Twenty years ago this month, Mike Averill took these photographs of Wilden Marsh and Meadows Lagoon Field; sandwiched between the north marsh to the west and Wilden Lane to the east, then owned by British Sugar Plc and now by Associated British Foods plc. How I wish this wetland resource, as it was 20 years ago, was part of Wilden Marsh Nature Reserve and Site of Special Scientific Interest. If this were so, the Lagoon Field might be home to an even greater quantity and variety of rare fauna and flora than is the case now, particularly with regard to water birds. If the Lagoon Field is turned over to residential and industrial development, it will be a sad loss for nature and the local environment. Of course, Wyre Forest District Council has a statutory duty to promote, enhance and protect nature reserves and Sites of Special Scientific Interest. Today, the largest lagoon in this field has degraded to a flooded wood and is now sanctuary to many birds including ducks, redshank, water rail, snipe, woodcock and curlew, and a frequent haunt of animals predating them. The smaller lagoons were filled in when the sugar processing factory closed in 2004; the ground here is still very wet and boggy and covered with willow and alder scrub. What a waste of a potentially excellent wetland environment within a true urban setting if this field is developed for industrial and residential use. The beneficial effects of the Lagoon Field and Wilden Covert on Wilden Marsh, as feeders and protectors of the north marsh and SSSI, should not be understated or taken lightly.
If the Lagoon Field were to become part of Wilden Marsh Nature Reserve, an increase in the marsh herd of Shetland and Galloway rare breed cattle will be necessary for successful ground management. Also, the flooded wood growing in the large lagoon could be reduced in area to provide an improved species-rich open and part wooded wetland habitat.
Until very recently, the Lagoon Field and Wilden Covert were classified “Green Belt“, presumably because someone in power previously considered them essential, or at least beneficial to the health and wellbeing of the North Marsh and its SSSI status. It seems to me that an edict from Central Government, ordering the building of new houses and industrial estates to provide work and homes for our burgeoning populace, has the potential to change the minds of those charged with making decisions and promoting local nature on our behalf, or at least it can cause them to revert to a default state of flux.
The importance and true value of the Lower Stour Valley and its wildlife corridor, for both nature and people, should be fully realised and appreciated for its rich and vibrant fauna and flora. I don’t agree with the philosophy of some, that “the wildlife will move on somewhere else”. I don’t want the wildlife to move on somewhere else! How many times do we hear people comment on the loss of species in urban settings? Is wildlife prejudice on the increase in towns and cities? Do people feel that towns and cities are for people and their domesticated two and four-legged and slithering friends only, and that all others should be banshished to the countryside, zoos and country parks? Tweety birds would have to stay, of course, there would be a general outcry if the morning chorus were to be banished, but there are people who would like to see it outlawed. People with such views do exist – I’ve met some of them. All joking aside, though, people are fully entitled to their views and, if they feel strongly enough, they should air them without fear or prejudice.
There are 1945, 1999 and 2007 aerial images of Wilden Marsh, the Lagoon Field, and Wilden Covert here.
Approximately half of the Lagoon Field has been flailed in preparation for bore hole drilling to facilitate hydrology testing. The water levels are low on the marsh at the moment, but sap will soon stop rising with the onset of autmn and the marsh water levels will quickly rise. So now is the best time to achieve low water level readings in the Lagoon Field, depending on rainfall of course.
Ecological features are protected under various United Kingdom (UK) and European legislative instruments. These are described below. European legislation is not included as it is incorporated in UK legislation by domestic provisions.
The Countryside and Rights of Way Act, 2000
The Countryside and Rights of Way Act 2000 primarily extends to England and Wales. It provides a new statutory right of access to the countryside and modernises the rights of way system, bringing into force stronger protection for both wildlife and countryside.
The Act is divided into five distinct sections, Part III is of relevance to ecology
Part III – Nature Conservation and Wildlife Protection: The Act details a number of measures to promote and enhance wildlife conservation. These measures include improving protection for Sites of Special Scientific Interest (SSSIs) and increasing penalties for deliberate damage to SSSIs. Furthermore, the Act affords statutory protection to Ramsar Sites which are wetlands designated under the International Convention on Wetlands.
Wildlife and Countryside Act 1981, as Amended in Quinquennial Review and by the Countryside and Rights of Way Act 2000
The Wildlife and Countryside Act 1981 forms the basis of much of the statutory wildlife protection in the UK. Part I deals with the protection of plants, birds and other animals and Part II deals with the designation of SSSIs.
This Act covers the following broad areas:
Wildlife – listing endangered or rare species in need of protection and creating offences for killing, disturbing or injuring such species. Additionally, the disturbance of any nesting bird during breeding season is also noted as an offence
Nature Conservation – protecting those Sites which are National Nature Reserves (NNR) and Sites of Special Scientific Interest;
Public Rights of Way – placing a duty on the local authority (normally the County Council) to maintain a definitive map of footpaths and rights of way. It also requires that landowners ensure that footpaths and rights of way are continually accessible; and Miscellaneous General Provisions.
The Act also makes it an offence to cause to grow in the wild certain plant species. The Act is enforced by Local Authorities.
The Conservation of Habitats and Species (Amendment) Regulations 2012
The Habitats Directive (Council Directive 92/43/EEC ) came into force in 1992 and provides for the creation of a network of protected wildlife areas across the European Union, known as ‘Natura 2000’. The Natura 2000 network consists of Special Areas of Conservation (SACs) designated under the Habitats Directive and Special Protection Areas (SPAs) designated under the Birds Directive (Council Directive 2009/147/EC) .
The Conservation of Habitats and Species Regulations 2010 commonly known as ‘The Habitats Regulations’ transpose the Habitats Directive into national law and set out the provisions for the protection and management of species and habitats of European importance, including Natura 2000 sites.
The Conservation of Habitats and Species (Amendment) Regulations 2012 came into force in August 2012. Article 2 of the Wild Birds Directive requires Member States to take requisite measures to maintain wild bird populations at a level which corresponds in particular to ecological, scientific and cultural requirements, while taking account of economic and recreational requirements, or to adapt the population of these species to that level. Articles 3 and 4(4) (second sentence) of the Directive are designed to ensure Member States preserve, maintain or re-establish a sufficient diversity and area of habitats for wild birds and to ensure that outside those areas which are specifically designated as important bird habitats, efforts are taken to avoid pollution or deterioration of habitats.
READ MORE ABOUT THE PROPOSED DEVELOPMENT OF THE LAGOON FIELD: Here
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