Monday, 27 March 2017

The Charter for woods, trees and people - Being a Charter Champion

Woodland Wonder

Everyone loves trees right? They are beautiful, stunning, ancient, environmentally essential and take minutes to destroy hundreds of years of growth.

I live next to woods which are beautiful, old and home to special birds such as March Tit and Tawny Owls, which in winter sometimes venture down to our garden. I also regularly hear the calls of Tawny Owls as I lie in my bed. How special is that?

It's easy to worry about deforestation abroad but to forget that we are not protecting our own trees and woods enough.

So why is it that our trees don't have proper protection? I live in an area of outstanding beauty where trees are meant to be protected as if they have a tree conservation order on them.

Yet, we've had an unscrupulous builder buy a house in our beautiful lane next to ancient woods, cut down two huge old trees hoping nobody would catch him and was only stopped by neighbours. More than eighteen months on, the trees haven't been replaced and he is able to apply to planning without complying with an order to replant the trees. The law seems ridiculous to me and we need to make sure that people who cut down trees to get around planning regulations should be fined and stopped from applying for planning in the places that the trees use to be, otherwise they benefit from their crime.

I really hope the new tree charter makes the difference.  It is for that reason that I am a charter champion.


Stumps of cut down tree next to one that is left of the same maturity


The Charter for woods, trees and people





Led by the Woodland Trust, more than 70 organisations from across multiple sectors are working together to create a Charter that will guide policy and practice in the UK. They believe the people of the UK have a right to the many benefits brought by trees and woods.

On 6 November 2017, the 800th anniversary of the influential 1217 Charter of the Forest, they will launch the Charter for Trees, Woods and People. They believe the people of the UK have a right to the many benefits brought by trees and woods. The new charter will recognise, celebrate and protect this right.

The Tree Charter will draw its strength from the hundreds of thousands of people across the UK that sign. Please sign the tree charter today treecharter.uk/add-your-voice


The Issues:
Why do we need trees? 
Trees and woods are hugely valuable for our health, happiness and our children’s development 
Our woodland heritage is even richer and internationally more significant than we realised. 
The UK is one of the top consumers of wood products in the world 

They provide: 
Clean air 
Natural flood defences 
A mask for noise 
Improved physical health and mental well-being 
Cooling urban areas 
Pollution absorption 
Wildlife habitat 
Recreational spaces 
Contact with nature 
Sensory outdoor learning resources 

What are the threats? 
Infrastructure development (building homes, railways and roads) 
Pollution and climate change (changing weather and temperatures are challenging for trees) 
Pests and diseases (increasing all the time – whole species such as Ash could be lost if not helped) 
Lack of protection for ancient woodland in planning policy (UK has just 2% ancient woodland cover, yet more than 500 ancient woods are under threat) 
60% of wildlife species are in decline across the UK 
Decline in enrolments in forestry education (lack of awareness of forest jobs in young people) 
Big trees dying of old age but not being replaced (especially in cities) 

These are The Tree Charter Principles announced today.

We believe in:

Thriving habitats for diverse species
Urban and rural landscapes should have a rich diversity of trees, hedges and woods to provide homes, food and safe routes for our native wildlife. We want to make sure future generations can enjoy the animals, birds, insects, plants and fungi that depend upon diverse habitats. 

Planting for the future
As the population of the UK expands, we need more woods, street trees, hedges and individual trees across the landscape. We want all planting to be environmentally and economically sustainable with the future needs of local people and wildlife in mind.

Celebrating the cultural impact of trees 
Trees, woods and forests have shaped who we are. They are woven into our art, literature, folklore, place names and traditions. It’s our responsibility to preserve and nurture this rich heritage for future generations. 

A thriving forestry sector that delivers for the UK
We want forestry in the UK to be more visible, understood and supported so that it can achieve its huge potential and provide jobs, environmental benefits and economic opportunities for all.

Careers in woodland management, arboriculture and the wood supply chain should be attractive choices and provide development opportunities for individuals, communities and businesses.

