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Carnage in the Wildlife Garden
Below is a copy of an email I have sent them seeking an explanation, hopefully to raise their consciousness as to the consequences of their actions, and to ensure that the wrongs are righted so far as possible, and cannot happen again.
' You may recall our email conversation earlier this year about the (what I believe to be) unsightly, unnecessary and environmentally unfriendly use of herbicide in the Churchyard (correspondence attached as a reminder). I had been hoping you might come back to me about the Estates Committee response to my concerns, and we could then take the opportunity to get some informed thinking into your Council’s estates management practices.
More recently, however, it has become abundantly clear that the need for environmental matters to be given due weight in the Council’s estates management is growing. I refer especially to the works which have recently taken place in and around the Jubilee Garden and the Wildlife Garden, and can only be described as environmental carnage. In the Jubilee garden, the summer’s growth has been ‘tidied away’, despite its value as a source of seeds for birds and as hibernation sites for insects, including valuable ‘natural pesticides’ such as ladybirds. Furthermore, the habitat pile at the bottom of the garden, the kind of feature which is so important for one of Wivenhoe’s iconic inhabitants, the Stag Beetle, seems to be being used as a garden rubbish dump.
Next door in the Wildlife Garden, arguably the devastation is even worse, as it is contrary to the very ethic for which the wildlife garden was created (the clue should be in the name…). Again, the winter cover and food sources provided by the old growth from this summer has been swept away. The scorched earth policy has been so severe that it is impossible to tell whether plants have been cut right back, or physically removed. Furthermore, we find that the natural hedge along the southern edge has been removed and replaced with a row of laurels. This is not a native species and not of particular value for wildlife, and so very much out of character in a wildlife garden – whoever decided they should be planted clearly has little, if any, understanding of the purpose, objectives and value of wildlife gardening. And the loss of any effective physical barrier is also of concern, given the issues that had to be addressed before a pond could be created. Assuming legal liability law has remained the same, does this mean the very existence of the pond, the centerpiece of the garden, is now at risk?
The wildlife garden has been a focus of attention, and a source of community pride, ever since it was created. The way it has been managed recently is however nothing short of shameful, and a blow to the morale of those many volunteers who have all played a part in is creation and management. Even Wivenhoe Watching Wildlife has done its bit, giving some £200 (raised by donation) a few years ago via the Mayor’s Fund towards management of the garden. Given that WTC has now effectively negated those contributions, I wonder if we can now look forward to that being repaid to us so that those donations can be put towards a genuinely worthwhile and lasting cause?
Who makes the decisions and sets the management practices in train? Do they have any understanding or knowledge of the environmental consequences of their actions? Surely the WTC corporately recognizes it has responsibility not only to the people of Wivenhoe, but also to its environment; to undertake such works without any public notice or consultation is simply unacceptable. And specifically, who made the decision that the Wildlife Garden should be trashed in the way it has been? Was it a full WTC decision, or something delegated to the Estates Committee, or even to an individual Councillor or Officer? Please let me have a full audit trail of that decision, in order that we can know who the agents of destruction are and seek to educate them accordingly. And be advised that if this request is not addressed voluntarily, I shall be submitting a Freedom of Information Act request to the same effect.
You are of course aware that we have in Wivenhoe a considerable resource of environmental skills, underpinned by an even greater constituency of support for environmental values, not only from those involved in Wivenhoe Watching Wildlife. I would be grateful therefore if you would convey to the powers that be, especially the Estates Committee, the message that we would like to help. We would like to be able to advise on such matters, and believe that we could help come up with Estates Management solutions which not only meet the needs of the people, but also the wildlife, and in doing so may well help the WTC save money. And though this issue has arisen in respect of three specific areas – St Mary’s Churchyard, the Jubilee Garden and the Wildlife Garden, we believe that a similar collaborative thinking could lead to win-win solutions (for people, wildlife and finances) throughout WTC estate. The Old Cemetery and at least parts of KGV which exhibit a remarkably rich flora, despite intensive management, spring to mind.
While this environmental desecration may have been done because of somebody’s perception of (un)tidiness, I am sure the creatures, if they had a voice, would disagree with what has been done. Your Council’s actions have set back the cause of environmental protection and enhancement in Wivenhoe immeasurably, and reflect very badly on your Council and upon the community of Wivenhoe as a whole.
Please note I shall be posting this letter on the Wivenhoe Forum, and so it and any responses will be in the public domain.