Long Itchington – A Wild Parish.
We are volunteer Wildlife Wardens for the Parish of Long Itchington, Warwickshire, including Bascote and Bascote Heath.
The role is to record and monitor the wildlife and habitats that exist, and find ways to protect and improve them. We are also involved in raising the community’s awareness of the large variety of wildlife sharing the parish with us, and finding active ways for residents to help make the parish a much more welcoming place for wildlife to live. Hopefully as the year unfolds we will pass on what can be seen within the parish for everyone’s enjoyment.
With ever greater pressures being placed on the environment we hope our efforts will help to make the parish a much more friendly place for nature, in turn making living within the parish an ever more pleasurable experience. With an abundance of wildlife a short walk away for everyone to enjoy, there can be no better cause for everyone to support. With this in mind we would be happy to hear of your experiences of the Flora & Fauna that you have been seeing within the parish (see contacts page).
Grassroots wildlife conservation.
We live in an ever increasingly uncertain time, where threats to our environment are becoming larger. With the climate crisis bearing down upon us at an increasing rate of change, the pressures placed on our local environment has become more acute. With unpredictable and extreme weather becoming the norm, we need to ensure our environment is robust and healthy as possible.
While the climate crisis and threats to the environment, are matters for national governments. The policies put in place are often compromises that do not fully solve the issues at hand or push the action of change into the future. Policies created can be bold but are reliant on government agencies and large budgets to enact. This can lead to very slow progress that can take years to see the light of day. In this situation it can appear that the individual is unable to influence the changes needed to be made over an entire nation.
Within the United Kingdom (UK) there a number of non-governmental organisations (NGOs), that have grown over the years with the intent to make practical and long-lasting changes to the management of our environment, that government are unable to achieve. These NGOs are mostly charities such as the National Trust, the Wildlife Trusts and other environmental groups. They have done great work over the last few decades creating nature reserves, saving species from extinction and campaigning for change at government level.
While the NGOs can work at national and regional levels, there has been little activity at a very local level. By this I do not mean they are not active at all but they cannot be everywhere. With thousands of cities, towns and villages spread across the country, no charitable organisation has the resources or manpower to maintain a meaningful presence. With the resources they have available they have to concentrate on policies and projects that require the most immediate action, be it protecting rare habitats /species, or national public awareness campaigns. This is where grassroots wildlife conservation has an important role to play.
Making a difference.
I am a volunteer wildlife warden for the parish of Long Itchington, Warwickshire. The parish is rural in nature sitting alongside the river Itchen and surrounding area, being mostly arable farmland with areas of pasture and woodland. And it is here where I strive to help our local wildlife to hopefully remain healthy and thrive. The parish wildlife warden is very much a grassroots kind of role focusing exclusively upon the natural environment within the boundary of the parish. Appointed by the parish council, the wildlife warden is tasked with protecting existing habitats, raising awareness within the community of environmental issues and also where possible creating/improving wildlife habitats.
Like the NGOs discussed earlier the tasks are the same but are being undertaken at a very local level. The NGOs have no presence within the parish, so by having a parish wildlife warden it is possible to make positive change where none would come. I have held the role of wildlife warden for several years, and I hope, have made a positive impact on the well-being of our wildlife. Since I started the parish now has a dedicated website for wildlife, greater community participation, better management of parish land for wildlife, and a new community nature reserve.
I would like to think that the conservation activities active within the parish will complement, the efforts being made at regional and national levels. I have tried to model my activities in a similar way to the work of the Wildlife Trusts, thereby following a parallel path to achieve the same goals but at a very local level. Also, I have been taking a very long-term view of wildlife conservation, with an expectation that I will still need to be active in twenty years’ time. While new habitats can be created quickly, it can take years for them to mature and develop the maximum benefit for wildlife.
The parish of Long Itchington has been lucky in that the parish council owns land that can be used for wildlife conservation purposes, these being the village pond, the Lilac field, Whites Spinney and Bascote Road Scrubs. But that does not mean if they were not available there be nothing to do, far from it. As well as practical work there is an important need to encourage the community to engage with nature. It is through raising awareness of local wildlife, we can better protect what we have and encourage a more sympathetic approach to people’s responses to the threats to wildlife. To connect with the community, various methods have been employed starting with a dedicated website providing information and news about our local wildlife. Also, social media is very important with the nature reserve at Bascote Road having its own Facebook page and supported by a YouTube channel. And lastly, providing hands on activities, whether its is practical work, guided walks or local nature campaigns.
You may think that the all the above means a lot of work, and yes it can consume many hours of effort, but it also gives you immense satisfaction from knowing you are making a difference. I have had many enjoyable hours working outdoors taking in the beauty of nature, which gives a great sense of wellbeing. It is well known that spending time in nature is very good for your mental health, and I would encourage everyone to find time to do the same. Being a wildlife warden is a role anybody if given the chance should grab with both hands, there is nothing to my mind that gives back so much.
I am very much of the view that every parish whether rural or urban, should have a wildlife warden. They can be a catalyst for positive change and help inspire other members of the community to join in to make their home patch better for nature and for all of us!
What is this life if, full of care,
We have no time to stand and stare.
No time to stand beneath the boughs
And stare as long as sheep or cows.
No time to see, in broad daylight,
Streams full of stars, like skies at night…
A poor life this if, full of care,
We have no time to stand and stare.
William Henry Davies (abridged)