Wild Oxfordshire, our local conservation organisation, has been very supportive to Thame Green Living and has advised on the Green Living Plan. Recently it hosted its Annual Lecture online at which Dr. Richard Benwell, CEO of the Wildlife and Countryside Link, gave a salutary analysis of the situation facing the natural environment. Despite the promising content of the Environment Bill now before Parliament and the UK government’s recognition of the urgent need to tackle the climate crisis in the light of our hosting of the UN Climate Conference (COP26) in November, there are still too many conflicting policies, e.g. the deregulation of the planning system.
The Wildlife and Countryside Link’s site reminds us that the UK is amongst the most nature-depleted countries in the world, ranked 189 out of 218. Between 1970 and 2013, 41% of UK species declined. This figure has subsequently deteriorated further as Wild Oxfordshire’s own The State of Nature in Oxfordshire 2017 report sets out. More recently the national State of Nature reports (for England, devolved administrations and the UK as a whole) published in autumn 2019 by over 70 conservation organisations show that there is increasing instability in the natural world with significant changes in the distribution and volumes of species. Whilst some are taking advantage of changing conditions and increasing, more are in decline. The natural equilibrium is under extraordinary stress like never before in human history.
The response from conservation bodies and from government has been the introduction of a Nature Recovery Programme. Wild Oxfordshire are key partners in this locally whilst our neighbours in Buckinghamshire were selected last summer for one of the pilot Nature Recovery Network programmes. The government’s stated aim is “to leave our environment in a better state than we found it and to pass on to the next generation a natural environment protected and enhanced for the future”. In Thame we are fortunate in having two outstanding conservation bodies, the Cuttle Brook Conservation Volunteers – responsible for the officially designated Local Nature Reserve, and the River Thame Conservation Trust. We also have many people active in the RSPB, the Berks Bucks and Oxfordshire Wildlife Trust, the Chiltern Society and in the Risborough Environmental Group, which undertakes projects and maintenance on the Phoenix Trail. Thame Green Living is seeking to complement the work of such groups and plans to work in partnership with the Town Council to do more to establish a better environment for wildlife in our own town. Our first project, transforming Rycote Meadow, has just begun and, when life becomes a little easier, we’ll be planning to bring more life back into other spaces.
Meanwhile, if you would like to know more about the Nature Recovery Network, please visit Wild Oxfordshire’s site – why not become a member? – and register to be a volunteer with Thame Green Living. COVID restrictions currently make it difficult to take forward many of the nature restoration initiatives in our own Green Living Plan but, later in the year, there will be opportunities to help make Thame a friendlier place for wildlife and for the indigenous flora on which it depends. Incidentally, if you would like to know more about how things work in practice at a local level, Wild Oxfordshire presented a series of very informative webinars last autumn under its Community Groups’ Conference 2020 programme.