National Trust wildlife expert Matthew Oates explores the life of naturalist and wildlife pioneer Cyril Diver.
“Few of Britain’s remarkable naturalists achieved as much as Cyril Diver (1892-1969). During the 1930s he and other volunteer experts meticulously surveyed, mapped and recorded the wildlife of the heath and dune system on the Studland peninsula, near Swanage in Dorset. They had a fantastic time, and also saved the site from development. A civil servant, Diver went on to draft much of our country’s initial wildlife legislation, and devise and lead the Nature Conservancy. This country owes him big time, yet he is largely forgotten.
Eighty years on, the National Trust has led a three year project to resurvey the peninsula, with close reference to the Diver archive material. As in the 1930s, specialist surveys were conducted by volunteers, both experts and beginners, though coordinated by a project officer. They had a fantastic time too, and have pioneered the citizen science approach to advanced wildlife recording, much of this in partnership with techy students from Bournemouth University. There is nothing naturalists love more than survey work, especially in a place as rich as Studland Peninsula.
The place has changed too, massively. Major changes commenced when Studland was taken over for tank training during the Second World War, and then when Rabbits died out to myxomatosis. A new sand dune has developed since the 1930s, and major changes to the ponds, swamps and mires have occurred.
Recent surveys found 620 species of vascular plants – a quarter of the UK’s native flora, an increase from 465 in Diver’s time, though a few rarities have disappeared. Diver didn’t survey the lichen flora, due to a scarcity of experts, but recently over 340 lichen taxa have been found, including 29 major rarities. Insect-wise, today’s beetle surveys comfortably outscored Diver – 777 species, compared to 239, though 56 of Diver’s 239 were not re-found. Diver found 325 species of moth, the recent surveys found 611 but failed to re-find 105 on Diver’s list. And so on… . The recent surveys discovered two species new to Britain, though others may await confirmation. All this data will fascinate scientists, particularly climate change specialists, and will be celebrated at a conference at Bournemouth University on March 21st.
Now, more than ever, this nation needs its naturalists, to provide data to help us understand the burgeoning issues of climate change, new species colonisation and impending ecological change. We need more in-depth studies along the lines of the Diver Project, and to recruit and equip a new generation of inspired naturalists. The National Trust has a key role to play here, and will do so.”
A new campaign launched today is calling on people to share their stories of why trees and woods matter to them.
The stories will be collected together in a Charter for Trees, Woods and People and published in November 2017, 800 years after the original Charter of the Forests was signed by Henry III, restoring people’s rights of access to the Royal Forests.
The National Trust is one of 43 organisations involved in the campaign, led by the Woodland Trust.
At a time of unprecedented pressures on trees and woods, the charter will record the relationships between people and trees, setting out the enormous benefits woods provide the UK economy and society.
As a national charity caring for 25,000 hectares of woodland and thousands of ancient and veteran trees in England, Wales and Northern Ireland, The National Trust has seen first-hand the impact of climate change and diseases like Ash Dieback.
But we also know from the millions of visitors to our woods, parks and gardens every year that people feel a real love for trees – and are fascinated by the stories of trees like the Dorset sycamore under whose branches the Tolpuddle Martyrs reputedly met or the majestic 1,000 year old Quarry Oak at Croft Castle in Herefordshire.
Ray Hawes, Head of Forestry at the National Trust, says: “How people value trees and woods is changing”, he says. “In the past they were valued mainly for the tangible products they provided, like timber and fuel.
“Today, many people say they love trees. Millions of people enjoy visiting woods in the UK without always realising the wider contributions that these places make to society as a whole and what needs to be done to maintain woods for future generations.
“Healthy woods have many uses and can be adapted to changing needs, but there are increasing challenges to maintain them in a condition which will enable this.”
By encouraging people to share why trees matter to them, the campaign launched today aims to capture the value of trees to people’s lives – as well as connecting people to the work that goes in to keeping our trees and woods healthy.
The campaign will recruit a network of local ‘Charter Champions’ from across the UK to represent their communities in the development of the charter. Funding will be available to help local groups in events and projects aimed at reconnecting people and trees.
Further to the relaxation of planning protections for the green belt proposed yesterday by the government, the National Trust said:
“We are concerned and will be looking closely at the implications of what is being proposed.
“Green Belt prevents urban sprawl, keeping town and villages distinct and special, which is why we think it is important to maintain the protections it offers.
“We don’t have urban sprawl in England in the same way that other countries do because of our history of development planning, and the designation of Green Belts in particular, and we weaken that enduring protection at our peril.
“As a nation we need more houses and many of these can be built in cities. We should be aiming for sustainable growth, where we make the best use of available brownfield sites. Any release of undeveloped land for housing should be considered carefully, as a community prepares its local plan.”
Storm Desmond has swept across the north of England affecting many National Trust places in the Lake District and a much loved woodland area in Northumberland.
More than a month’s rainfall fell in some parts of Cumbria with records being broken.
Our teams are out assessing the impact of the floods and working with our tenant farmers and supporting the local communities.
Minister confirms funding to complete the coast path around England by 2020 will be protected
The Ramblers and National Trust are celebrating the news that funding to complete the England Coast Path by 2020 will be protected, despite recently announced reductions to the Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs’ (DEFRA) budget.
Chancellor George Osborne presented his Autumn Statement last week, detailing £20bn of budget cuts intended to eliminate the budget deficit. Given the substantial cuts expected, the Ramblers have been working hard to ensure the government maintains its commitment to construct the England Coast Path by 2020, so that the substantial momentum, experience and benefits realised to date are not lost. Continue reading