Beavers against flooding in England

This 31 January 2020 video from England says about itself:

How eager beavers help prevent flooding on the National Trust’s Holnicote Estate

We’ve released beavers to an area of river running through the edge of Exmoor in Somerset to help us tackle the challenges brought by climate change. The animals are “natural engineers” whose dam-building helps rivers to spread out and meander across the landscape, slowing down the passage of water and preventing flash flooding further downstream.

Beavers were once an important part of the UK’s ecosystem but they became extinct in the 16th century due to hunting for their fur, meat and scent glands. This project, approved by Natural England, will see a pair of beavers released into each of two fenced areas of woodland at Holnicote on the edge of Exmoor in Somerset. Another pair will be released at Valewood on the Black Down Estate on the edge of the South Downs.

Britons’ ancestors were black-skinned blue-eyed

There are many pro-peace songs. Like one written by Pete Seeger, sung by Marlene Dietrich. Here is a music video, from Britain, by The Equals – Black Skinned Blue-Eyed Boys. Written by Eddy Grant, from Guyana.

The lyrics are:

Black Skin Blue Eyed Boys

People: white is white
What’s black ain’t clover

Together we’ll be
When the war is over.
You see the Black Skin Blue Eyed Boys

They ain’t gonna fight no wars
Oh no.

Cool is school
But the teachers beat yer

When they see
That they can’t reach yer.

You see the Black Skin Blue Eyed Boys
They ain’t gonna fight no wars
Oh no.

They ain’t got no country
They ain’t got no creed
People won’t be black or white
The world will be half-breed.
The world will be half-breed.
The world will be half-breed.

You see the Black Skin Blue Eyed Boys
they ain’t gonna fight no doggone wars.

They ain’t got no country…
It’s a brand new day
With brand new people
In one big world
We’re just one people.
You see the Black Skin Blue Eyed Boys

They ain’t gonna fight no wars. Oh
you know that we hate fighting.

Recent research about people in Europe, more especially Spain, in the Mesolithic age, ten thousands of years after their ancestors had immigrated from Africa, shows they had blue eyes but ‘the dark skins of Africans’.

From daily The Independent in Britain today:

Cheddar Man: First modern Briton had ‘dark to black’ skin, DNA research reveals

Groundbreaking new analysis of 10,000-year-old remains shows man had darker complexion than previously thought, along with blue eyes and dark, curly hair

Chris Baynes

A full facial reconstruction model of Cheddar Man's head, based on the skull Britain's oldest complete skeleton. PA

The first modern Briton had “dark to black” skin, groundbreaking new analysis of his 10,000-year-old remains has revealed.

Britain’s oldest complete skeleton, known as Cheddar Man, was unearthed more than a century ago in Gough’s Cave in Somerset.

But an unprecedented examination of his DNA, along with a facial reconstruction of the fossil, shows the young man would have had a darker complexion than previously thought, along with blue eyes and dark, curly hair.

Research by evolution and DNA specialists at the Natural History Museum and University College London suggests the pigmentation associated with northern European ancestry is a more recent development.

The research and remodelling process was documented for Channel 4 programme The First Brit: Secrets of the 10,000 Year Old Man.

Professor Ian Barnes, research leader at the Natural History Museum, said at a screening of the documentary: “For me, it’s not just the skin colour that’s interesting, it’s that combination of features that make him look not like anyone that you’d see today.

“Not just dark skin and blue eyes, because you can get that combination, but also the face shape. So all of this combines together and make him just not the same as people you see around today.”

Researchers Professor Barnes and Dr Selina Brace extracted DNA data from bone powder by drilling a 2mm hole through the skull’s inner ear bone.

They scanned the skull and a 3D model was produced by “paleo artists” Alfons and Adrie Kennis, who make life-like reconstructions of extinct mammals and early humans.

The twins, who have created reconstructions for museums around the world and usually create models of Neanderthals, spent three months working on Cheddar Man.

“It’s really nice to make a more graceful man, not a heavy-browed Neanderthal,” said Alfons. “So we were very excited that it was a guy from after the Ice Age. We were very interested in what kind of human he was.

“With the new DNA information it was really revolutionary. And it allowed us to look more at race, this revealed stuff that we’d never had known before.”

