TDEG Wildlife Group meeting 15 March 2021 – Draft minutes

Attendees :

Lynn Crowe,  Nicky Loveday, Janine Morris, David Horne,  Katherine Clarke, Katharine Longden, Clare Gamble, Neil Buttle, Chris Thirtle , Louise Thomas, Sue Barber, Deborah Fulford, Laura Saunders, Diane Maunsell , Suzanne Leckie

1. Apologies

Sarah Hargreaves (Tideswell & District Sports Association)

2. Updates 

a.Bird boxes project:  

A recap of progress made with the grant aid from Derbyshire Dales District Council (via Neil Buttle) and the Peak District National Park Authority last year was provided by Lynn. 25 boxes have been fixed, mostly swift boxes (some with sound systems), and some owl & kestrel boxes. Two swift boxes are still to be fixed – hopefully this month. The grant aid is now fully spent.

It was agreed to leave the decision on applying for more grant aid until next year, after reviewing bird uptake this year.  If anyone would like to independently put up swift, owl or kestrel boxes this  year, then they could contact our supplier directly, Lester Hartmann at Peak Boxes (https://peakboxes.co.uk).  Their website indicates that there is a waiting list of a couple of weeks for some items, so time may be of the essence.

The swift webinar with Ed Mayer, recently hosted by Derbyshire Wildlife Trust and recorded on their youtube channel watch was recommended for those interested. 

b.Working with Tideswell Parish Council on wild flowers for roadside verges and other public spaces: 

A report had been produced last summer for Tideswell Parish Council to consider, following a group walk around all the sites they manage to assess potential for different maintenance regimes . It identified three key verge and greenspace locations that might benefit from different management regimes and interventions to encourage wild flowers.   The Parish Council were supportive when they received it, but there had been a pause due to Covid19 and the timing of their mowing  contracts.  

David explained that the Parish Council had considered the report again at their March 2021 meeting, as part of their preparation for renewing the mowing contracts in the summer for next year.  As a result, another meeting has been arranged with Lynn and the contractors on 17 March to see if some progress could be made this summer to trial work on the suggested areas.

Action:  If anyone else wishes to attend that meeting, please let Lynn know.  Lynn will report back following the meeting.

Already the contractors are taking actions to improve the situation for wild flowers. Janine (TPC gardener) described the idea behind the work done at the top of Whitecross Road, to engage and interest local people, and one of the mowing contractors already collects some grass clippings and has established some compost sites. All of this work was welcomed.

 The importance of public perception and communicating with the public was discussed.  It was reported that the School Governors are interested in increasing wild flowers in the school grounds, and there will possibly be some funding from September, when screefing & seeding might be possible.   The idea of promoting the ‘No Mow May’ initiative and Plantlife’s ‘Every Flower Counts’ project ( no-mow-may-how-to-get-ten-times-more-bees-on-your-lockdown-lawn ) was proposed  and welcomed.  It was thought this might be a good project to engage the school and cubs. 

Action :  Lynn will investigate the potential for Bishop Pursglove School and Cubs to be involved in the no mow may/ every flower counts initiative. 

The importance of monitoring the impact of the work undertaken to increase the biodiversity value of the verges and greenspace was raised, and it was agreed that this needs to be factored in.   David would be willing to survey butterflies on Whitecross Road, and we may be able to organise other volunteers (and involve the cubs or school through the `No Mow May` initiative). 

Action:  Following the meeting on 17 March, Lynn will circulate a request for volunteers who are interested in helping to develop & implement this monitoring plan.

Extending wildflower verge activity beyond the bounds of Tideswell parish was discussed, in particular whether Litton Parish Council might be able to consider similar activities to those   discussed, and work towards co-ordinating these with the timing of mowing in Tideswell.  Sites such as the village green, the children’s play area, Conjoint Lane verges and the land near the Anchor were mentioned.  The idea that the parish council might be more successfully approached by TDEG members who were from Litton and had local insight and knowledge was proposed, and some information was exchanged.  We would be happy to respond to an invitation to share experience from Tideswell so far if that would be helpful. 

Action:  Chris Thirtle to pass on details of relevant contacts to Katherine Clarke, and Katharine will explore whether there is an appetite within Litton Parish Council to increase wildflowers locally.  

If any other member was keen to do something similar (e.g. in Cressbrook, Millers Dale or Wheston, for example) – please get in touch.

c.Working with Tideswell & District Sports Association (TDSA) on the area around the sports fields at the Tideswell community park :  

TDEG had been invited to suggest some ideas to improve wildlife and the enjoyment of the area by local people last year. These suggestions,  including different maintenance regimes, scarifying, tree and shrub planting, bird boxes, and rebranding as a community park were submitted to the TDSA following a site discussion. 

Sarah Hargreaves (secretary, TDSA) had hoped to be present to update us, but needed to send apologies at the last minute, so had forwarded an email to Lynn with the following information. Since then (alongside improvements to the sports facilities at the site)  – various grants & funding had been achieved, bird boxes ordered, debris left as habitat, simple signs for visitors planned, six litter bins purchased, some sports equipment ordered, a community consultation survey undertaken, and a trial of dog walking set up.

TDSA, supported by the Tideswell & District Community Association, are now planning to understake a feasibility study to explore development of the whole site in a cohesive way, balancing sporting and community needs.  Funding for the feasibility study is being investigated at the moment.  

Discussion noted that there had been many environmental & access initiatives undertaken or planned in the past (the nature trail, a wide access path for people with disabilities, children’s and adults’  fitness trails, and a willow hide, amongst others). It was also important to acknowledge the many interests and demands in this area, and to keep working together co-operatively with others.     

