a bid to get his daughter and son off the sofa and outdoors, filmmaker and father David Bond appoints himself as the Marketing Director for Nature.  He wants his brand – nature – to stand out from the crowd of brands competing for their attention.

    David works with branding and outdoor experts to develop and launch a campaign to get children outdoors and into nature - the ultimate, free, wonder-product.

    Filmmaker and star of ‘Project Wild Thing’, David Bond, said: “Project Wild Thing’ isn’t some misty eyed nostalgia for the past; we need to make more space for wild time in children’s daily routine, freeing this generation of kids to have the sort of experiences that many of us took for granted.

    “It’s all about finding wildness on your doorstep and discovering the sights, sounds and smells of nature, whether in a back garden, local park or green space at the end of the road.

    “Spending time outdoors is hugely beneficial to children and young people. Research clearly shows that it improves their health, reduces stress and boosts wellbeing.”

    We’ll be working with our partners to encourage the Government to tackle the growing disconnect between young people and nature in the run up to the 2015 election.

    Why don’t you keep the discussion about swapping screen time for wild time going by sharing your thoughts on twitter via the feed @wearewildthing and using the hashtag #wildtime.

    We’d love to hear about your favourite ways to get a bit of wild time!

    If you’d like to catch a screening of ‘Project Wild Thing’, check out www.projectwildthing.com.

    And if you fancy getting a bit of wild time in during the half term holidays, we’ve got family activities going on across our reserves in the Eastern Region, why not pencil one in?

  • How to design your own Wildlife Garden

    Blogger: Alex Johnson, Garden Designer: DesignWild Associates

    It is with heart in mouth that designers go back to gardens that they have designed. In my case, I had less to fear, having seen photos of the [RSPB Flatford Wildlife] garden taken in the two years since its completion, and heard from my design partner Catherine Heatherington who had made some visits in the interim.

    During its conception, a garden lives in the imaginations of its designers vividly and constantly. In the case of the RSPB Wildlife Garden at Flatford, which was 2 years in the design stages, we knew it intimately before any digger had turned a single sod.

    Sooo…how had the garden developed and matured since those heady exciting days? What plants had done well and what had foundered? And which had become thugs? And most importantly how is the wildlife faring?

    Shirley [Boyle, Project Officer] kindly allowed me to go to the garden before opening time, in order to see it alone, and take photographs without annoying the public. Parking the car, I actually felt a bit sick with anticipation, but I needn’t have worried.

    My first impression was of calm, and it was evident that the birds and the bees now owned the garden. The planting has matured well, and the spaces and views we designed seem to have fulfilled their promise.

    I was delighted by how well the garden has been maintained, not only keeping the garden in good shape, but also guiding it towards the shared aims which we all had, to create a garden in which the public, families, and schoolchildren could come and see how natural and achievable it is to create a garden which is both beautiful and wildlife friendly.

    Plants (both dead and alive – there are some wonderful log piles) will do the work of providing habitats and food for birds and insects, and they don’t have to be native plants. Some plants have “over delivered” – who would have thought that “lamb’s ears” Stachys byzantina would be so forceful, and as for that innocent looking little woodland strawberry…. There are other plants which were a bit of a risk in that they might not have thrived, such as Ceratostigma, and Hypericum citrinum, and they have blossomed, in every way.

    We included hyssop for its value for bees, but even so I was thrilled by how much the bees were loving it here. A development which I thoroughly applaud is the brushwood at the base of the hornbeam hedge – brilliant cover, and habitat for lots of animals and fungi,  conferring on the young hedge many of the benefits of a mature one

    It was exciting for me to see the visitor centre up and running, and the volunteers preparing for a day of questions and activities.

    It felt as if the garden is in very safe hands, led by Shirley. There comes a moment with gardens, as with children, where designers/parents have to push them off into the world and hope for the best. Our baby is obviously up and away!

    Alex Johnson,    August 2013 DesignWild Associates: www.designwild.co.uk

    Editor's Note: Want to be inspired about what to do in your garden then why not visit Flatford. The second burst of the Giving Nature a Home TV advert starts on Saturday 19 October and runs until Sunday 10 November. Let us know if you see it.