Connecting With Nature

Last week we mentioned the District Council’s Winter in Rochford photography competition. Which brings us nicely to an article in the New Statesman by Helen MacDonald about the Ladybird Book “What To Look For In Winter”, , first published in 1959:


“I also remembered all these pictures: 24 watercolours of hoar frost and rooks under pallid skies, of snowy woods, sheep, jackdaws, about tractors, holly bushes, foresters, carthorses; ducks on frozen lakes, a half-ermined stoat slipping past reeds rimed with ice….

…Small, with card covers, and priced at two shillings and sixpence each, the books in Ladybird’s nature series could easily be stuffed in a pocket or satchel on trips to the local countryside. They were hugely influential and this one – written by the novelist, naturalist and mystic E L Grant Watson, with illustrations by Charles Tunnicliffe – was my favourite. I knew each page of text by heart, delighted in how it explained and elaborated on the winter scene on the opposite page, traced with my fingers where animals, farm machinery and livestock were framed between foreground details of fence lines and foliage and a background of distant spires and sunlit hillsides.

Rereading it was an exercise in nostalgia, but a complicated one. I began to wonder whether anyone makes books like this any more. What to Look for in Winter is a spectacular primer not only in natural history but in aesthetic pleasure, in how to pay attention to the moving patterns of colour, light and shade in a landscape. Unlike a field guide, it encourages you to encounter the natural world as a whole, not merely ticking off its constituent parts.”

Our District has very large areas of green belt, but are we still as connected to nature as we were in 1959? Almost certainly not – increasing population, increased car use , the pleasures of TV, computers and gaming have all had a impact. But its important to encounter the natural world as a whole, not just to think of the Green Belt as a suitable place for sports pitches or golf driving ranges.

We need to keep those places where you can hear birdsong without hearing traffic noise, where you can see the Milky Way on clear nights without the interference of artificial lights.

Hat-Tip: Liberal England

What Are Passivhauses ?

This week’s “Yellow List” of planning applications can be downloaded here. These are applications that probably don’t need to go the Development Committee. Officers have prepared a report on each one, with a recommendation. If no councillor calls it by Wednesday lunchtime, the recommendation comes into effect.

Two of the applications this week are small ones for building in the Green Belt – both are recommended for refusal on Green Belt grounds.

One is at “Land East Of Gardiners Lane, Lambourne Hall Road Canewdon” for a bungalow

The other is at land “opposite 1 – 10 Disraeli Road Rayleigh” and is an outline application for ” 2 4-Bed Passivhauses, Associated Landscaping And Biodiversity Enhancement”. You may well be wondering what Passivhauses are. Well, there’s a clue in the details of the report:

“The proposal is to create two new dwellings to the passivhaus standard. The
dwellings would also incorporate the installation of ground array photovoltaic
panels, rainwater harvesting and aim to achieve a zero carbon rating. The
dwellings would incorporate 300mm of insulation, feature triple glazed
windows, mechanical ventilation heat recovery and high standards of build
There are no details of the scale and design of the dwellings apart from it
being stated that the buildings would have an elongated linear appearance to
integrate the dwellings more successfully into the landscape than a
conventionally designed dwelling. It is proposed to landscape the upper part
of the site with deciduous trees and to plant the lower party of the site with

If you want to know what something is, try wikipedia:

The term passive house (Passivhaus in German) refers to a rigorous, voluntary standard for energy efficiency in a building, reducing its ecological footprint.[1] It results in ultra-low energy buildings that require little energy for space heating or cooling…
Estimates of the number of Passivhaus buildings around the world in late 2008 ranged from 15,000 to 20,000 structures.[6][7] As of August 2010, there were approximately 25,000 such certified structures of all types in Europe, while in the United States there were only 13, with a few dozen more under construction.[1] The vast majority of passive structures have been built in German-speaking countries and Scandinavia.

Building new homes in the Green Belt is only allowed in very special circumstances (unless you take the land out of the Green Belt, as is happening on big sites around the district). Does being a Passivhaus make it very special circumstances?

Which Parties Care about Our Bees?

DSCF0767The decline in the numbers of bees is worrying, not only for the environment and wild plants, but for agriculture. The buglife website has carried out a ‘bee’s eyes view’ of the various parties manifestos. They begin by saying:

Bee decline is the number one environmental concern of the UK public and we are in the midst of a slew of new and shocking evidence about the impact of intensive agriculture on pollinators. Not only do the public love bees and understand the ethical responsibility we have not to drive species to extinction, the economic argument for protecting our pollinators and other wildlife is compelling, and the health and welfare benefits to people of doing so are clear. So in the run up to the General Election on 7th of May what commitments are being made by the political parties to save our beleaguered pollinators and wildlife more generally?

