Parish Nature Warden

“There is no doubt that the parish of Holcombe Burnell is incredibly beautiful, and in 2020 many of its residents have been out and about appreciating the nature on their doorsteps. However, it is well-documented that nature is under increasing pressure, as humans continue to shape their environment to suit their needs in increasingly efficient ways. Much of our wildlife has already been lost from our landscapes, and many species are under threat of extinction as more and more natural habitats disappear every year. 

In response to this ecological crisis, Holcombe Burnell Parish Council now has a Parish Nature Warden Scheme. The aim of this scheme is to work towards connecting  habitats at landscape scale, to map the parish, and identify which wildlife species are doing well in our parish and which are in decline, and to talk to landowners about ways of creating ‘nature corridors’ to try and reverse the decline.

For example, hedgehogs have suffered a catastrophic reduction in numbers in my lifetime, leading to predictions that they will be extinct by 2025. Last year, 5 hedgehogs were killed on just one short stretch of road outside our property in Longdown. If the residents of Holcombe Burnell parish reduced the amount of chemicals used in their gardens (particularly slug pellets), checked bonfires for hedgehogs and created refuges in their garden where piles of sticks and leaves are seen as good habitat for wildlife, rather than a bit of a mess, the parish could become a stronghold for hedgehogs. Hedgehogs can travel around a mile in a night, so making sure there are gaps in garden fences (about 13cm diameter – the size of a compact disc –  is sufficient) will mean they can travel more freely to find food and a mate, and will help to improve connectivity for hedgehogs across the parish.

The parish also has some key habitats for nationally rare species such as the Hazel dormouse and the Glow-worm, so if we can work together to extend these areas, more people can experience these natural wonders in ‘our backyards’.

A glow-worm glowing!

Sometimes small actions for nature may seem inconsequential, but the good work of every individual homeowner and landowner in the parish can be linked together to make a big difference for wildlife and our local environment.  If this good work can then be replicated from parish to parish across Teignbridge, we can create a ‘nature recovery network’, enhancing and restoring the natural environment and wildlife of Devon and in turn connecting people living in the parish to their surroundings, with the increasingly recognised benefits to mental and physical health that being more in touch with nature bring. 

Over the coming months you will be hearing more about the scheme, and ways in which parishioners can encourage wildlife in their own gardens.  For example, perhaps we can organize a seed swap for insect-friendly flowers, and we are keen to hear of your sightings of wildlife and plants in the parish.

Many people are aware of the dangers of plastic pollution to marine wildlife, but our local wildlife also faces similar hazards. On a recent litter pick in the parish, in addition to the usual suspects discarded facemasks and plastic can rings were picked up from Longdown’s verges. Animals and birds can get tangled up in these, causing injury or death. This litter can also blow into our watercourses and end up out at sea. In this way litter close to home is contributing to global problems. We are planning some more litter picks, so please get in touch if you’d like to help out.

Discarded face mask in Longdown

In the longer-term (after current COVID-19 restrictions are lifted) we are planning some ‘Nature get-togethers’ and are also hoping we can tap into any local expertise to create a peer-support network so that landowners and others can visit sites within the parish and see what different ‘good for nature’ land management approaches look like, for example nature-friendly farming, meadows and species-rich grassland, native hedgerows and naturally regenerating or planted woodland.

We are also looking to organise nature enrichment walks for the mental health and wellbeing of the wider parish community, and we are liaising with our local schools to encourage children living in the parish to ‘get out into nature’  so that they learn to value their local natural environment.

We want to identify wildlife / human ‘pinch points’ within the parish and explore ways to mitigate these, such as the excellent work done by the Barn Owl Trust, so if you see wildlife road casualties please let us know so that we can measure trends and identify where action needs to be taken.

There is much that we can all do to help nature to recover and flourish in the parish, and in the words of  Dr Seuss in The Lorax: “Unless someone like you cares a whole awful lot, nothing is going to get better. It’s not.”

I am not an ecologist, but I am rooted in this place and have a passion for the wonders of our nature, in our backyard. So if you love nature and would like to get involved please get in touch.” 

Kate Morley
Email: [email protected] Mobile: 07704122990.

Kate Morley is a new member to Holcombe Burnell Parish Council, and has also initiated and taken on the role of parish Nature Warden.