Cheddar Man, thought to have died in his twenties and have had a relatively good diet, lived in Britain when it was almost completely depopulated about 300 generations ago.

Although previous populations had settled in Britain long before his arrival, they were wiped out before him and he marked the start of continuous habitation on the island.

Genetically, he belonged to a group of people known as the “Western Hunter-Gatherers”, Mesolithic-era individuals from Spain, Hungary and Luxembourg.

His ancestors migrated to Europe from the Middle East after the Ice Age. Britain has been inhabited ever since and today about 10 per cent of White British people are descended from the group.

Alfons said: “People define themselves by which country they’re from, and they assume that their ancestors were just like them. And then suddenly new research shows that we used to be a totally different people with a different genetic makeup.

“People will be surprised, and maybe it will make immigrants feel a bit more involved in the story. And maybe it gets rid of the idea that you have to look a certain way to be from somewhere. We are all immigrants.”

The First Brit: Secrets of the 10,000 Year Old Man airs on Channel 4 on Sunday, 18 February.

From daily The Guardian in Britain today on this:

“It really shows up that these imaginary racial categories that we have are really very modern constructions, or very recent constructions, that really are not applicable to the past at all.”

Cheddar Man: Discovery first modern Briton had dark skin is reminder ‘we are all from Africa’, expert says. ‘It just challenges this idea we have that certain people belong to certain places – that Britons are Britons are Britons’: here.

Black-skinned stone age Europeans: here.

English Glastonbury classical music festival, early 20th century

This video is about British composer Rutland Boughton. It says about itself:

Rutland Boughton, Symphony No 1, Oliver Cromwell (1905)

1. A Character Study
2. Cromwell’s letter to his wife
3. March of the Puritans
4. Death Scene

BBC Concert Orchestra
Vernon Handley, conductor

By Peter Frost in Britain:

Glasto, but not as you know it

Friday 14th October 2016

The first series of Glastonbury festivals came to a hasty end 90 years ago. PETER FROST remembers those utopian socialist musical events and believes it is time for their revival

Long before the current series of Glastonbury Festivals were established in 1970 a British communist opera composer, Rutland Boughton, ran a successful series of utopian socialist music events in the Somerset town.

These popular and well-supported opera and cultural festivals came to an unfortunate end exactly 90 years ago. Today they are almost totally forgotten.

The festivals that ran each summer between 1914 and 1926 were part of Boughton’s much grander cultural plans that included the founding of a national theatre, summer schools and music festivals.

Glastonbury was eventually chosen as the location because of its strong connections with the legend of King Arthur and its many historic and even prehistoric sites and mythology.

Among those who supported the festival were Edward Elgar and George Bernard Shaw. Financial support came from the famous shoemaking Clark family based in the nearby town of Street.

By the time the festivals ended in 1926, 350 fully staged works had been performed to packed houses, as well as comprehensive programmes of chamber music, lectures and recitals.

The festivals ended ignominiously when Boughton’s backers withdrew funds. They did not approve of the composer’s special reworking of his enormously popular nativity opera Bethlehem. His 1926 London production brought the original opera into sympathy with the struggle of the miners and the General Strike.

This version had Jesus being born in a miner’s cottage, Herod became a bloated capitalist complete with top hat, his Egyptian soldiers became truncheon-wielding British policemen.

The production caused a huge row and in many ways finished Boughton’s previously enormously successful popular career.

Today, Boughton — who died in 1960 — is far too little known and his works rarely performed but in the early 20th century he was enormously popular as a composer of opera and choral music.

He composed three symphonies, several concertos, songs, chamber music and operas. His best known work was the opera The Immortal Hour.

The 1915 composition Bethlehem was based on the Coventry Nativity Play and notable for its choral arrangements of traditional Christmas carols. It became very popular with choral societies worldwide.

To give you some idea of Boughton’s popularity, his 1922 Glastonbury Festival Players’ production of The Immortal Hour achieved the record breaking run of over 600 performances in London — it played to huge audiences.

In addition to The Immortal Hour and Bethlehem, his other operas The Queen of Cornwall (1924) based on Thomas Hardy’s play and Alkestis (1922) based on the Greek play by Euripides were also very well received.

Sadly, none of his latter works have had major public performances for half a century and certainly it is time we looked at bringing his and other communist, socialist and progressive British composers of opera, choral and classical music to a new, larger audience.