It’s a very calm, detailed assessment of the various parties manifestos , and if the subject interests you, it’s best to read the whole article.

But to summarise, the writer gives:
The Green Party 10 gold stars for 10 good policies ” The Green Party is alone in making a positive commitment to ban neonicotinoids “

The Lib Dems 7 gold stars for 7 good policies  “The Lib Dems are making a brace of resounding commitments to pollinators”
Labour 4 gold stars for 4 good policies “No mention of bees or pollinators in the main Manifesto, but the accompanying Green Plan states that a Labour government “will…….reverse the decline of pollinators”.
The Conservatives 3 gold stars for 3 good policies “Promise that they will use agri-environment money to “help our bees to thrive.” “
Plaid Cymru have 1 gold star for a good policy and 1 thumbs-down for a bad one. “No mention of bees”
The SNP draws a blank – they didn’t mention this in their manifesto.“No mention of bees”
UKIP have two thumbs down for 2 bad policies “No mention of bees (or wildlife, or biodiversity, or nature!)”

Free Compost Giveaway !


From the District Council website:

Compost Awareness Week takes place from 3-9 May, and to mark this Rochford District Council are offering free compost to all residents.
To get your free compost just come along to Pooles Lane Car Park, Hullbridge at 10am on Wednesday 6 May with your own sacks and help yourselves. It’s that simple!
The compost will be distributed on a first come, first served basis, so please get there early to avoid disappointment.

Solar Farms and Other Enviromental Applications

As the Echo has reported here, there’s an application in for a big solar “farm” in Canewdon

A MONSTER solar farm generating enough energy to power 4,125 homes could be built in Canewdon.

Under plans submitted to Rochford Council, farmers Paul and Mark Woodford would lease the 50-acre stretch of farmland between Fambridge Road and Canewdon Road to solar panel company Solar Assets.

The deal would be for 25 years, and the solar farm could be generating renewable energy for the area as early as April next year.

Canewdon Parish Council has already voted overwhelmingly to support the plans for approval ahead of them going before Rochford councillors in January.

The three-metre-tall panels would be positioned at an angle facing the River Crouch and would have a wildflower meadow around it, with sheep keeping the grass short….

You can find the application here on the council website here.

There is also an application for a ‘solar farm’ at Southend Airport – you can find that one here.

Meanwhile there are also two applications in connection with the creation of the wildlife reserve on Wallasea Island:

“Continuation of the importation of waste to develop a coastal nature reserve without compliance with condition 2 (compliance with submitted details) attached to permission ref ESS/09/14/ROC to allow modifications to the landform design within Cells 1 and 5, including a net reduction of suitable natural waste material in Cell 1 by approximately 450,000m3.”


“Continuation of the importation of waste to develop a coastal nature reserve without compliance with conditions 2 (compliance with submitted details); 39 (cessation of operations and restoration by 31 December 2019); and 40 (removal of construction in frastructure) attached to planning permission ref ESS/54/08/ROC to allow importation of suitable natural material and to require cessation of site operations and restoration by 31 Decmeber 2025, together with the inclusion of previously agreed non-material amendments to permission rf ES/54/08/ROC. Condition No 8. Noise monitoring.”

Looks like the Wallasea project is going to take 6 more years than expected…

Wallasea Wander

Paglesham -lookingouttoWallaseaIsland


From the RSPB website, a morning you might enjoy:

Wallasea Wander

Saturday 12 April

9:45am to 12pm

Price: Free, donations welcome.

Booking essential

Join our monthly walks to spot some of the amazing wildlife that makes Wallasea Island its home. Find out more about the development of this exciting new nature reserve.


Meet at: RSPB car park, Wallasea Island


Don’t forget that Wallasea Island ( in our district) is going  to become a pretty wonderful place:

Wallasea Island Wild Coast project is a landmark conservation and engineering scheme for the 21st century, on a scale never before attempted in the UK and the largest of its type in Europe.

The aim of this project is to combat the threats from climate change and coastal flooding by recreating the ancient wetland landscape of mudflats and saltmarsh, lagoons and pasture. It will also help to compensate for the loss of such tidal habitats elsewhere in England.

Once completed, this will provide a haven for a wonderful array of nationally and internationally important wildlife and an amazing place for the local community, and those from further afield, to come and enjoy.

