Helping hungry red squirrels in England

This 1 April 2020 video from Dorset in England says about itself:

Protecting squirrels’ nuts at National Trust Brownsea Island

Rangers on Brownsea Island have spotted the resident red squirrels are struggling to find their nuts.

Throughout autumn, red squirrels store food in tidy piles around the island, however, the forgetful rodents soon lose track of where they’ve stashed their snacks. This winter, we followed our team of dedicated rangers as they stepped in, setting a trail of squirrel-sized markers to lead the squirrels back to their lunch.

Save England’s little tern chicks

This 11 February 2019 video from Britain says about itself:

We need your help to save this year’s Chesil Beach little tern chicks.

Little terns are one of the UK’s smallest and most threatened seabirds. Every April they beat tremendous odds, traveling thousands of miles from Africa to a small strip of Chesil Beach to raise their family.

Chesil’s little terns are the last remaining colony in South West England. The Chesil Beach Little Tern Recovery Project is a partnership project set up ten years ago to protect Dorset’s iconic bird. In 2009 the colony had dwindled to a handful of birds and no chicks fledged – the colony was at risk of being lost. The project saw the yearly installation of a predator fence around the colony and 24-hour wardening to protect vulnerable chicks.

Within one year nine chicks fledged, the highest success rate since 1976, and by 2017, the colony produced 73 fledglings.

The project costs £17,500 annually, previously funded via grants, but this summer’s funding has run short. We’ve secured £4000, but we need your help to raise the remaining £13,500.

We’ve set up the #LittleTernAppeal Just Giving Campaign to try and raise the urgent funds needed. Please donate here.

Please help us give 2019’s little tern chicks the best possible chance to safely grow from egg to fluffy fledgling and make their long journey to Africa in August. With your help we can make sure little terns remain part of Dorset’s landscape where they rightly belong.

Follow the appeal and all latest news at:

Dinosaur age English mammalian human ancestors discovery

This video from England says about itself:

6 November 2017

Fossilised teeth of 145 million year-old ‘rat’ that is mankind’s oldest ancestor

Fossil remains of two rat-like creatures understood to be the oldest known ancestors of humans have been discovered in Dorset.

The small furry animals scurried in the shadow of the dinosaurs 145 million years ago.

Scientists believe they can draw a direct evolutionary line from the ancient mammals to people living today.

Two teeth belonging to two different species were sifted out of samples of Cretaceous period rock collected from exposed cliffs near Swanage.

From the University of Portsmouth in England:

Humankind’s earliest ancestors discovered in southern England

November 7, 2017

Fossils of the oldest mammals related to humankind have been discovered on the Jurassic Coast of Dorset.

The two teeth are from small, rat-like creatures that lived 145 million years ago in the shadow of the dinosaurs. They are the earliest undisputed fossils of mammals belonging to the line that led to human beings.

They are also the ancestors to most mammals alive today, including creatures as diverse as the Blue Whale and the Pigmy Shrew. The findings are published in the journal Acta Palaeontologica Polonica, in a paper by Dr Steve Sweetman, Research Fellow at the University of Portsmouth, and co-authors from the same university. Dr Sweetman, whose primary research interest concerns all the small vertebrates that lived with the dinosaurs, identified the teeth but it was University of Portsmouth undergraduate student Grant Smith who made the discovery.

Dr Sweetman said: “Grant was sifting through small samples of earliest Cretaceous rocks collected on the coast of Dorset as part of his undergraduate dissertation project in the hope of finding some interesting remains. Quite unexpectedly he found not one but two quite remarkable teeth of a type never before seen from rocks of this age. I was asked to look at them and give an opinion and even at first glance my jaw dropped!”

“The teeth are of a type so highly evolved that I realised straight away I was looking at remains of Early Cretaceous mammals that more closely resembled those that lived during the latest Cretaceous — some 60 million years later in geological history. In the world of palaeontology there has been a lot of debate around a specimen found in China, which is approximately 160 million years old. This was originally said to be of the same type as ours but recent studies have ruled this out. That being the case, our 145 million year old teeth are undoubtedly the earliest yet known from the line of mammals that lead to our own species.”

Dr Sweetman believes the mammals were small, furry creatures and most likely nocturnal. One, a possible burrower, probably ate insects and the larger may have eaten plants as well.