Better protection for important trees and woods
Ancient woodland covers just 2% of the UK and there are currently more than 700 individual woods under threat from planning applications because sufficient protection is not in place.

We want stronger legal protection for trees and woods that have special cultural, scientific or historic significance to prevent the loss of precious and irreplaceable ecosystems and living monuments. 

Enhancing new developments with trees
We want new residential areas and developments to be balanced with green infrastructure, making space for trees. Planning regulations should support the inclusion of trees as natural solutions to drainage, cooling, air quality and water purification. Long-term management should also be considered from the beginning to allow trees to mature safely in urban spaces.

Understanding and using the natural health benefits of trees 
Having trees nearby leads to improved childhood fitness, and evidence shows that people living in areas with high levels of greenery are 40% less likely to be overweight or obese. We believe that spending time among trees should be promoted as an essential part of a healthy physical and mental lifestyle and a key element of healthcare delivery.

Access to trees for everyone
Everyone should have access to trees irrespective of age, economic status, ethnicity or disability. Communities can be brought together in enjoying, celebrating and caring for the trees and woods in their neighbourhoods. Schoolchildren should be introduced to trees for learning, play and future careers. 

Addressing threats to woods and trees through good management
Good management of our woods and trees is essential to ensure healthy habitats and economic sustainability. We believe that more woods should be taken into management and plans should be based upon evidence of threats and the latest projections of climate change. Ongoing research into the causes of threats and solutions should be better promoted.

Strengthening landscapes with woods and trees
Trees and woods capture carbon, lower flood risk, and supply us with clean air, clean water, shade, shelter, recreation opportunities and homes for wildlife. We believe that the government must adopt policies and encourage new markets which reflect the value of these ecosystem services instead of taking them for granted.





1 year to go!
Add your voice to the Tree Charter and help create a future in which trees and people stand stronger together: treecharter.uk/add-your-voice





About the Author

Birdgirl Mya-Rose Craig in Antarctica
Photograph copyright Young Birder Birdgirl Mya-Rose Craig


Mya-Rose Craig is a 14-year-old young British Bangladeshi birder, naturalist, conservationist, environmentalist, activist, writer and speaker. She is based near Bristol and writes the successful Birdgirl Blog, with posts about birding and conservation from around the world. She loved seeing Mountain Gorillas in East Africa and Penguins in Antarctica over Christmas 2015, her 7th continent.

Mya-Rose was a Bristol European Green Capital Ambassador along with Kevin McCloud, Hugh Fearnley-Whittingstall, Tony Juniper, Simon King, Miranda Krestovnikoff and Shaun the Sheep! See the full list of Bristol Ambassadors. She has also been listed with the singer-songwriter George Ezra and actress Maisie Williams from Game of Thrones as one of Bristol's most influential young people
She organised a conference, Race Equality in Nature, in June 2016 aiming to increase the ethnic diversity in nature. She has also set up Black2Nature with the aim of working with organisations to increase the access to nature of BAME people. Please connect with her on LinkedIn (Mya-Rose Birdgirl Craig) so that she can invite you to join the Race Equality in Nature LinkedIn Group and be part of the change. Please like her Birdgirl Facebook Page and follow her on Birdgirl Twitter












Saturday, 18 March 2017

British Red Squirrel - A Guest blog




This is great guest blog by local-to-the-South West charity British Red Squirrel (this is their Facebook Page: https://www.facebook.com/BritishRedSquirrel/


If you are not already aware, British Red Squirrels are at risk of extinction and so the charity want to protect red squirrels and assist in their growth, educating and raising awareness across the UK. It's a really important topic and I hope you will read the post and support them.






Figure 1 Seasonal Red Squirrel © Olivia Kennaway


At this time of year our native wildlife has one thing on its mind – reproduction! We humans have tampered with our environment so much that some species are really struggling. At a local level we continue to destroy habitats. A few predator species like the magpie can take advantage of this, with less suitable nesting sites for small birds, harvest mice and dormice. At least magpies are a native species.



