Carnage in the Wildlife Garden

Several of us have been shocked to seed the environmental carnage which has just taken place in the Wildlife Garden (and elsewhere) through the actions of Wivenhoe Town Council.

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.


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Comments

  • That is indeed shocking !!  I hope there is a constructive and willing response.
  • All,

    I am Chair of the Estates Committee on WTC.

    I can firstly assure you that the action taken in the Wildlife garden was not authorised by that Committee.

    We are currently investigating how this act of 'vandalism' took place, and I assure you that we will get to the bottom of it, and we will make amends to the Community, and to those individuals and groups within the Community who put so much effort into this project.

    I will contact you again shortly, via the Forum, and some of you as individual interested parties.

    Please bear with me whilst we sort this out.

    Thanks.

    MikeNewton


  • Thanks Mike - very reassuring, and we look forward to continuing this conversation...
     I appreciate the immediacy of your reply

  • Let's be honest about this. Penny kraft authorised this destruction, whilst not having the authority to actually do it.
  • I'm glad you posted this @ChrisGibson because when I saw it I had assumed it was the work of those who had been involved in the gardens' creation so hadn't said anything about it, thinking they must know best...

    But it's devastation indeed!
  • Thank you Chris for such a great letter and for explaining the serious consequences of the extreme 'clean'.
  • Had anyone sought to "tidy up" my bug shack - which is on indefinite loan to the garden - I would have filed a charge for criminal damage.

    Whilst I have no doubt that many of the local councillors here act tirelessly and unselfishly, it always seems to be that their efforts are undermined by those who let a little power go to their head.

    I hope the parties responsible accept Chris's olive branch and seek a win:win solution with a much wider future brief. Fudge will not be accepted. I am 100% sure that a little humble pie at this stage will be easier to swallow than what is to come otherwise.

    So long as there is a real effort to learn from this and accept help to do better in the future, no-one need lose out from the fallout.

    There are many offences people may commit and be prosecuted for by councils for which ignorance is no defence. I therefore expect the responsible people to see that the chance that is offered to put this right without recrimination occupies rather lofty moral ground.

    Debs & Glyn


  • And we complain about the youngsters causing damage !! How can amends be made, you can't restore it overnight.
  • I like Marika trusted that it had been done by the wildlife gardeners. Now I am disgusted.
  • If anything Chris underplayed the impact.  I am astonished at how anyone could have thought this appropriate.
  • Patsy said:
    If anything Chris underplayed the impact.  I am astonished at how anyone could have thought this appropriate.

    I was trying to be diplomatic!. If you had seen the first draft...

    But I am intent on getting the best out of the whole sorry situation, in the form of more environmental thinking into WTC Estates management as a whole, and better safeguards such that this cannot happen again. And indeed to ensure so far as possible and end to renegade actions by maverick councillors, across the full breadth of their responsibilities. That such vandalism (in WTCs own words) can be perpetrated (and council employees in effect ordered to do it) from within WTC ranks demonstrates that some people are simply not to be trusted to hold public office.
  • Patsy said:
    If anything Chris underplayed the impact.  I am astonished at how anyone could have thought this appropriate.

    I was trying to be diplomatic!. If you had seen the first draft...

    But I am intent on getting the best out of the whole sorry situation, in the form of more environmental thinking into WTC Estates management as a whole, and better safeguards such that this cannot happen again. And indeed to ensure so far as possible and end to renegade actions by maverick councillors, across the full breadth of their responsibilities. That such vandalism (in WTCs own words) can be perpetrated (and council employees in effect ordered to do it) from within WTC ranks demonstrates that some people are simply not to be trusted to hold public office.


    All,

    I am also as Chris said 'intent on getting the best out of the whole sorry situation, ...', and will welcome any input from those who clearly know more about these things than WTC does.  As I said at a WTC meeting last night, I am not a botanist, biologist or ecologist, but I can instinctively see that what was done is wrong.

    Thanks.

    MikeNewton

  • Patsy said:
    If anything Chris underplayed the impact.  I am astonished at how anyone could have thought this appropriate.

    I was trying to be diplomatic!. If you had seen the first draft...

    But I am intent on getting the best out of the whole sorry situation, in the form of more environmental thinking into WTC Estates management as a whole, and better safeguards such that this cannot happen again. And indeed to ensure so far as possible and end to renegade actions by maverick councillors, across the full breadth of their responsibilities. That such vandalism (in WTCs own words) can be perpetrated (and council employees in effect ordered to do it) from within WTC ranks demonstrates that some people are simply not to be trusted to hold public office.