Here is my suggestion for a few other composers who should also be reintroduced to an audience that really doesn’t know what and who has been hidden from it.

Alan Bush was a British communist composer and pianist and his politics often provided central themes in his music. He composed four full-length operas, three children’s operas and many other works.

From 1925 to 1978 he taught at the Royal Academy of Music. His work in Berlin put him in contact with well-known socialist artists like Bertolt Brecht, Kurt Weill and Hanns Eisler.

Bush was a Marxist and his music, including his operas Wat Tyler and Men of Blackmoor, reflected this. He composed the music for and conducted the choir at the massive 1934 TUC organised London Pageant of Labour at London’s Crystal Palace. A fellow conductor at the pageant was a young Michael Tippett.

In 1941 when he signed the communist People’s Convention all Bush’s work was banned by the BBC. When he heard of the ban fellow socialist composer Ralph Vaughan Williams refused to let the BBC broadcast one of his new works in protest.

Today many of Bush’s works deserve wider performance including his four Symphonies and his Variations on an English Sea-song.

In 1936 he co-founded of the Workers’ Music Association and became its president from 1938 until his death in 1995.

One of Bush’s music students was Dolly Collins, sister of folk singer Shirley. The sisters came from a communist family in Hastings. Dolly was an arranger and composer producing and performing work for early unusual instruments such as the portative organ.

Collins’s 1968 Anthems of Eden Suite was commissioned by the BBC and written for a six-piece early music concert. By the late 1970s she had stopped touring and giving live concerts but continued to compose.

Just before her death in 1995 she completed a cycle of WWI poems and a new mass written with the poet Maureen Duffy.

Today much of her work lies hidden in the BBC archives.

Ethel Smyth was another important composer whose radical, Suffragette actions have been used to cast an enormous shadow to hide her wonderful and important music.

She wrote six operas and an array of chamber, orchestral and vocal works. She still remains the only women composer to have had an opera performed at the New York Met.

She threw stones through the window of the Colonial Secretary and stormed 10 Downing Street itself to hammer out her Suffragette anthem The March of Women on prime minister Herbert Henry Asquith’s piano while the Cabinet was still in session.

These militant activities saw her with two hundred of her sister Suffragettes sentenced to two months in Holloway Prison.

Her most famous opera, The Wreckers, has been compared with Britten’s Peter Grimes but, like most of her other work, it is rarely performed. The last recording was made over 20 years ago.

There are many more candidates for such a revival of socialist and progressive music. Williams has already been mentioned, Gustav Holst was a lifelong socialist, Benjamin Britten, Tippett and many others embraced communist or socialist ideas at various times of their musical careers.

Is it not time that one of our major concert venues or national festivals, Aldeburgh perhaps, or even the Proms unlocked this treasure chest of banned and censored left-wing and socialist- inspired music and opera and gave it back to the people for whom it was first written.

Kingfisher and little grebe in England

This video from Frome in Somerset in England says about itself:

16 September 2016

This video shows a clip from The Simon King Wildlife Project of a resident kingfisher fishing. A little grebe also makes a guest appearance. The Live Camera link is here.

For Simon King’s other wildlife webcams, see here.

Peregrine falcon couples sharing eggs incubation

This video from England says about itself:

15 April 2015

In the run up to egg hatching, pairs of peregrines across the country are sharing the incubation responsibility. Here we see the Bath pair changing over three times during a period of 15 hours.

Dutch peregrine falcons: here.

Peregrine falcons in Paris, France: here.

Butterfly history of Somerset, England

This video from the Czech republic says about itself:

Large CopperLycaena dispar (Haworth, 1803) – male

27 May 2009

Large Copper – Lycaena dispar (Haworth, 1803) is quite common in SE Moravia where I live and expands from there to the North and also to the West.

From dispar journal in Britain:

A History of the British Large Copper Lycaena dispar dispar and the Scarce Copper Lycaena virgaureae in Somerset

Peter Andrews

Abstract: It has been over twenty years since the late Roger Sutton published information regarding the specimens of the British Large Copper Lycaena dispar dispar and the Scarce Copper Lycaena virgaureae in the Taunton Museum collections. This paper reevaluates these historic specimens, which are now held at the Somerset Heritage Centre in Taunton. Further information is also provided on the Somerset collectors that are thought to have encountered both of those Lycaena species on the Somerset Levels. The paper also mentions the further discovery of early specimens of Large and Scarce Coppers that may have originated in Somerset.


