Wildlife and Biodiversity Working Group
An ecosystem whose wildlife and biodiversity have taken millennia to establish can be destroyed in a single afternoon. In the past four years, Tenterden has lost 20 acres of countryside to the excavators with a further 40 acres of green space agreed for development, and at least another 60 acres known to be at risk.
The law doth punish man or woman
That steals the goose from off the common
But lets the greater felon loose
That steals the common from the goose
17th Century protest against enclosures
‘Surely, we have a responsibility to leave for future generations a planet that is healthy and habitable by all species. We can destroy or we can cherish, the choice is ours’.
Sir David Attenborough
We are fortunate to live in a richly diverse parish enclosed on three sides by the High Weald Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty; a parish that includes ancient woodland, wooded gill ravines unique to the region, ten designated Kent Local Wildlife Sites, two traditional orchards and four private nature reserves.
In desktop and field studies through spring and summer of 2019, the Group have recorded a number of rare and important species:
- A Dermoloma mushroom too rare to be identified as yet by the authorities in Kew,
- Officially confirmed wild polecats, previously unknown in this part of the South East,
- Two colonies of wild honey bees surviving attacks from viruses and insecticides to pollinate plant species throughout the town,
- Protected common buzzards, a species strongly affected by disturbance of their habitat,
- A rare Clifden Nonpareil Blue Underwing moth, captured recently within the parish.
During the past 6 months, nature-conscious residents of Tenterden have recorded 915 plant and animal species, with 820 map-referenced identification photographs, to establish a baseline record of biodiversity in the parish held by the Kent & Medway Biological Records Centre.
Records are cross-referenced for area – revealing for example that one greenfield site threatened by developers currently supports 17 British Trust for ornithology Red Listed birds of the highest conservation priority, 8 protected reptiles and amphibians, 2 rare bat species, wild polecats – and hazel dormice which are vulnerable to extinction.
During the months of June and July of this year, the Biodiversity Group commissioned Dolphin Ecological Surveys to undertake a ‘Preliminary Assessment of Selected Grasslands’ in and around Tenterden involving 8 grassland sites close to the town.
The report concluded that, ‘the sites included in this assessment support a rich array of ancient habitats and features that are typical of the High Weald’s historic, pastoral landscape. That they have survived on the edges, and even within the town of Tenterden, is unusual and a feature of ecological and historical importance.’
Early fieldwork involving hedgerow-dating, quadrat sampling for flowers and grasses and pond-dipping revealed a need for additional instruction – later delivered by the professional ecologist, Laurie Jackson, and resulting in a two-day course in habitat surveying for 12 members of the working group.
The training, based on JNCC (Joint Nature Conservation Committee) Phase 1 Habitat Surveying, has prepared the Group for a field assessment programme to establish the ecological importance of the green sites likely to be considered for Local Green Space statutory designation.
When combined with species records, these surveys will:
1. Compare sites for their ecological importance,
2. Serve as a basis for policies within the Neighbourhood Plan for the further protection of habitats and species,
3. Provide a baseline for monitoring the ecological health of the parish through future years.