    All,

    I am also as Chris said 'intent on getting the best out of the whole sorry situation, ...', and will welcome any input from those who clearly know more about these things than WTC does.  As I said at a WTC meeting last night, I am not a botanist, biologist or ecologist, but I can instinctively see that what was done is wrong.

    Thanks.

    MikeNewton


  • Thanks to everyone who has picked up on this. When it was drawn to my attention I was shocked and obliged to inform the groups who had put so much effort into the project. We overcame many obstacles when I was on the Council to get the project under way, not least the removal of funding and lack of support in some quarters.
    We are so lucky to have truly qualified experts in our community who are willing to offer their experience and hopefully the tenacity of nature will overcome the ignorance and stupidity that has happened. It wont help the poor creatures who will now have had to move out of the garden area in order to find winter hibernation shelter.
    I have every faith in some of my former colleagues on Council and our newer member, Mike Newton, to rectify the situation and maybe rap some knuckles where necessary..
    Thanks Chris for your letter and Mike for so promptly picking this up.

  • But I have to ask why did the council not consult before the damage was done? How dare they presume they know best.
  • greenback said:
    But I have to ask why did the council not consult before the damage was done? How dare they presume they know best.

    Reading between the lines, the Council didn't consult because the Council per se didn't know about it. It seems to have been a renegade action on the part of a single Councillor and it is the fact that such maverick unilateral actions could be implemented which needs to be addressed. I have every confidence that if the full council or the estates committee had got wind in advance they would have sought expert opinion to consider against uninformed 'traditional gardening' dogma (aka 'ignorance and stupidity' as per Brian's posting)  - and that going forward they will seek to bring local expertise into the equation.
  • greenback said:
    But I have to ask why did the council not consult before the damage was done? How dare they presume they know best.


    There is no question that the Council or the Estates Committee presume that they know best, and I do not believe that your comment is particularly constructive.

    I made two earlier posts, the first of which clearly states that we are investigating how this took place.  My posts were made yesterday (Friday), and there is a limit to what I can do over the weekend, as I have to have access to the office and staff.

    I am quite happy to state publicly via this Forum that we will get to the bottom of it, we will involve the right 'experts' in the Community, and we will do our best to make good the damage done, but please allow me a reasonable time to do this.

    Thanks.

    MikeNewton

  • Sorry Mike Newton if you took my post personally but I do not know how the council works and am amazed that allegedly one person made the decision. I assumed you as chair of the relevant  committee would be party to any decision. Someone did think they knew best for the wildlife garden...
  • greenback said:
    Sorry Mike Newton if you took my post personally but I do not know how the council works and am amazed that allegedly one person made the decision. I assumed you as chair of the relevant  committee would be party to any decision. Someone did think they knew best for the wildlife garden...


    Sure, someone did think they knew best, but at the moment we do not know who that was.  You are correct in that decisions should go through the relevant working group/Committee structure.

    Working on it!

    Thanks.

    MikeNewton

  • Carnage? ...
    carnage
    ˈkɑːnɪdʒ/
    noun
    1. the killing of a large number of people.
      "the bombing was timed to cause as much carnage as possible"
      synonyms:slaughtermassacre, mass murder, mass destruction, butcherybloodbath, indiscriminate bloodshed, bloodlettingannihilationdestruction, decimation, havoc

      Sorry to break it to you, but a garden being taken away isn't necessarily a bloodbath.
      It's not the end of the world, there's the Wivenhoe Woods and the marsh which will suffice for wildlife in this area. Protection of those should be your main concern.
      Just a friendly reminder, real carnage is the stuff happening in Quetta. Have some perspective of your problems please.
  • Artistic licence maybe. And concern for the creatures with which we share our immediate environs in no way implies lack of concern for issues (whether human suffering or environmental damage or anything else) elsewhere in the world. But at least on our doorsteps we have the ability to do something about it.
    And while protection of the woods and marshes is of major concern, so is the protection of wild spaces at the heart of our community. Not only for the wildlife itself, but also for those members of our community that for whatever reason get their main experience of nature on their own doorstep.

