Went to an interesting talk hosted by the Friends of Bowland last night, the speaker was John Alpe who farms behind the Inn at Whitewell. Most of the talk was about the educational work he has done, on and off the farm. I got the impression that most if not all the land was or is farmed organically and farmed for conservation. However, and I apologise if I have got this completely wrong, but the impression I got was that the motivation for this was financial and that if it had been more profitable to go in the opposite direction he would.
This got me thinking about how things may change in the future and how fragile the natural beauty of Bowland is. The first thing that came to mind is realisation that The Forest of Bowland is not an area of “Outstanding Natural Beauty”, it is an area containing outstanding natural beauty. That natural beauty is there because past and present land management by accident or design has not destroyed that natural beauty. I say not destroyed because I doubt there is any aspect of the natural beauty of Bowland that would not be profitable to destroy if the current protection and financial support was removed.
The political and economic pressures of Brexit, I worry will severely test that protection and support. However I also believe Brexit could lead to innovative ways to satisfy both wildlife conservation needs and farming profitability if the political will was there.
Move over Spring and Autumnwatch – this summer there was Hodder Watch. The Friends of Bowland challenged the children of the Hodder valley to produce ‘nature tables’ to be judged at the Hodder Valley Show in September. The winning entry was from the combined Slaidburn Brownies and Rainbows. Thorneyholme School came second and Slaidburn School third. Three members of Friends of Bowland made a surprise visit to the Brownies and Rainbows to present them with their prize which included wildlife badges donated by the Forest of Bowland AONB team. The visitors stayed to present their own wildlife ‘show and tell’ and there was a lively discussion about the children’s favourite animals and the wildlife they had seen. Jane Baddeley, chair of Friends of Bowland, said “We were very impressed with the knowledge and enthusiasm the children had for our local wildlife, especially considering the group’s youngest member is only five”. Barrie Tyrer, who came up with the idea said “I was particularly impressed that when asked about their favourite animals the list included, beetles, spiders and snails and not just the usual suspects”. Louise Mills, the third visitor, had brought some of her collection of animal skulls and other wildlife artefacts including a shed Adder skin. Louise is a local wildlife artist and ex brownie and also brought some colouring-in sheets for the children to take away. The project will continue next summer when the Friends of Bowland will help the children get their science badges by helping them do some wildlife surveying.
Following the online petition to ban driven Grouse Shooting passing the 100,000 mark which now means there will be a parliamentary debate on the subject on 31st October. In preparation for this the Environment, Food and Rural Affairs Committee and Petitions Committee questioned Dr Mark Avery, petition creator, Jeff Knott, Head of Nature Policy, RSPB, Amanda Anderson, Director, The Moorland Association, and Liam Stokes, Head of Shooting, The Countryside Alliance. You can watch this interesting presentation of ideas in full here parliamentlive.tv/event/index/cf85fa5a-c53d-40d7-9b6a-abe86c35ee4e my personal view is that ecologically well managed Grouse Moors can play a positive role in the mix of upland land uses and the loss of active management could have serious negative environmental consequences. However I do believe if Grouse Shooting and shooting as whole is to have a long term future it must tackle the illegal killing of birds of prey issue.
We have been meaning to track this group down and have a look at what they do for a while, finally did it and paid them a visit. In the winter they meet every fortnight at the St. Mary’s Centre, Church Street in Clitheroe at 7.30pm. They also have fortnightly local country walks on Saturdays. This years programme is below.