Although the reserve is planned to be in development until around 2019, you’re welcome to come along and view the progress as each phase comes to life and the marshland naturally regenerates. The current sea wall access along the North (Defra) sea wall is a wonderful place to come to relax and enjoy, whether for walking, cycling, birdwatching, painting, photography or simply taking in the sea air.

Over the coming years, the scheme will create a varied wetland landscape with more than nine miles (15 km) of new and improved access routes, and eventually a range of visitor facilities.

Opening times

The sea wall footpath is open at all times.

Entrance charges

None – it’s free.

Information for dog owners

There are plans for a dog walking area on part of the island – please contact us for details.


Green Tea


From the District Council website:

A Rochford District business is the latest lucky recipient of an EU funded grant to help them become ‘greener’ as part of the Low Carbon Business programme.
Squires coffee shop in Rayleigh is the latest District based business to benefit from a cash grant which they used towards a brand new heating and cooling system.
Squires were introduced to the Low Carbon Business Programme at a Rochford District Council business breakfast event and were able to assist them with the application for a European grant towards the new air heating system.
The coffee shop is expecting to reduce its electricity usage by 6,920kWh which will mean that they also reduce their carbon footprint by 3.63 tonnes. On top of this they are likely to reduce their overhead spend by over £700 every year….

The full article is here. There is a total of £40,000 available for businesses in the Rochford area

The LED Alternative

Southend and Glasgow are two of the councils investing in modern LED lighting – instead of turning lights off.

The Echo reports about Southend:

New street lights will improve safety and save money

NEW multi-million pound low energy street lights in Southend will improve safety as well save taxpayers cash, council bosses say.

Southend Council plans to spend £2.65million replacing all street lights in the borough with LED bulbs, which should save almost two-thirds on energy bills.

But the brighter white light the bulbs produce will also improve the quality of images produced by CCTV and make it easier for drivers to spot potential hazards on roads at night.

Tory council leader Nigel Holdcroft, who announced the planned spending as part of the coming year’s budget earlier this week, also rejected turning off street lights to save cash, as the county council is doing elsewhere in Essex….


Meanwhile the Guardian reports today about Glasgow:

Glasgow gets green loan to install low-energy street lights

Glasgow will be markedly less orange in the near future, and its council will be millions of pounds better off, under plans from the government’s green fund. Street lights will be replaced with low-energy LEDs so that the familiar sodium glow gives way to bright white light.

As well as saving money, it will be a boon to skywatchers in the surrounding countryside, as LED lights provide more illumination on the ground and less to the clouds. Close to 100% of the light goes downward, unlike conventional street lights which send a third of their glow into the night sky, causing light pollution.

The project is the result of a new finance deal from the government-backed green investment bank. Under the deal, councils will receive the cash needed for the replacements upfront, to be paid back over time as the savings materialise.



You Can Help Buy And Protect Some Woodland In Thundersley…..

From the website of the Essex Wildlife Trust:

Urgent – Help us save Cottage Plantation: a fantastic woodland site. We have just 12 weeks to raise £44,000 towards the purchase of Cottage Plantation – a fantastic woodland site in Daws Heath. Cottage Plantation is in a complex of ancient woodlands and has many native species of trees. Essex Wildlife Trust aims to acquire this site and we are determined to raise the last £44,000 which, together with grants, will complete the purchase.

We need 1,760 people to donate £25 each to help us save this truly tranquil and important woodland.

The woodland is on the opposite side of the road to Essex Wildlife Trust’s Little Haven nature reserve and would form an important part of the Daws Heath & Belfairs Living Landscape. As you can see from the attached map, Cottage Plantation is surrounded by ancient woodlands and nature reserves and, through Essex Wildlife Trust acquiring the site, this area will be even more robust so that wildlife can flourish.

The woodland is truly beautiful and walking in it offers tranquillity and a chance to escape from it all. At present it is privately owned but Essex Wildlife Trust will make the area accessible for all to enjoy. Footpaths will be improved and the site will welcome visitors.


Find out more here.

“See You On The OUTSIDE”

Project Wild Thing is a film-led project – about getting people, especially children, outside, into nature.

If you want nature, wildness and free-range living for kids and adults to exist alongside an increasingly industrialised and technological society then join us and get involved in making that happen.
See you on the outside.

This little film explains it better and is worth watching. Sometimes you are tempted to laugh – or maybe wince :

Hat-tip: Liberal England