    So I make no apologies for considering this to be eco-carnage. Happy to leave you to worry about what matters most to you and I would never criticise you for it.
  • Zipzip said:
    Carnage? ...
    carnage
    ˈkɑːnɪdʒ/
    noun
    1. the killing of a large number of people.
      "the bombing was timed to cause as much carnage as possible"
      synonyms:slaughtermassacre, mass murder, mass destruction, butcherybloodbath, indiscriminate bloodshed, bloodlettingannihilationdestruction, decimation, havoc

      Sorry to break it to you, but a garden being taken away isn't necessarily a bloodbath.
      It's not the end of the world, there's the Wivenhoe Woods and the marsh which will suffice for wildlife in this area. Protection of those should be your main concern.
      Just a friendly reminder, real carnage is the stuff happening in Quetta. Have some perspective of your problems please

      .Unfortunately thats a Government issue and beyond our local capability.Plus this has NOTHING to do with the title of this thread.
  • kst said:
    Zipzip said:
    Carnage? ...
    carnage
    ˈkɑːnɪdʒ/
    noun
    1. the killing of a large number of people.
      "the bombing was timed to cause as much carnage as possible"
      synonyms:slaughtermassacre, mass murder, mass destruction, butcherybloodbath, indiscriminate bloodshed, bloodlettingannihilationdestruction, decimation, havoc

      Sorry to break it to you, but a garden being taken away isn't necessarily a bloodbath.
      It's not the end of the world, there's the Wivenhoe Woods and the marsh which will suffice for wildlife in this area. Protection of those should be your main concern.
      Just a friendly reminder, real carnage is the stuff happening in Quetta. Have some perspective of your problems please

      .Unfortunately thats a Government issue and beyond our local capability.Plus this has NOTHING to do with the title of this thread.
    It has everything to do with the title.

    "Carnage in the Wildlife Garden"

    I just find it disrespectful that the word carnage has been used so lightly and feel it overexaggerates the severity of the situation at hand when real carnage is happening elsewhere. 
  • Ah, hello Zipzip and welcome back to the forum.

    I always enjoy a bit of irony on the forum and you never seem to disappoint. Here you are essentially making the point that it is more justifiable to save human beings than other creatures and yet, I can't help remembering a real classic from you on the forum a little while back when most of us were lamenting the possible loss of environmental laws with Brexit when you came out with this humdinger: "Sustainable sources of energy are great, but only in the short term..." That one could get you into the next edition of Colemanballs and could earn you £200. Tempted?

    And you talk about a sense of perspective...?

    Anyway, do let us all know of any humanitarian campaigns you are heading up; I am sure there are plenty of other conscientious people on here that would be keen to support...
  • I would like to say it is not only the wildlife that is affected by the loss of the natural hedge. I and others have used this area for peaceful reflection amongst the turmoil of life. Now one can see and be seen. Sad
  • edited October 2016
    Glyn said:
    Ah, hello Zipzip and welcome back to the forum.

    I always enjoy a bit of irony on the forum and you never seem to disappoint. Here you are essentially making the point that it is more justifiable to save human beings than other creatures and yet, I can't help remembering a real classic from you on the forum a little while back when most of us were lamenting the possible loss of environmental laws with Brexit when you came out with this humdinger: "Sustainable sources of energy are great, but only in the short term..." That one could get you into the next edition of Colemanballs and could earn you £200. Tempted?

    And you talk about a sense of perspective...?

    Anyway, do let us all know of any humanitarian campaigns you are heading up; I am sure there are plenty of other conscientious people on here that would be keen to support...
    Sustainable sources of energy are great indeed, I still stand by that.
    However humans will struggle greatly if a sudden switch to these energy sources is made. They are all dependent on mostly nature. Solar is on the sun, turbines on wind etc. To implement these and completely replace our usual fuel would cost vast amounts of money which can't come from nothing. Blackouts will be a large issue and if the population continues to increase until the predicted 10 billion there will be an extremely large demand for energy which will be hard to find without negative consequences. That's why nuclear is the most viable option right now. It produces a huge amount of energy per unit and doesn't release as much waste gases as the usual crude oil. 

    All that aside, that was on a previous post and therefore isn't relevant to the issue I pointed out here.
    You can't describe the loss of a garden as carnage, it isn't representative and it is overexaggerating it.

    And for the humanitarian campaigns I happen to be leading I'd appreciate it if everyone on this forum would show me their own. I was unaware to be a part of this that I had to conform to one certain viewpoint and lead a campaign; however please inform me of everyone else's campaigns for I would be delighted to support these. 
    I don't wish to surprise you too much but I do in fact donate to certain campaigns and whatnot despite clearly being a cold-hearted and separated person.
  • You know what, I think you're right. 

    This thread does need a sense of perspective. ;-)
  • Glyn said:
    You know what, I think you're right. 

    This thread does need a sense of perspective. ;-)
    sure thing

  • And perhaps everyone can keep these philosophical musings to another part of the Forum: they are distracting from the key message here - how to ensure such Eco-carnage cannot happen again, how the wrongs can be put right, and how WTC can address that which is rotten at its heart (yes, artistic licence again, but captures the mood of it for me)
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