He said: “The teeth are of a highly advanced type that can pierce, cut and crush food. They are also very worn which suggests the animals to which they belonged lived to a good age for their species. No mean feat when you’re sharing your habitat with predatory dinosaurs!”

The teeth were recovered from rocks exposed in cliffs near Swanage which has given up thousands of iconic fossils. Grant, now reading for his Master’s degree at The University of Portsmouth, said that he knew he was looking at something mammalian but didn’t realise he had discovered something quite so special. His supervisor, Dave Martill, Professor of Palaeobiology, confirmed that they were mammalian, but suggested Dr Sweetman, a mammal expert should see them.

Professor Martill said: “We looked at them with a microscope but despite over 30 years’ experience these teeth looked very different and we decided we needed to bring in a third pair of eyes and more expertise in the field in the form of our colleague, Dr Sweetman.

“Steve made the connection immediately, but what I’m most pleased about is that a student who is a complete beginner was able to make a remarkable scientific discovery in palaeontology and see his discovery and his name published in a scientific paper. The Jurassic Coast is always unveiling fresh secrets and I’d like to think that similar discoveries will continue to be made right on our doorstep.”

One of the new species has been named Durlstotherium newmani, christened after Charlie Newman, the landlord of the Square and Compass pub in Worth Matravers, close to where the fossils were discovered.

English Tolpuddle Martyrs and bosses’ press

This music video from Dorset, England says about itself:

Tolpuddle Martyrs Festival 2017, snippet of RMT brass band at end of the march

16 July 2017

Snippet of the RMT brass band at the Tolpuddle Martyrs Festival 2017. ‘One voice‘ – Barry Manilow – always played at the end of the march for Bob Crow.

By Mike Penetelow in Britain:

Media bias has a long history

Tuesday 15th August 2017

A new exhibition by Marx Memorial Library gives a fascinating insight into the newspaper campaign against the Tolpuddle Martyrs in the 1830s, says MIKE PENETELOW

THE BIAS of the employer-owned press against trade unionists is often taken for granted by socialists but objective proof of it is needed to persuade others.

It is graphically provided in the current exhibition The Tolpuddle Martyrs: Their Story in Print, currently running at the Tolpuddle Martyrs’ Museum in Dorset.

That story is of six agricultural workers transported for seven years to Australia in 1834 for forming a union to resist wage cuts that took them below subsistence level, then under 10 shillings (50p) a week.

In fact, trade unions had been made legal 10 years earlier by the repeal of the Combination Acts. But this would have been lost on readers of the press, including the Dorsetshire County Chronicle and Somersetshire Gazette, the bound volumes of which form the basis of this exhibition.

They were were discovered in the basement of the Marx Memorial Library in London but were in such poor condition that they could not be digitally displayed. Funds to finance their conservation were raised from Graham Bignall Studies, trade unions from Britain and Australia and MML supporters and friends.

The martyrs were actually prosecuted for taking illegal oaths rather than being members of the union. This was clearly a cover, as members of the royal family were not prosecuted for taking similar oaths as freemasons.

There are constant references in the press reports to the Tolpuddle workers and others joining “illegal” unions, a decade after they had been formally legalised.

The caution issued by local justices, mainly local landowners, in February 1833 referred to “mischievous and designing persons” inducing innocent labourers to join “Illegal Societies or Unions.” Anyone who joined these legal but disapproved of unions were characterised in the press as either simpletons led astray by “outsiders” or workshy troublemakers. Times have not changed that much.

The Dorsetshire County Chronicle in April 1834 proclaimed: “Because the great offenders of the trade unions in cities and towns are at large and unpunished, this can surely be no reason why the more ignorant agricultural labourers are not to be checked in their secret combinations and prevented from being the tools of designing men.”

A month earlier it had warned its readers that “even here the emissaries of discontent and sedition have worked their way and are endeavouring to seduce the lower orders from the paths of peaceful and productive industry.”

As for being workshy troublemakers? This was at a time of astronomical unemployment after the government had spent fortunes on the Napoleonic wars.

One victim of this was George Hand, a pauper, who was prosecuted in Taunton crown court in April 1834 for setting fire to hay on a farm where he had been made redundant. He had requested the parish pay, equivalent of the dole, of 3s 6d a week.