In the collections of the Taunton Heritage Centre are the remains of five specimens of the British Large Copper Lycaena dispar dispar that are said to have been caught in the marshes at Langport in the Somerset Levels during the early part of the 19th century. The collections also contain a specimen of the Scarce Copper Lycaena virgaureae said to be taken at Langport.

The status of the Large Copper and Scarce Copper in Britain

The Large Copper was once found in a number of colonies in the fens of Eastern England but became extinct in the middle of the 19th century when the fens were drained (Salmon, 2000).

The Scarce Copper was considered a British species by the early Aurelians. William Lewin was one of the few early Aurelians to correctly identify the Scarce Copper as L. virgaureae. He wrote “In the month of August I once met with two of these butterflies, settled on a bank in the marshes, the sun at that time being very hot on them; they were exceedingly shy and would not suffer me to approach them” (Lewin, 1795). On the continent this species is not normally found in a fenland habitat but it is possible that this extinct butterfly flew in the drier areas in such localities in Britain. There are also records of the Scarce Copper from the East Anglian Fens (Salmon, 2000). In the Dalean collection at Oxford there is a male specimen of L. virgaureae that is labelled with a location of the Isle of Ely. Unfortunately, the activities of unscrupulous 19th century dealers who imported numbers of L. virgaureae from the European continent and sold them as British specimens have caused much confusion (Allan, 1966).

Racist English football hooligan ‘UKIP supporter’

Chelsea fan Josh Parsons with Nigel Farage

From daily The Guardian in Britain:

Chelsea fan in Paris Métro video posed in picture with Nigel Farage

Josh Parsons, identified as one of the fans filmed on a Paris Métro train ahead of the Chelsea – PSG match, is allegedly a ‘vocal’ Ukip supporter

Elena Cresci and Shiv Malik

Thursday 19 February 2015 11.22 GMT

A Chelsea fan filmed while racist chants were shouted on the Paris Métro was a “vocal” supporter of Ukip, even posing with the party’s leader, Nigel Farage.

A photo posted by season ticket holder Josh Parsons on his Instagram account around four months ago shows Farage, drink in hand, next to the 21-year-old named as one of the Chelsea fans on the Paris subway. The caption underneath the photo reads: “UKIP BOYS! What a geezer.”

Parsons has since taken down his Instagram account, as well as his Facebook and Twitter profiles, after he was named by a number of sources as appearing in the video published by the Guardian on Tuesday.

Ukip has told the Guardian that Parsons is not a member of the party and that it had “never heard of him”, adding that the photo was taken outside a London pub.

In a statement, the party’s head of press, Gawain Towler, said: “Mr Farage is photographed with and by dozens of people, both by supporters and opponents on a daily basis.

“Ukip and Mr Farage find the behaviour of the suspected Chelsea fans on the Paris Métro to be disgraceful, and shames both the country and Chelsea football club.

“We are delighted that the identities of these people are being revealed, and that they will face the full force of the law.”

Wearing a black hooded jacket, Parsons can be seen in the Paris video after those around him appear to have chanted: “We’re racist, we’re racist and that’s the way we like it.”

It is unclear from the video whether Parsons was among those chanting or remonstrating with a black commuter, who had been earlier pushed from a carriage.

One former schoolmate, who did not wished to be named, said Parsons and his younger brother Beno, who he believes was in the same Paris Métro carriage as Josh on Tuesday night, were well known Ukip supporters during their time at Millfield private school over a year-and-a-half ago.

The boarding school, based in Street, Somerset, charges fees of £30,000 a year.

“I was never really friends with them. The interesting thing was they were very strong Ukip supporters,” the schoolmate told the Guardian.

He said both brothers were part of a very small but “vocal” Ukip crowd at the school.

“They were … only about four or five people but they made themselves heard. They were never aggressive, they were never forcing it down your throat … but you were left with no illusions looking at their social media that they were a) Chelsea fans and b) Ukip supporters.”

He said he “despised” racism and described the actions on the film as appalling, adding that it in no way represented the views of most people at his former school.

