‘If we and the rest of the back-boned animals were to disappear overnight, the rest of the world would get on pretty well. But if the invertebrates were to disappear, the world's ecosystems would collapse.’
Sir David Attenborough
As the Essex town of Basildon celebrates its 70th birthday this year, Natural England has announced new protection for the iconic landscapes of nearby Langdon Ridge.
2019 marks the UK government’s Year of Green Action, a year-long drive to help people to connect with, protect and enhance nature. Langdon Ridge is easily accessible from Basildon, and the newly-notified Site of Special Scientific Interest (SSSI) will help ensure it remains both a thriving place for nature, and a valuable green space enjoyed by future generations.
Around 345 hectares of land across parts of the town and surrounding areas has received legal protection for its nationally significant array of grassland, woodlands, rare plants and insects.
The new designation will ensure stronger protection for features such as wildflower rich grasslands, woodland habitats, as well as rare species such as the Deptford Pink and the Grizzled Skipper butterfly.
The new SSSI will encompass sites that are well known for their natural history in the local area, including the Dunton Plotlands Nature Reserve, Langdon Hills Country Park, Marks Hill Wood and Willow Park.
Natural England’s Interim Chief Executive, Marian Spain said:
Natural England is here to make sure that people and nature can thrive together. I am delighted therefore that we have been able to extend the protection for this nationally important network of sites around Basildon which as well as being of huge value for wildlife is a much loved and much used open space for local people.
As reported by Southend Community News last year, EWT’s success at reintroducing one
of the UK’s rarest butterflies – the Heath Fritillary - to its Belfairs Woods reserve, remains one of the high points for invertebrate conservation across Britain. And indeed, it would appear, across the whole planet.
According to the first global scientific review published last month, the world’s insects are
“hurtling down the path to extinction” with more than 40% of species declining and a third
now placed on the endangered list, threatening a “catastrophic collapse of nature’s
ecosystems”. According to the best data available, invertebrates could vanish within a
Andrew Impey, Chief Executive Officer for Essex Wildlife Trust explains: - “Insects really are the unsung heroes of the animal world and it’s no exaggeration to say that the planet
wouldn’t exist as we know it, were it not for their existence. For many people they are just
creepy crawlies that look a bit weird, but they perform vital roles in the ecological
functioning of the countryside. From pollinating much of our food, to the decomposition of
dead organic matter, insects are at the heart of any habitat.
“ It’s everyone’s responsibility to acknowledge these issues and demand that habitats and
species are preserved in perpetuity”.
‘If we and the rest of the back-boned animals were to disappear overnight, the rest of the world would get on pretty well. But if the invertebrates were to disappear, the world's ecosystems would collapse.’ Sir David Attenborough Insects are crucial to many
ecosystems and vital for the food chain - extreme losses will have disastrous consequences for the species MAN.
Essex Wildlife Trust and its partner organisations, such as Buglife, are working hard to protect key insect habitats and monitor insect populations across our home county.
What YOU can do to help
Everyone can help insects to thrive; with a few simple steps you can create your own garden
Plant bee-friendly plants
Flowers and shrubs that are rich in pollen will have your garden buzzing with bees.
Leave your lawn
By cutting your lawn a little less often, you can create a haven for insects. Allow plants such
as Daisies, Clovers and Buttercups to flower and they will provide valuable nectar and pollen resources.
Create a mini-meadow
Butterflies, bees and many other species love to visit wildflowers including Knapweed,
Cowslip and Meadow Buttercup. Plant in a sunny spot if possible without fertilising the soil -wildflowers love poor soil.
Build a Bug Hotel
Create a home for bugs with your very own Bug Hotel incorporating dead wood, dry leaves
and hollow stems, old stones and tiles. Download your very own guide at
The magnificent, graceful and unmistakeable Red Kite has been spotted over Essex in
Residents as close as Hawkwell have reported seeing the birds over fields and grassland.
Other reports have come in from Colchester, Chelmsford and Brentwood areas.
This is marvellous news for absolutely anyone who loves nature or is interested in our
environment because the Red Kite was saved from extinction by the world’s longest-
running and most successful protection programme. Ever.
The dramatic decline of the species over the centuries was due to loss of habitat, ignorance
and persecution - Shakespeare's King Lear describes his daughter Goneril a “detested kite”
and Scotland’s King James II decreed that they should be "killed wherever possible".