After that he was blacklisted by all the other local farmers.

How were the desperately unemployed described in the Chronicle in January that year? They were “almost exclusively idle, improvident, and dissolute, whose immoral and thievish propensities place them at a distance from the thrifty and honest.”

There are many other cuttings in this exhibition which make it clear that the sentences were made to deter others from joining unions. Apart from warnings of being transported for seven years, they were told that even indirect contact with a union could be punished by a fine of £20 — the equivalent of 10 months’ wages — or three months in prison. Anybody unwise enough to get caught twice could be transported for seven years.

The judge, Baron Williams, had told the Tolpuddle workers that the fact that they did not mean any harm was no defence because “public security” was at stake — nowadays an excuse for secret trials or detention without charge.

“Some public example should be made,” he pronounced and sentenced them to seven years’ transportation. To make it crystal clear he added: “The object of all legal punishment is not altogether with the view of operating on the offenders themselves, it is also for the sake of offering an example and warning.”

But if workers did not get the message they would be sacked. In Derby a strike of mill workers resulted in them all being dismissed and less than a quarter were taken back afterward, as reported in May 1834.

That meant there were 600 workers unemployed in the town who “it is evident, must for the most part be compelled to seek work in other places.”

A union branch was forced to dissolve in Yeovil in February 1834 “in consequence of the prompt measures adopted by the manufacturers, combined with the kind interference of J Newman and W Helyar Esquires, magistrates and the exertions of private individuals, thus relieving the members from the solemn engagements into which they had so imprudently entered. Nearly the whole of the men will return to their work forthwith, upon the conditions proposed by their masters.”

Although the Dorset Chronicle described the Tolpuddle martyrs on their conviction as “misguided men” it did at least quote the famous lines of one of the martyrs, George Loveless, in full:

“God is our guide: from field, from wave,

From plough, from anvil, and from loom,

We come our Country’s rights to save,

And speak a tyrant faction’s doom:

We raise the watchword ‘Liberty!’

We will, we will, we will be free!

God is our guide; no swords we draw;

We kindle not war’s battle fires;

By reason, union, justice, law,

We claim the birthright of our sires:

We raise the watchword ‘Liberty!’

We will, we will, we will be free!”

There was a huge public outcry against the vindictive sentence.

Even the Chronicle recognised that there were estimates of between 40,000 and 200,000 attending a demonstration in north London against the conviction and a petition signed by 250,000. “The men appeared to be all sober,” it reported.

Eventually this resulted in the martyrs being reprieved and returned to Tolpuddle, where they were all blacklisted and forced to emigrate to Canada, apart from James Hammett who became a bricklayer.

The exhibition runs at Tolpuddle Martyrs Museum, details:, until September 4, then at Marx Memorial Library, 37a Clerkenwell Green, London EC1, until October 15. It then tours to Warwick and Salford, details:

Epic account of the Tolpuddle martyrs’ struggle for trade union rights: Six for the Tolpuddle Martyrs: The Epic Struggle for Justice and Freedom, by Alan Gallop, (Pen and Sword, £14.99): here.

Tolpuddle Martyrs Festival 2018. We mustn’t let the Martyrs’ struggle be in vain. Just as in 1832, the Establishment wants to deny working-class people a voice, writes STEVE GILLAN.

Tolpuddle Martyrs Festival in England today

This video from England says about itself:

Jeremy Corbyn arrives at Tolpuddle 16th July 2017

Not the best video, but I was up a tree.

This video from England says about itself:

Jeremy Corbyn‘s speech at the Tolpuddle Martyrs’ festival in Dorset, 16th July 2017.

THOUSANDS cheered as Jeremy Corbyn joined celebrations at the anniversary of the Tolpuddle Martyrs who laid the foundations of Britain’s trade union movement. The Labour leader addressed the three-day annual festival in Dorset yesterday, following a range of socialist speakers and entertainers celebrating the six farm workers who, in March 1834, tried to form a trade union. The six were sentenced to transportation to Australia for having the audacity to band together to campaign for better wages and conditions: here.