Mitchell McCoy, a 17-year-old Chelsea fan who was also on the train, has spoken to a number of media outlets defending the incident, claiming there was no racism involved. He told LBC: “The carriage was full up, there was no room for him to get on and he tried to force himself on. He was really aggressive, pushing himself. I’d say it was self defence, pushing him off.”

Asked whether the pushing and chanting were connected, he said: “No of course it wasn’t connected. The press are trying to make something out of nothing.”

At the time of the incident, McCoy sent a number of tweets which he later deleted, including one which read: “Our captain is a racist a racist a racist and that is why we love him we love him we love him.” In replies to other tweeters, he claimed people in the video were his friends and that the fans weren’t “letting white people on either”.

McCoy was unavailable for comment.

On Wednesday, Chelsea condemned the supporters involved and said their behaviour was “abhorrent and has no place in football or society”. The club added they were supporting any criminal action against the fans involved.

The man pushed from the train gave an interview to Le Parisien, published on Thursday morning. Named only as Souleymane S, he said he “understood very well that they were targeting me because of the colour of my skin”.

He added: “These people, these English fans should be found, punished and locked up. What happened should not go unpunished.”

From daily The Morning Star in Britain:

Mr Parsons is a former pupil at the £30,000-a-year Millfield public school and is now an assistant at the Business and Commercial Finance Club in Mayfair.

Chelsea fans who shouted racist chants at London station sought by police. Incident in St Pancras station on Wednesday night involved fans returning from France, the day after Chelsea supporters assaulted a black man on Paris Métro: here.

Video footage has emerged of a group of men, thought to be West Ham fans, chanting anti-Semitic abuse on a train in north London: here.

Racism and football in Britain: here.

Russell Brand: Let’s kick cold profiteering out of football, along with racism: here.

A significant proportion of the 6,500 complaints made about a controversial film imagining the early days of a Ukip government were the result of an orchestrated campaign by a far-right group known for its paramilitary style actions, the Guardian has learned. Britain First, which leads “Christian patrols” through areas with high Muslim populations and has staged mosque “invasions”, encouraged supporters to sign a templated email to both Channel 4 and Ofcom to complain about Ukip: The First 100 Days.

Marine life off Somerset, England, new research

This video is called British Sea Life.

From Wildlife Extra:

Deep sea survey reveals thriving marine life off Somerset coast

An underwater sea survey off the Somerset coast has revealed populations of sea hares, sun starfish and the rare stalked jellyfish.

Commissioned by The Wildlife Trusts the survey is the first in more than 30 years that explores the waters off Porlock Weir.

The dive is part of Somerset Wildlife Trust’s Living Seas initiative to raise awareness of Somerset’s marine environment through public surveys and events.

Discoveries by the four professional divers and marine ecologists included two different and very diverse sea bed habitats; a boulder reef north of Gore Point and a sand and shell plain in the centre of Porlock Bay in the Bristol Channel.

They recorded rare stalked jellyfish, bunches of cuttlefish and squid eggs, squat lobsters hiding in crevices, many crab and fish species, brittle and sunstar starfish plus many sea hares, which are large and exotic looking marine molluscs.

The stalked jellyfish is a UKBAP Priority Species; a species of principal importance for the purpose of conservation of biodiversity under the Natural Environment and Rural Communities Act 2006.

Dominic Flint, marine scientist and leader of the dive team, said: “This survey complements the extensive intertidal, seashore, marine mammal and birdlife records collected by the Somerset Wildlife Trust members, volunteers and staff. This now provides a more complete picture of the fantastically diverse marine environment of the Somerset coast, which has been somewhat underappreciated in the past.

“The wealth of evidence provided by exploratory dive surveys like this, in areas where there is little or no habitat or seabed data, will ensure we have the evidence to secure their conservation and can be included in future discussions over marine protection and conservation measures.”

Nigel Phillips, Somerset Wildlife Trust’s marine ambassador, said: “Our beach survey work has shown that this coast is far richer in wildlife than many would expect despite murky water and fast-moving tidal currents, which made this a very frustrating place to survey.”

Flooding in Britain, causes and poor response

This video is called UK floods: Somerset Levels waters ‘never like this’ before.