Action: Lynn will continue to offer the support of the TDEG to the TDSA.

Action:  Kath Longden reminded the group that the willow hide will need attention this spring.  Any volunteers welcome – please contact Kath (through Lynn if needed) if interested.

3. Tideswell Dale – Ash dieback management and a possible, small scale natural flood management scheme. Exploring opportunities for community involvement.

Neil Buttle shared the progress he had made exploring potential for natural flood management in Tideswell Dale.  He has been in touch with many organisations who are involved in Tideswell Dale and natural flood management  (Natural England, Environment Agency, Derbyshire Wildlife Trust, National Trust, Peak District National Park Authority, Derbyshire Dales District Council, Derbyshire County Council, and Moors  for the Future).  All the organisations were keen on the idea of a small scale natural flood management scheme in principle.   But whilst there was enthusiasm, most of these organisations had no budget for such work, and it wasn’t yet clear if there was an organisation taking the lead in producing a plan.  However, Derbyshire County Council is the designated flood authority for the area. Neil wondered if TDEG could take ownership of such a scheme ?    

Katherine Clarke was able to share her experience of communicating with the public (in her role as a National Trust Ranger) during the ash dieback felling work.  She reported that there was a great deal of enthusiasm and interest from local communities, including Litton Mill and Millers Dale.   What will happen to the felled timber and the potential for flood management were the main areas of interest from local people.  She echoed Neil’s findings that the agencies involved were keen to explore plans for such a flood management scheme, but that they don’t have the financial, staff or time capacity at the moment.   She highlighted that such a scheme is still at a very early stage in thinking and planning, therefore we need to consider the realistic pace of developing such a project, and allow the organisations to ‘catch up’. It was these organisations who were responsible for the area.

Other members of the group added to the discussion – points included:

  • there is much we do not currently know, such as where the water will end up – there are upstream and downstream implications. Engineering expertise is needed;  
  • is there value in looking at interventions further upstream, above Tideswell along Manchester road, and whether safety concerns about water on the highway (A6049) would be a good rationale for investigating such opportunities upstream. This would also have to involve other landowners and managers such as the farming community;   
  • that there will be constraints related to water voles, geology etc., and that Natural England have yet to carry out a SSSI appraisal;  
  • there are significant land ownership issues along the dale, as landownership and management is complex;  
  • there would be significant insurance and liability issues involved in such work.  

Some members felt the responsibilities and liabilities of ‘taking the project on’ were beyond what is appropriate for TDEG. However all were keen to support an investigation into the flood management project, and to support people getting involved in caring for and improving Tideswell Dale in general.  It was suggested this could be done by putting together a list of what we can offer to the organisations who are actually responsible – as landowners or managers or regulators. Initial suggestions for what we could get involved in included:

  • working on the flood management scheme as volunteers for a responsible organisation (such as the National Trust), and encouraging the responsible agencies to consider the whole length of the brook along Manchester Road.
  • monitoring  (eg  bat surveys, butterfly surveys, water vole surveys) to investigate how the dale wildlife changes and evolves, and to engage more local people in the dale;  
  • encouraging the responsible organisations to replace the picnic tables in the old basalt quarry (possibly to be made from the felled ash trees, like the new chair);
  • considering the potential for TDEG guided walks looking at the wildlife, when the C19 restrictions allow.

It was agreed that we should continue developing our ideas and come back to this topic, and Neil and Katherine were thanked for sharing their involvement.

Action :   To keep the ball rolling, send Lynn (l.crowe@shu.ac.uk)  any ideas on how we can support the development of a natural flood management scheme, shape ideas, and get involved in caring for and improving the Dale more generally.  If Lynn is contacted by anyone concerning the scheme, she will involve Katherine and others.

Action:  Lynn and others to examine the potential for surveys in the Dale. Nicky Loveday will send info from Derbyshire Butterflies about monitoring butterflies. Lynn will contact Derbyshire Wildlife Trust and others about any ongoing surveys in the Dale, and ask for volunteers to `sign up` to different schemes.

4. Local community nature reserves? A possible initiative for promoting wildlife friendly gardening (more info from a similar project here – http://littlegreenspace.org.uk/features/Felixstowe-nature-reserve.html) .

This is a possible activity we could promote and co-ordinate, and that would engage people during these socially distanced times. The idea is that a village ‘community nature reserve’ is created through people managing a small patch of their garden for wildlife (perhaps as little as two square metres). The group asks people to `pledge` to undertake the work, and the group maps the result, hopefully gradually creating a connected, green network across a community. Advice on wildlife friendly gardening initiatives is provided every month to those who have signed up to the scheme.

It was agreed that it sounded like an attractive idea, and that the map had the potential to highlight the importance of networked nature recovery.    Help and expertise is needed to create the map – and we would need a detailed base map. 

Action:   If you know someone with computer mapping skills who could mark up a map of Tideswell in this way, please contact Lynn

Action:  Anyone willing to champion this in Litton, or Cressbrook or any neighbouring villages, please contact Lynn.

5. Further meetings? Frequency and venues.

Agreed a further zoom meeting would be welcomed after Easter, as it would allow us to review progress on some of the initiatives  raised at this meeting, before hopefully being able to meet  face to face in the summer.  Lynn will fix a date shortly.

6. Requests for a TDEG Secretary or anyone interested in joining the TDEG Steering Group? 

Contact Lynn for more info – l.crowe@shu.ac.uk  if you are interested.

Lynn thanked Nicky for hosting the meeting on Zoom, and Suzanne for taking a note of the meeti

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