Tolpuddle Martyrs’ Festival in England today

This video from Britain says about itself:

The Tolpuddle Martyrs – Witness, BBC World Service

19 August 2015

The Tolpuddle Martyrs were a group of 19th century Dorset farm labourers who were arrested and convicted for forming a trade union in the 1830s.

They were found guilty and transported to Australia.

They became popular heroes and eventually all but one were released due to popular opposition to their draconian treatment.

By Nigel Costley in England:

Celebrating the campaign that freed the martyrs

Saturday 15th July 2017

Tolpuddle is the place to come and recharge your batteries for the struggles to come, writes NIGEL COSTLEY

I FIRST came to the Tolpuddle Martyrs’ Festival as the South West TUC regional secretary 20 years ago when the number of people attending the annual rally was falling.

It was a traditional reunion of agricultural trade unionists but many were getting older and finding the trip too much. It was often a long way to go for a Sunday afternoon event.

For younger people, the rally looked like a rather dull ceremony from a previous era. By midday on Sunday the tea tent was up but most people laid their banners on the grass and headed off down the Martyrs’ Arms — just after the then landlord had taken down the pictures and put up the prices.

Everyone joined the march, listened to the rather-too-long line-up of speakers and took their coach back home.

I was honoured to take on responsibility for keeping the story of the martyrs alive but I didn’t want the rally to be a funeral march for the six farm workers who were transported into slavery for forming a union — I wanted it to be a celebration of the campaign that freed them.

It needed music and entertainment for all ages as well as retaining the traditional elements of the day. It needed more political debate, not less, and it needed good food and drink on site. The Workers’ Beer Company helped — I didn’t realise, when elected as a young full-time official in the printing industry, that I would need to understand the likes of stage back-lines, water pressure for showers and festival toilet demand.

The rally grew into a family festival and a fitting reflection of the confident mood of trade unions reaching out to new workers.

It is now a hugely popular event in the calendar of the labour movement. It is our summer party and this year the spirit will be even more uplifting.

Although the Conservative government is clinging to power, propped up by the dirty deal with the DUP, it is weak and vulnerable. It could struggle on with a beleaguered Prime Minister, hoping for a miracle to come to the rescue — perhaps yearning for the Labour Party to tear itself apart.

Another election, by accident or design, cannot be ruled out at any time and the left needs to remain united and ready.

The general election dramatically shifted the political dial in our direction. Even Tory ministers recognise the public mood is swinging against them. The pay cap, the damage to public services and an economy based on poor-quality jobs cannot continue.

Matthew Taylor’s report into insecure employment is a huge disappointment. He could have been the standard-bearer for a new benchmark of employment rights to meet the challenges of the gig economy. Instead he bottled out to get his report past his Tory paymasters. In doing so he has blown apart any idea that Theresa May will deliver a better deal for working people.

Jeremy Corbyn is sure to get a rapturous reception from the Tolpuddle crowd. He has championed a new style of politics and a radical manifesto for our flatlining economy and worsening wage-squeeze. Policies to end tuition fees, boost our NHS and take back control of rail and other essential utilities have won support especially from young voters.

Parts of south-west England, including rural constituencies, are open to Labour’s ideas. Villages like Tolpuddle have lost many services, local jobs are lowpaid and often casual. It is clear that Brexit on May’s terms will make the situation worse.

So areas often written off as infertile ground for the left are prepared to turn to Labour with its radical agenda. Unions need to develop new ways to support a more mobile workforce.

The festival provides a place to share ideas and debate politics. Speakers will provoke, inform and inspire us. But is is an occasion to meet old friends and make new ones, to share a laugh, a drink or two and enjoy some great music.

As Tony Benn always said: Tolpuddle is the place to come and recharge your batteries for the struggles to come. This year we can be confident that our fortunes are rising and if we stick together we can win the battles to come.

Nigel Costley is regional secretary of the South West TUC.

English Tolpuddle Martyrs remembered today

This video from Britain says about itself:

The Tolpuddle Martyrs – Witness, BBC World Service

19 August 2015

The Tolpuddle Martyrs were a group of 19th century Dorset farm labourers who were arrested and convicted for forming a trade union in the 1830s.

They were found guilty and transported to Australia.

They became popular heroes and eventually all but one were released due to popular opposition to their draconian treatment.