By the 20th century, there were merely a handful of pairs left in South Wales until 1989
when the RSPB started a reintroduction programme in Scotland and subsequently the
Chilterns, Northamptonshire and Cumbria.
The species are commonly seen taking advantage of the thermals or hunting on the wing, soaring and circling over open ground. They are mainly carrion eaters and road-casualty birds, rabbits and squirrels form an important part of their diet.
Today there are around 1,600 breeding pairs across the UK and some experts think that
Britain's kite population could eventually reach around 50,000 pairs -which is more than
double the current world population.
So keep looking up. With its deeply forked tail and a wing span of around 70 inches, you
will never, ever mistake this stunning bird for any other creature.....
“The world billows
Within his wingspan
Animals, creatures and man
Whirling about in his eyes”
The RSPB’s Let Nature Sing campaign saw the first ever release of pure birdsong reach the UK charts smashing the charity’s expectations as it climbed to number 18.
Featuring some of the UK’s most loved and most threatened bird songs, it raised awareness
of the cost of doing nothing to stop the disaster facing nature, which is pushing many UK
birds towards extinction.
The charity have now launched a free RSPB Birdsong Radio app., inspired by the popular
former Radio Birdsong, a broadcast of layered bird calls and country sounds used as a test
transmission for Classic FM and for digital radio stations during the 90s and 00s. At its peak
it was thought to have 500,000 weekly listeners and its removal was met with widespread
public outcry and media coverage.
RSPB’s Adrian Thomas, who recorded the main 35-minute birdsong loop said, “We wanted
to create a gentle, ambient background chorus of some of our most-loved and seriously
endangered birds to take listeners on an uplifting walk through the countryside”.
An alarm-clock feature will also allow listeners to wake up to the gentle purring of the turtle
Search ‘RSPB Birdsong Radio’ to download the free app.
A new finance deal with Triodos, Europe’s leading sustainable bank, will help the RSPB to
roll-out the installation of renewable energy projects across its nature reserves.
Solar panels will be located at seven nature reserves including the organisation’s flagship
Minsmere, in neighbouring Suffolk. Not only will the solar panels save the RSPB a significant
sum on its energy bill, but they will also provide income from selling energy back to the grid.
Ruth Davis, Deputy Director, RSPB Global Conservation said, “We are all becoming more
aware of the growing threat climate disruption poses for people and nature. As an
environmental body, we have adopted targets to drive reductions in our carbon footprint,
including through energy efficiency and generating energy at our nature reserves”.
And We’re Back….!
Vital work is beginning this month to save an Essex icon as the Essex Native Oyster Restoration Initiative (ENORI) begins its 2019 conservation activities in the Thames estuary –
creating the region’s first Mother Oyster Sanctuary.
Oysters, which have been farmed in the Estuary since Roman times, have suffered a 95% decline in population over the last 200 years due to historic overfishing, habitat loss, pollution and the introduction of diseases.
‘Recycled’ shells from oysters bred in Mersea and sold in Borough Market and West Mersea as well as cockleshells from the Thames cockle fleet have been used to “lay the cultch” – a term used to describe the process of laying crushed shells and stones onto the estuary floor.
Adult females or ‘mother oysters’ will then be laid and hopefully spawn in the coming weeks.
This month, the Essex Wildlife Trust (EWT) is celebrating the marine life that can be found
along the Essex coastline - 350 miles long and featuring a huge variety of habitats
including tidal mudflats, sand and shingle beaches, marshes and cliffs.
The Trust is organising a programme of events across the county including beach combing,
guided walks and coastal clean-ups.
A visit to the EWT website will also provide ideas for family activities as well as Activity
Sheets and Wildlife Identification pages.
The month-long event will conclude on Saturday 24th August with a Marine Wildlife Celebration day at The Naze Centre, Walton-on-the-Naze, which will include Seashore Scavenger hunts and opportunities for budding “citizen scientists” to help EWT survey the coastline and record the findings.
In recent years, the increase in the seal population, the rise in sightings of dolphins and the return of
the seahorse not only underlines the importance of our waters to wildlife but that it is vital to understand the coastline and to help keep it clean.
Species to look out for in August include the beautifully named Moon Jellyfish, Beadlet Anemones and Mermaid Purses.