By Peter Frost in Britain:

Weathering the floods

Saturday 1st February 2013

After weeks of ignoring the issue the government has sent the army in to the Somerset Levels. But why are we seeing such disasters, asks PETER FROST

At long last the army has arrived on the Somerset Levels where floodwaters have been disrupting normal life since just after Christmas.

The army is using amphibious vehicles to deliver sandbags, fuel, food, and water to villages like Mucheleny and Thorney that have been cut off for weeks with access only by small boat.

The army is also transporting local people to check on long-flooded and deserted remote farms, villages and isolated dwellings.

Now the army vehicles will also give some reassurance to older residents who fear a medical emergency and the impossibility of getting a doctor or to hospital.

Local residents are, of course, delighted with the arrival of the troops.

But they are angry with just how long it has taken for David Cameron, Nick Clegg and Environment Minister Owen Paterson to pay any attention to the month-old floods.

Patterson finally showed himself in the Levels last Monday, just after the delivery of some shiny new pumps. The pumps made a good background to the TV shots.

The visit was also just after the local Tory-controlled Somerset County Council embarrassed the Con-Dem government by declaring the floods a “major incident” and a state of emergency.

On his visit the minister was visibly shocked by the anger from locals against the government’s lack of assistance, or indeed interest.

Paterson and Cameron hurriedly promised help from the army and some dredging of the rivers Parrett and Tone, but have made no suggestions as to where the £4 million cost of such dredging might come from.

Nor have they said anything about the planned cuts to the Environment Agency announced just as the floods started.

On January 3, as some of the worst floods for 20 years hit the Somerset Levels, Paterson announced that 1,500 more jobs, many of them flood-related, would be cut at the agency.

Why have we had so much flooding?

Well, Henley on Thames Ukip councillor Davis Silvester, a defector from the Tory Party, has a simple explanation.

He has said gay marriage is to blame. God sent the rain to punish us.

Just as silly are the likes of Jeremy Clarkson and others who deny climate change, or the group who are claiming it is all God’s great plan and are raising funds to build a new ark.

Such theories may not convince, but it’s true that one obvious reason for floods is that we have had so much rain.

In much of England this January’s rainfall has been the highest for a century, over twice the monthly average.

Add to that new patterns of rainfall, the result of climate change, that have seen heavy storms delivering as much as two inches (50mm) of rain in an hour.

The last natural phenomena is the number of strong winds and tidal conditions that have caused coastal flooding of low-lying coastal regions and backed up rivers.

Much more important is the way we have let greed and the relentless grasping for profit change the landscape we live in.

Intensive farming and land use has resulted in a dramatic decrease in floodplains near rivers. The increase of farmland drainage, paid for by government subsidies, means rain is no longer absorbed into the ground but speedily drains straight into the rivers.

The building of flood defences doesn’t always help – they can sometimes simply move any flooding downstream.

Another factor is the growing body of property developers who can’t see a patch of greenbelt or other green-field site without the desire to build a housing estate, car-park, retail shops or warehouse sheds.

They also play a key and disastrous part in the floods.

Many of these developments have been built directly on existing floodplains, prompting demand for these areas too to be defended from inevitable flooding – a vicious circle.

All these building developments have hard surfaces which shed rain into the elaborate, and expensive, network of drains that run directly into rivers and water-courses.

Loss of forests has played its part too. Hill farmers have been paid to rip out woodlands high in the mountains.

Those trees once absorbed rain.

Now it gushes down the bare mountainsides leading to the flooding we have seen along the lower reaches of rivers like the Severn.

The Environment Agency grades the risk of flooding in categories such as “a one in a 100 years” risk. The problem is that such floods have actually arrived three times in the last 10 years.

The village of Mucheleny, for instance, was cut off by floods for many weeks at the same time last year.

Floods on Britain’s east coast and in our eastern counties are often reflected in similar events in the Netherlands on the other side of the North Sea.

That was certainly the case in the terrible events of 1953.

Nor should we forget that it was Dutch engineers like Cornelius Vermuyden who in 1650 started a project to drain the English fens.

Vermuyden’s works for Oliver Cromwell and the Duke of Bedford involved dredging and straightening rivers, cutting new drains and building washes.

Washes were huge, low-lying areas that could be flooded deliberately to protect more vulnerable areas downstream.