By Richard Burgon in Britain:

The Tolpuddle Martyrs are still an inspiration today

Saturday 16th July 2016

The struggles of the founders of our labour movement show we change society for the better – even when at the outset it appears that defeat is inevitable, writes RICHARD BURGON

THIS weekend, trade unionists and socialists flock to the village of Tolpuddle in Dorset commemorate the struggles, suffering and solidarity of the Tolpuddle Martyrs — George Loveless, James Loveless, James Hammett, James Brine, Thomas Standfield and John Standfield.

In 1834, these six fathers of our trade union movement became enemies of the Establishment simply for meeting under a sycamore tree in Tolpuddle to form a trade union to stand up to the poverty pay of landowner James Frampton.

The Establishment was scared of the “dangerous” example that these six workers were setting to their fellow workers the length and breadth of the country.

The ruling elite didn’t want trade unionism to “catch on” and so were determined to stamp out the decent and moderate plan of six working men.

They were put on trial and sentenced to transportation to Australia — a sentence which entailed a harsh voyage and slave labour.

In prison, before transportation, George Loveless wrote the following words: “We raise the watchword — liberty. We will, we will, we will be free!” These words still have a power and resonance in Britain and around the world.

A huge demonstration took place in London to protest against the treatment of the Tolpuddle Martyrs and 800,000 people signed a petition against their sentences.

Having seen three years of campaigning and fundraising to support the families of the six men, the government felt that it had to give in and so George Loveless, James Loveless, James Hammett, James Brine, Thomas Standfield and John Standfield were “pardoned” and returned home as heroes.

The lessons of the story of the Tolpuddle Martyrs should live with us still. Their story teaches us that the Establishment will always attempt to crush the emergence of a new movement that has the potential to achieve a fundamental and irreversible shift in wealth and power in favour of working people.

And their story shows that the ruling elite is always aware of the danger that the example of resistance and struggle poses to a rotten status quo.

Rest assured, media outlets of the day made sure to demonise these six working men trying to make life better for all working people.

But the demonstrations, petitions and fundraising show that in times of strife and injustice, decent people will emerge as a campaigning movement to stand up for what is right and show solidarity with those demonised and punished by the Establishment for the “crime” of standing up for the interests of the many, not the privileged few.

But perhaps the most important lesson of the story of the Tolpuddle Martyrs is that the organised working-class and progressive movements can win and change society for the better — even when at the outset it appears that defeat is inevitable.

Trade unionists and socialist activists of 2016 should take inspiration from the Tolpuddle Martyrs, just as we should take inspiration from our political forebears.

We should draw strength from the memory of the founders of the Labour Party, the International Brigades which fought fascism and defended socialism in Spain, the founders of our NHS and our welfare state, the Chileans who stood shoulder-to-shoulder with Salvador Allende for socialism, the miners who stayed loyal to the NUM during the 1984-5 miners’ strike, the Women Against Pit Closures activists and the comrades who brought down apartheid in South Africa.

We should try to live up to their example. When faced with our own struggles in the present day, we should ask ourselves: “What would they have done?”

When our movement is put under pressure by unscrupulous and hard-headed bosses or by political and media elites, we should remind ourselves of the incredible pressures to which the Tolpuddle Martyrs and others were subjected — and which they defeated by the strength of iron will, adherence to principle and the spirit of solidarity.

If together we can harness the fighting spirit of the Tolpuddle Martyrs and the other heroes of our movement, then together we can win the battles facing the labour and trade union movement in 2016 and create a society which would make those who came before us proud. Events like the Durham Miners’ Gala and the Tolpuddle Martyrs’ Festival are an important part of who we are as a movement.

They allow us to come together to reflect upon the struggles of our past and resolve to fight — and win — the struggles that face our movement today and in the future.

Richard Burgon is shadow secretary of state for justice and MP for Leeds East.

MODERN-DAY trade unions have much to learn from the struggles of workers in the 1800s, with the Trade Union Act now being law. Before 1824-25 the Combinations Acts had outlawed combining or organising to gain better working conditions. In 1832, the year of the Reform Act which extended the vote in England but did not grant universal suffrage, six men from Tolpuddle in Dorset founded the Friendly Society of the Agricultural Labourers to protest at the lowering of agricultural wages. Their refusal to work for lower wages resulted in prosecution on an obscure law invoking the Unlawful Oaths Act 1797 which led to their arrests, being found guilty and transported to Australia: here.

