21/9/2015

It was all happening in the South Downs National Park yesterday

This blog post originally appeared on Peter's 'Fresh from the Field' blog on 19th September 2015.

My job as a “biodiversity adviser” for the Game & Wildlife Conservation Trust means that, to be honest, no two days are ever the same! Take yesterday for example.

In the morning I spoke at a conference in Midhurst, (My topic was working with farmers on a landscape scale to deliver conservation) organised for the South Downs National Park Rangers.

Pt210915aClare Moriarty, third from left, visits the Duke of Norfolk's Arundel estate

These are the guys who actually get their hands dirty and also have jobs that are often wide ranging in character too. They look after many different aspects within the Park, from managing nature reserves to working alongside landowners on various conservation matters, implementing grazing regimes and delivering a wide number of different projects.

I had one interesting conversation with a ranger over a coffee prior to the conference starting, who was overseeing the re-introduction of water voles onto the river Meon. Mink had in the past completely wiped out the species from most of the catchment, so following advice and help from GWCT adviser Mike Swan, she was now running a highly successful project using GWCT mink rafts to enable her to control Mink throughout the catchment, using many volunteers to check the rafts.

If you would like to know more about these rafts – click here > 

Having worked with landowners to ensure that the habitat alongside the river was also in good order, as well as controlling mink numbers, water voles were then introduced. She told me that there is now good evidence of breeding and that one particular individual was filmed some 7km up-stream from the release site!

Following my talk, I then legged it down to the Duke of Norfolk’s estate at Arundel, to help show the new “Permanent Secretary for Defra”, Clare Moriarty, around the wonderful grey partridge restoration project there.

Full credit to Clare that she has only been in post for a few weeks and is already getting out onto farms to find out how DEFRA’s money is being spent and what it delivers. This estate is ideal to showcase what can be done using Stewardship scheme money, as the team here really do produce top quality habitats, coupled with excellent targeted predator control, to deliver tangible results.

I think (hope!) that Clare was really impressed by what she saw, which of course included a covey or two of Grey partridge! I know that she was also left in no doubt that it is not just money that delivers this sort of high quality conservation, but also enthusiastic team work coupled with good advice.

Peter Knight the estate manager, runs a wonderful team of dedicated people whose enthusiasm is infectious. Importantly too, he has surrounded himself with some really top advisers who are very much part of this team - crucial to delivering on the ground results.

Let’s hope these key messages become an integral part of DEFRA’s thinking among those who sit around the top table.

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