For more information and to download free activity and information sheets visit
Essex County Council is responsible for seven country parks, a heritage site, five mills and over 30 woodlands as well as two disused railway lines. We manage these sites to:
give residents access to open spaces, woodland trails and historic parklands
protect and encourage rare and important plants and animals
Essex County Council’s Wildlife and Biodiversity team work closely with the council owned Country Parks to ensure that the parks maintain and manage a diverse number of habitats within their borders and encourage native species to thrive
Hadleigh Park offers something for everyone – idyllic countryside, magnificent views, important historical sites and one of the UK’s top mountain biking courses. It's a perfect place for picnics and wildlife watching, or to try something a little more challenging
At 152 hectares (387 acres), Hadleigh Park is one of the largest in Essex, renowned for its views and undulating hills, pasture, hay meadow and marsh, old hedgerows and ponds, making it an ideal place to walk. In spring, the bluebells, archangel and celandine put on a magnificent display. Summer sees the meadows in bloom with scores of butterflies drifting over, ideal for a picnic. In autumn, blackberries and sloes are a great attraction. Winter brings large flocks of birds and perhaps a chance to go sledging!
Rare UK Butterfly Continues to Soar at
Belfairs Woodland Nature Reserve has recorded the highest number of one of Britain’s
rarest butterflies at its Essex Wildlife Trust (EWT) location.
The Heath Fritillary, which was on the brink of extinction in the 1970’s and is still only found
at a handful of English sites, has been increasing in numbers over the last few years due to
careful habitat management and the prevailing warmer temperatures.
Last year, SCN reported that the species had produced a second brood at Belfairs during
2018’s long hot summer and this year has seen a bumper surge in sightings and distribution
of the butterflies around the reserve.
A team of dedicated volunteers has been supporting the staff at EWT to continuously
manage areas of the Belfairs ancient woodland to create an ideal habitat for the Heath
Fritillary. This consists of a mixture of bare ground, leaf litter and taller vegetation, providing
areas for shelter, perching, feeding and laying eggs.
The EWT team have coppiced, removed brambles and created nectar-rich habitats which
has obviously paid off!
A peak count of 148 Heath Fritillary butterflies was recorded during June this year, more
than double recorded in 2018 before and the highest number recorded since the summer of
This month, Essex Wildlife Trust (EWT) is celebrating its 60th anniversary and asking the public to assist them mark this occasion by helping record the County’s wildlife species.
In October 1959, a group of Essex volunteers gathered at County Hall Chelmsford to put forward their concerns for wildlife and habitat protection across the County and
subsequently formed the Essex Naturalists’ Trust, which would later become Essex Wildlife Trust.
Today, as the County’s largest conversation charity with over 38,000 members, EWT has 11 visitor centres that welcome over 1 million people each year, 87 nature reserves managed for wildlife throughout the county, 60,000 school children engaged in nature-themed
activities a year and highly ambitious environmental projects and species reintroductions to help wildlife thrive including the innovative Living Landscapes programme.
EWT CEO Andrew Impey, said “Projects such as sculpture trails, cafes, ecotourism, corporate partnerships, forest schools and social media may not have been on the agenda back in 1959 but the Trust has evolved and become more creative in its approach to protecting wildlife for the future”.
EWT’s success is due to the hard work and enthusiasm of over 2,000 volunteers who regularly donate their time to the Trust; from helping to deliver education groups, joining a weekly work party, collecting species records or working behind the scenes in the charity’s
To commemorate Essex Wildlife Trust’s anniversary, they are asking members of the public to take part in a species survey for Essex, helping them identify the distribution and number of particular wildlife throughout the County, by letting them know if you have seen any of
the iconic UK species that are returning to Essex as a result of the Trust’s work. These include
the House Martin, Brown Hare, Red Kite and a number of different Bumblebee and Butterfly
To take part, visit www.essexwt.org.uk/60th-species-survey where you will be able to tell the
Trust if you have seen any of the above species were you live.
This year, Essex Wildlife Trust and the Southern Colour Ringing Group have launched a satellite tagging project, to track how Dark-bellied Brent Geese use the Essex coastline over winter and to follow their journey back to the breeding grounds in Siberia. The Dark-bellied Brent goose arrives in Essex from October, with over a quarter of the world’s population spending the winter months around the Essex coast, then in March they begin their epic migration once again.
Satellite tags allow us to gain invaluable data on the geese’s movements and in time, the data will identify sites that are important for the geese and help to inform future landscape-scale conservation efforts. We’re especially interested in finding out how the Brent Geese are using the Essex coastline and the data will feed into the management plans of our nature reserves and inform stakeholders in the wider landscape.