THERE’S more than one way to skin a cat, as the old saying goes and — from the in-yer-face aggression of the Black Panthers, through to the non-violence of Martin Luther King, via some gay miners in the Welsh valleys — the 2016 Tolpuddle Radical Film Festival explores some of the diverse communities of protest from across the world and their distinct cultures of resistance: here.

English pro-badger campaigner Sue Chamberlain, RIP

This video from England says about itself:

6 May 2013

Meet a couple of sweet and mischievous baby badgers at the Secret World Rehabilitation Wildlife Centre in the English countryside for jam sandwiches and bottled milk.

By Lesley Docksey in Britain:

Indomitable badger campaigner Sue Chamberlain dies

Thursday 11th February 2016

Dorset’s wildlife protectors thought it was bad enough when the badger cull arrived last year. Given that the level of bovine TB in Dorset had been falling since 2012 — without resorting to the needless and unscientific killing of badgers — people found it hard to believe that Natural England had given the go-ahead for culling.

Dorset for Badger & Bovine Welfare (DBBW) and the Dorset Hunt Saboteurs moved from frantic sett mapping to equally frantic organising of setting up Camp Badger (for those who came from across the country to help protect the badgers) and organising nightly “wounded badger patrols.”

Central to it all was a remarkable woman, Sue Chamberlain. On January 13 this year, however, Dorset’s badgers were left reeling from another blow as Chamberlain lost her battle with cancer.

The founder of DBBW, Andrew Butler, wrote this heart-breaking tribute: “In May 2013 there was a meeting at Dorchester town hall to discuss the impending badger cull and the possibility of it coming to Dorset. All eyes were focused on the stage, where the stars of the movement against the cull including Brian May and the head of the RSPCA spoke. But it was in the crowd, listening quietly and unassumingly, that the real lynchpin of the group to protect Dorset’s badgers sat — she just didn’t know it yet.

“Sue Chamberlain came to the very first meeting of what became DBBW and she didn’t miss a single one from that moment on. In fact it was Sue who organised the meetings; setting the dates, letting people know, answering the emails, posting on Facebook, circulating minutes… and that was just the beginning.

“We cannot overstate just how much Sue did to grow, maintain and keep the group grounded. Sue was our rock; our administrator, our merchandise queen, our fundraiser, co-ordinator, liaison with the authorities, the person who got things done, who made sure that when the badger cull came to Dorset everyone knew where they needed to be in order to save as many animals as possible. Sue could be out in the field one night, and on the phone dealing with any problems that arose all the next day. Nothing was ever too much trouble, no problem was insurmountable.

“This is all the more remarkable given that Sue was fighting her own private battle against cancer, and on Wednesday January 13 it became the fight she could not win, and the animals and a great many people lost a true and brave friend.

“Sue, we love you and miss you. Rest well, you more than earned it.”

Not many of the people turning out for the wounded badger patrols or phoning in reports knew that Sue had cancer. Her dedication to badgers, her energy and wish to be fully involved gave no sign of it.

At her funeral, which her family rightly dubbed a thanksgiving service, the village church was packed with people whose lives Sue had touched, for whatever interest Sue took up, she became fully involved. She was the greatest co-ordinator and bringer-together of people one could ever meet.

Pews were stuffed, people stood in the aisle and at the back of the church and all were greeted with Queen’s music as Sue was a supporter of Brian May and his Save Me Trust. The village hall could barely cope with the numbers who gathered after the service to share tea, cake, wine and their memories of Sue.

Among the mourners were representatives of Dorset Police, in full dress uniform. She ensured that Dorset went into the culls with a police liaison team already in place and supportive of how the wounded badger patrols were going to operate.

This made Dorset’s first cull far less difficult for patrollers than either Somerset or Gloucester and the team remains in place for the duration.

DBBW is coming to terms with just how much she did, reorganising themselves to cover all her many roles. One thing is certain — they will be stronger and even more active in their protection of badgers.

Think of it as a lasting memorial to an amazing person.

Ladybird spiders in Dorset, England

This is a ladybird spider video from Turkey.