Figure 2 Grey Squirrel eating bird


The American grey squirrel is not. Through no fault of its own it was introduced to the UK in 1878 as a novelty. There are now estimated to be over 3 million. The problem is they are hugely destructive to our trees, shrubs and bulbs, as well as predating on our birds, bats and dormice.



Figure 3 Grey Squirrel with egg from nest


Our native red squirrel has lived in harmony with our flora and fauna since the last ice age – of course they also eat many of the same things – but they are on average less than half the weight of a grey, eat much less and are generally much less destructive. Reds were being driven to extinction, that is until passionate volunteers in the north of England showed ,over the last 20 years, that if they carried out grey control, the reds could survive and indeed thrive. This work has now been extended to other areas of the UK. Reds have been in steep decline predominately due to the greys which are territoriality aggressive and out compete them for food – plus greys carry, but yet are immune to the squirrel pox virus, which the reds are highly susceptible to. It is estimated that there are less than 140,000 reds left in the UK. There are none left in the wild in the South West, but in East Devon Escot Park has built a walk through ¾ acre safe haven for reds, protected by a sheet metal circumference, which squirrels cant climb. This was completed in 2010 and is completely free for visitors to visit. (there are other native species to visit, and gardens, for which there is a charge - www.wildwoodescot.org)


Figure 4 Red Squirrel on tree

Red Squirrel South West was formed as a charity ultimately to return red squirrels to the peninsular but also to provide a national, and international non-political forum for reds – www.britishredsquirrel.org We need to build connectivity in the South West – a tide of contacts and volunteers to achieve a suitable environment for the return of our reds. It is working in the Borders where more and more people are realising that they really can help to save this iconic native mammal – and they have a straight line to defend across Cumbria, North Yorkshire and Northumberland. We have a peninsular with sea on two sides – let’s do it!


Figure 5 Red Squirrel talk






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About the Author

Birdgirl Mya-Rose Craig in Antarctica
Photograph copyright Young Birder Birdgirl Mya-Rose Craig


Mya-Rose Craig is a 14 year old young British Bangladeshi birder, naturalist, conservationist, environmentalist, activist, writer and speaker. She is based near Bristol and writes the successful Birdgirl Blog, with posts about birding and conservation from around the world. She loved seeing Mountain Gorillas in East Africa and Penguins in Antarctica over Christmas 2015, her 7th continent.

Mya-Rose was a Bristol European Green Capital Ambassador along with Kevin McCloud, Hugh Fearnley-Whittingstall, Tony Juniper, Simon King, Miranda Krestovnikoff and Shaun the Sheep! See the full list of Bristol Ambassadors. She has also been listed with the singer songwriter George Ezra and actress Maisie Williams from Game of Thrones as one of Bristol's most influential young people
She organised a conference, Race Equality in Nature, in June 2016 aiming to increase the ethnic diversity in nature. She has also set up Black2Nature with the aim of working with organisations to increase the access to nature of BAME people. Please connect with her on LinkedIn (Mya-Rose Birdgirl Craig) so that she can invite you to join the Race Equality in Nature LinkedIn Group and be part of the change. Please like her Birdgirl Facebook Page and follow her on Birdgirl Twitter












Friday, 10 March 2017

Being the Friends of the Earth Magazine Earth Matters' Front Cover


Last December, Friends of the Earth UK asked me if I would be interviewed for their magazine. I do quite a few interviews so said yes, thinking nothing of it.

The following week, Friends of the Earth asked if their photographer could come down to Bristol and take a few photographs. They wanted photographs of me ringing, so I fixed for him to come the following Saturday morning to Chew Valley Ringing Station.

The morning went like this:

8.30 am BBC Points West News camera crew and reporter Alice Bouverie to film about Black2 Nature

9.30 am Andrew McGibbon Friends of the Earth UK photographer with assistant

10.45 am Quick change of clothes from birding gear to trendy city clothes 

11.30 am Shopping with my friend in Bristol's Cabot Circus


With my trainer Mike Bailey and BBC Points West film crew


When Andrew arrived, he told me that he was shooting for the front cover of their magazine. That didn't phase me, as I thought he meant that I was going to be in a little box on the front cover with the other people being interviewed.


