Eynsham Parish Council Consultation on Restoring Biodiversity
None of us can have failed to notice (with our Covid-19 exercise-regimes) our local villages and landscape bursting into wild and not-so-wild bloom. Some of us may not have noticed, however, that the Eynsham Parish Council (EPC) is taking a new lead in fostering this natural beauty in Eynsham (article by Parish Councillors Ross Macken and Sue Osborne, Eynsham News, April-May). Now, the EPC is seeking residents’ opinion on the first pilot areas for increasing biodiversity (with others areas in the pipeline). We are being encouraged to give our views by this Friday, 1st May. So, if you haven’t already, please go to EPC Consultations
In March, the EPC decided to adopt elements of Plantlife’s wildlife-friendly verge management regime and to work with the Nature Recovery network to increase biodiversity in Eynsham. This is an exciting new chapter for the village, putting it at the vanguard of parishes and counties in the UK, and in a position to help other communities in our locality.
Eynsham is also ahead of the game in terms of the UK Government’s Environment Bill, which has had its second reading in Parliament and so is likely to become law in its existing form. This will require public authorities ‘to consider what action the authority can properly take, consistently with the proper exercise of its functions, to further the general biodiversity objective.’
In early March, a group of Parish Councillors walked all the Parish Council-managed land in Eynsham with Eynsham’s professional ecologists and those with long-term specialist knowledge of conservation in the village. Their advice, in combination with the community proposals, have guided the selection of the initial pilot areas under the EPC management. (The greatest number of proposals were for increasing wildflower areas, followed closely by tree-planting).
The EPC is taking things slowly, quite properly, seeking consultation in the first instance on selected pilot areas. These areas are intended to be small, but visible, enabling enthusiasts and sceptics to walk in step. This incremental approach will also help the Parish Council brief its contractors on grass management and hedge-cutting techniques for biodiversity, in order to ensure that the process of biodiversity enhancement is carefully prepared. (This is particularly important for wildflower areas).
So, following the principle of seeing what biodiversity we have before making interventions, the pilot areas focus on not cutting a few verges and border areas of the playing fields until August. This will to allow us to see what flowers and grasses have survived in the landscape. The verges have been chosen for having some existing biodiversity and a relative lack of vigorous species such as nettle, creeping thistle and dock – as well as being areas that don’t have houses directly fronting onto them. The playing field borders have little existing biodiversity, but form an important ecotone between the adjacent woodland and stream, which are known to be important for wildlife. Hedges are important wildlife corridors connecting to larger wooded areas and so two proposals for hedge planting are included in the pilot plan.
Nature Recovery is making an application to the Oxfordshire Trust for the Environment for funding wildflower meadow creation and to the Woodland Trust for tree-planting. Beyond the many general community suggestions to increase wildflowers and trees, there are some wonderful specific proposals, including ‘a nut grove’ and an apple collection to celebrate Eynsham’s nationally famous apple-growing history. Hopefully, we will eventually be able to implement some of these. In the meantime, we need ‘local champions’ (ie those with proposals for increasing biodiversity on their particular street and in their immediate neighbourhood) to gather support among their neighbours. If you could be one of these please let us know.