By Peter Frost in Britain:

Strictly not for arachnophobes

Friday 15th January 2016

PETER FROST reports on the interminable and complex initiative to re-establish the ladybird spider – once thought extinct in Britain –in its natural habitat of a Dorset heathland

One of Britain’s rarest and most colourful spiders the Ladybird spider (Eresus sandaliatus) was thought to be extinct in Britain for over 70 years, until a tiny population was rediscovered on a tiny patch of land, barely 50 yards square, in Dorset in 1980.

Since then no other populations have been detected. It is believed to have once been found in Cornwall and the Isle of Wight but no more.

The spider gets its name from the bright red body of the male decorated with four large ladybird-like spots. The male body is 6-9 mm long excluding legs. The male’s legs are bright black with white stripes. The female is larger, 10-16 mm excluding legs and totally velvety black. She rarely leaves her nest. Young spiders too are velvety black.

The species lives in burrows with silk trip-wires covered with dense fluffy threads that radiate outwards to catch their prey, which includes large insects like devil’s coach horse and violet ground beetles.

The male only emerges for two weeks in May to breed. Having found a burrow containing a female he plucks at the trip wires in a way that distinguishes him from prey. This protects him from becoming a meal.

After mating, the female lays up to 80 eggs in a cocoon in her burrow during the summer and guards them until the spiderlings hatch in July or August.

She feeds them on regurgitated food and finally, rather ungratefully, the young spiders eat their own mother. Females only breed once.

The spiderlings disperse to make their own burrows in the following April, and take three or four years to reach breeding age.

The Ladybird spider is still so endangered in Britain that it has been possible to count each individual spider in Dorset, the only place it has managed to keep a small but determined eight-legged foothold.

The spider can only live on lowland heathland — and this is its main problem. Our native heathland has suffered drastic decline over the last century, being ploughed up for agriculture and forestry, or built over.

The Royal Society for the Protection of Birds (RSPB) reserve at Arne, just four miles from Wareham, Dorset, is a great place to see avocets and little egrets but it is just as important for its preservation of the native heathland in its original form and, of course, the Ladybird spider.

Arne boasts over 250 species of spider and hundreds of insect species including the threatened silver studded blue butterfly and the Purbeck mason wasp which is only found in Dorset.

As well as insects and spiders the heathland is also home to endangered reptiles such as smooth snakes and sand lizards, and rare birds such as the Dartford warbler, stonechat and nightjar.

The Ladybird spider’s long life-cycle, very specific requirements and the fact that it is not good at colonising new sites have all added to its vulnerability.

When it was first rediscovered in 1980, the last remaining site supported just seven individual spiders, but successful habitat management has resulted in the population expanding to its current level of nearly a thousand individuals.

Over the last five years other colonies have been established on Dorset heathland. Spiders have been carefully released onto new sites — increasing their populations in Dorset from one to eight. But there is still a lot of work to do.

For a start conservation charities like the RSPB want to establish at least 20 Ladybird spider populations in the wild.

If this spider is to thrive we need to continue the programme of releasing spiders onto new sites and to monitor existing populations to ensure that they are healthy and doing well. The habitat needs to be managed to ensure that the sites remain in the right condition for the spider.

In 2011, it was first released onto the RSPB’s Arne reserve. Surveys here carried out this year show that the spiders are doing well and are now expanding outside of the original release areas.

During the original translocation, scientists used an ingenious low-tech method of transferring the spiders. They used recycled empty plastic mineral water bottles which are an ideal shape and size for the spiders to make their nests in.

The bottles are filled with heather and moss and captured spiders from the donor site placed inside and monitored while they settled in and made a web. The bottles were then buried in holes in the ground offering some protection but allowing the spiders to venture out to colonise adjacent areas.

Toby Branston, RSPB Dorset reserve ecology manager told us: “It’s great to see this incredible little spider doing well in its new home. The hard work has started to pay off. Searches this year have found five new webs away from the release sites as well as others in their original bottle-homes. A great sign that the spiders are feeling settled here at Arne.”

Scaly cricket in England, video

This video from England says about itself:

2 September 2015

Scaly Cricket, Pseudomogoplistes vicentae, Chesil Beach, Dorset, UK, September 2015.

This is a rare species in Britain, first recorded there in 1949.