With Andrew McGibbon from Friends of the Earth

In January the magazine editor e-mailed my mum. She said that she just wanted to check a fact. I had said that I had been taken on my first twitch when I was 9 days old and she was just checking if it was meant to read 9 weeks or 9 months.  Mum had to e-mail back to say that I was right, they had taken me to the Isles of Scilly when I was only 9 days old to see a Lesser Kestrel!

I didn't hear anything more until the end of January, when Andrew tweeted me with a photograph of the front cover of the Friends of the Earth members magazine, "Earth Matters".  I was stunned and embarrassed to see my face on the front of the magazine with my quote "beauty all around me". Was that really me?

This was at a time when there were unpleasant things going on for me on Twitter, so this was amazing and made me feel above it all. The magazine hasn't been posted out yet though so all I had seen was this photograph.




The whole of that was unreal in itself, but the next thing was even more unbelievable.

A couple of weeks later, I had a previously arranged meeting at the Friends of the Earth Head office in London with Paul De Zylva who is very senior there, to talk about Black2Nature and the environmental sector. First, I got to look around their fantastic and trendy offices which are in an old printworks, with an igloo and treehouse for quiet and creative working. I definitely would like to work there and try it all out. 

As we walked around the office, everywhere I looked there were 4-5 magazines spread out on desks and tables, all with my face on them, starting in the reception. There were also huge TV screens around the office, all with my face across them.  As we wandered around, staff did a double take as they recognised my face but maybe didn't know where from initially. I also got to see Andrew, which was lovely. He said he was really proud of my cover and the full page photograph of my inside and said that he thought it was probably best Earth Matters cover ever! As a teenager, I was of course hugely embarrassed, but when I actually picked the magazine up and saw it in real life, I suddenly felt really proud. 

I doubt very much that I will be the front cover of a magazine like that again, but even if I am, there is no way I'll ever have the experience of walking around the Friends of the Earth offices like that and seeing my face everywhere. That was an incredible experience. Thank you Friends of the Earth and I would encourage you all to join up.









A couple of weeks later, the magazine was posted out to Friends of the Earth members and I started hearing from people I knew as they received their magazine. My image was full size on the A4 envelopes sending out the magazines. A teacher at school brought in the magazine and put it up on the staff notice board. It was great that so many people I knew were members of Friends of the Earth.

This is a link to an on-line shortened version of the magazine 
bit.ly/2mFMfYt.








About the Author

Birdgirl Mya-Rose Craig in Antarctica
Photograph copyright Young Birder Birdgirl Mya-Rose Craig


Mya-Rose Craig is a 14 year old young British Bangladeshi birder, naturalist, conservationist, environmentalist, activist, writer and speaker. She is based near Bristol and writes the successful Birdgirl Blog, with posts about birding and conservation from around the world. She loved seeing Mountain Gorillas in East Africa and Penguins in Antarctica over Christmas 2015, her 7th continent.

Mya-Rose was a Bristol European Green Capital Ambassador along with Kevin McCloud, Hugh Fearnley-Whittingstall, Tony Juniper, Simon King, Miranda Krestovnikoff and Shaun the Sheep! See the full list of Bristol Ambassadors. She has also been listed with the singer songwriter George Ezra and actress Maisie Williams from Game of Thrones as one of Bristol's most influential young people
She organised a conference, Race Equality in Nature, in June 2016 aiming to increase the ethnic diversity in nature. She has also set up Black2Nature with the aim of working with organisations to increase the access to nature of BAME people. Please connect with her on LinkedIn (Mya-Rose Birdgirl Craig) so that she can invite you to join the Race Equality in Nature LinkedIn Group and be part of the change. Please like her Birdgirl Facebook Page and follow her on Birdgirl Twitter