Sunday, 15 April 2012

Wild Boar in the Forest of Dean

Had an eventful couple of weeks with the wild boar as they start to become more active with their little ones.
The vast majority of wild boar births happen between late February to early March after a gestation period of around 4 months and this is a good time to see them as the little ones are very active, learning the ways of the world from mum.

This is the first year that they have been given the luxury of a closed season and this is vital as the piglets are dependant on the sows milk for around 3 to 4 months. Along with two colleagues, I actively campaigned for a closed season from January to June/July so that the young ones have a chance at life, but the main reason is that if a sow is shot, the little ones will starve to death without the support from the sow.
The Forestry Commission agreed to this, but instead of resuming the cull as and when the piglets are independent and able to survive on their own, they have chosen to suspend and review the cull in September.
There is a reason behind this and I hope that it isn't to try and discredit me and my colleagues as we will see a big increase in boar numbers between now and September as the little ones grow and venture further afield.
Whatever the reason I still stand by the fact that it is immoral to kill an animal with dependant young!

Its not always easy spotting the boar and this was my first glimpse of a sounder (group) after at least 5 miles of tracking.

Seeing them is one thing, but getting close to get a decent shot is another! I was creeping up to get a better look at the sow when I noticed movement in the reeds. A piglet was staring straight at me and this is usually where it all goes wrong as they give you away in an instant.

I was low to the ground, out of sight of the sow and it was just a case of waiting to see if the sow would either ignore the piglet, or come and investigate.

She came to investigate!

After watching me through the trees for a while she decided to come up for a better look!

Then she heard passers and also realising I was human she rounded up her young, disappearing into the forest.

I moved on to try and track down some more in a different location and it wasn't long before the tell tale signs started showing.

Boar poo - I try not to lye and roll around in this!

Then all of a sudden a sow stood up right in front of me!

I crouched down out of sight, but it was too late and she was gone. I was gutted, but when they are lying down in the bracken its very tough knowing they are there until its too late.
I decided to stay in the area for around an hour when all of a sudden I heard movement in the forest and it sounded heavy. I crouched behind a tree and watched as two sows and around 7 - 8 piglets came out into the open.
The sow knew I was there, but she must have decided that I was no threat and brought her little ones out to show me.

I decided to go back to this location today and sure enough, within 10 minuets I found them again. This time the sow saw me from the start, but as I kept my distance and crept up slowly she didn't seem to mind.
Its fantastic being in the presence of the wild boar and to be able to sit within a metre of them and their young while they are acting perfectly natural is a real treat.

Pics from today...

Respect these animals and their home and ypu can have some truly memorable experiences being around them.

PS: I didn't take my dog!


Saturday, 7 April 2012

Northern Arc - Part 2

To follow on from my last post regarding the proposed development (Northern Arc) at the Northern United site near Steam Mills, I have given you some facts below as well as highlighting some of the reasons why I feel this site is unsuitable for development.
There are links at the bottom of the post if you wish to aire your views and support.

Firstly, Northern United is the last remaining deep mine in the Forest of Dean and the surrounding area (proposed development site) is riddled with old mines and chambers. The area has been prone to flooding in the past and this, coupled with the unstable ground will cause major problems in the future due to subsidence and ground collapses.
I am not an expert on mining like my father, so I will not elaborate on this, but I come from a mining family with my father working all the pits throughout the Forest of Dean when he was young (Northern United included). My grandfather also worked the mines and my great grandfather lost a leg in a Forest pit at the age of 15!

The Northern United pit buildings, including bath house are an eyesore, but why are they an eyesore? They have been left derelict, with the surrounding area fenced off to the general public and this area is now overgrown with brambles etc. This is the reason it is an eyesore, but this site should not have been earmarked for demolition because of our unwillingness to preserve it.
The news that these buildings are to be demolished to make way for a road is very unsettling as it is of the utmost importance that these buildings are kept intact and restored so that the young people of today understand and realise the struggles that their ancestors went through to put bread on the table. Of course we must move forward, but at what cost? We must “never” forget our past as it is this history, which made us and our communities what they are today.
As you are aware, the Forest of Dean was formally a Royal Hunting ground and it is steeped in history, heritage and culture, all of which is now under threat.

The Forest of Dean is a very special place for local people and visitors alike. This is why we fought so hard to save our forest; our biggest asset, from the threat of commercialisation and development. However, we are now facing another threat called the Northern Quarter Area Action Plan or (Northern Arc Project), which will undermine all of the hard work and see hundreds of acres of woodland and unique habitats destroyed. Many local council leaders apposed the sale of our forest and fought hard, along with the community to safeguard our most valuable asset, yet today these same people are the ones pushing forward with plans to destroy it!

Phase one of the Cinderford Northern Quarter Area Action Plan or (Northern Arc Project) will see a Spine Road slicing through the heart of the forest. The proposed road is to be street fronted with built development along the majority of its length and if implemented, the road will isolate a large proportion of the forest for future development. More than 1,000 new homes are planned to be built over the next 10 years. It will mean the loss of many historic oak trees planted under the instructions of Lord Nelson, as well as other hard wood trees and unique, ancient habitats.

Phase two will see a hotel, 175 residential houses and offices being built along the main Spine Road.

Phase three will see more residential housing and offices built around an idyllic lake, which supports a massive variety of wildlife, including very rare endangered species like the otter, water vole and great crested newt.

With the shortage of work in the area I can not see the logic in erecting over 1,000 new homes, as we will then see a massive explosion of people requiring employment in the area. The potential initial increase of 300 to 400 cars will then build up to around 1,500 to 2,000 in an area that’s road infrastructure can hardly cope now and it will be an environmental nightmare.
The main build area consists of open land as well as unique habitats, which supports a wide variety of endangered species. Of these wildlife species many are on the Red List for protection and the area has been surveyed by professionals. During the surveys, all endangered species except one were found, yet the plans are still being pushed through, why?

To see a list of the endangered species present at this site, see my previous post.

I am "NOT" against plans to regenerate Cinderford and I applaud the hard work put in by the many who have visioned this. However, Northern United, with its history, wildlife and unique habitats is probably the worst place they could have picked.
To some it may look like an eyesore, but that all depends how you are looking upon it. For me and I know I speak for many, this site is not ugly, it is undisturbed and this is what our wildlife requires today. A place where they feel safe.

Doesn't anyone give a damn about our wildlife anymore? Why do we have to keep fighting to save it from the clowns with blinkers on?

Some links for you, if you wish to help save this site. Please help or one day it may be too late when our forest is covered with tarmac and concrete!


Save Our Forests

I also advise all to write to the Forest of Dean District Council, MP Mark Harper and David Cameron to raise your concerns and appose these plans.

Will keep you updated.