Four centuries on, Vermuyden’s Ouse Washes still flood every winter in a controlled way and are slowly emptied into the eastern rivers that flow into the Wash.

Today in Holland at national parks like the Biesbosch near Dordrecht the Dutch are using similar techniques.

They have stopped intensive farming on floodplains of the Rhine and created giant natural wetlands which soak up floodwater like a vast sponge or allow it to flood low-lying wild marsh without damage or threat to life or buildings.

Much of the control and mantainence of these wetlands and rivers is being done naturally using wild horses or ponies and by reintroducing beavers.

Beavers can and do dramatically change the landscape.

The beavers create and maintain ponds and wetlands that increase biodiversity, purify water and prevent large-scale flooding.

More than 20 countries have already reintroduced beavers. Their dams improve water quality, produce new habitats for fish and help reduce flooding downstream.

HUNDREDS of houses have been flooded across the country over these last months, and angry residents are demanding to know why nothing has been done to protect their homes: here.

THE flood-hit South West of England needs a joined up, five year reconstruction and development plan to rebuild the economic, transport and social fabric, Unite said yesterday: here.

As the south of England sinks in a morass of flooded homes or waits for the next river to burst, who says we couldn’t see this coming? Here.

Enhanced by Zemanta

British badger killing update

This video is about a badger sett in Dorset, England.

From Wildlife Extra:

Huge step forward in battle against bovine TB in Sussex whilst Somerset badger cull extended

Sussex Badger Vaccination Project in contrast to Somerset cull

October 2013. Farmers in East Sussex may be pleased to know that they can now choose to have badgers on their land vaccinated against bovine TB following the recent establishment of the Sussex Badger Vaccination Project (SBVP), after five local volunteer passed the Badger Vaccination Training Course run by the Animal Health and Veterinary Laboratories Agency in Gloucestershire.

Somerset cull to be extended?

In the west of England, the government has been carrying out a trial cull of badgers since late August and, if deemed successful, they plan to roll out a badger cull across 40 further areas of England. However the trial in Somerset is about to be extended as they have not managed to cull nearly as many badgers as planned, despite significantly reducing the estimated number of badgers that need to be culled.


Part of East Sussex is on the DEFRA “High Risk” list and, as a result, a badger cull could happen in Sussex here as early as June 2014. The Sussex Badger Vaccination Project believes that badger vaccination is a sustainable approach to reducing bTB in wildlife and cattle without the public opposition associated with badger culling.

Kate Edmonds of the Sussex Badger Vaccination Project said “Science has shown that perturbation after culling leads to an increase in bTB on farms. Badger vaccination is the only way to avoid this problem and has been proven to lower bTB infection by 74%. ”

“We set up this project to give farmers in East Sussex an extremely low-cost choice to vaccinate rather than to cull. East Sussex is unique in that geographically it’s an “island” of bTB, indeed it has a unique strain of the disease, and therefore is ideal as a test case for a combined approach of badger vaccination and changes in cattle husbandry.”

Vaccination much cheaper than a cull

SBVP will be using volunteers throughout their project and they are fundraising to cover capital costs. Kate added: “This means that it will be far cheaper for a farmer to vaccinate badgers than to cull them – as well as being more effective. This isn’t about being anti-cull – we just want to be part of the solution to eradicating bTB from cattle and wildlife in East Sussex.”

One of SBVP’s volunteers is Trevor Weeks MBE, founder of East Sussex WRAS. He completed his badger vaccination training last week: Trevor said “The 4-day course in Gloucestershire was extremely beneficial, we learnt a lot about bTB and its relationship between badgers and cattle, but also more importantly about the process of vaccinating badgers and the procedures we need to follow. We had practical hands-on experience of how and where to set traps, and a very early morning start when we went out and vaccinated 30 badgers and cubs between us. We are really pleased to be the first of a team of qualified lay vaccinators available in Sussex to help support the fight against bTB.”

SBVP have begun contacting farmers and landowners and other interested parties in the DEFRA High Risk area to offer this service. Kate said: “Our first five volunteers completed their intensive vaccination training at the government’s Animal Health and Veterinary Laboratories Agency last week; more will train next year. They’ll be licensed to trap and vaccinate starting in Spring 2014. This is just the beginning. We plan to scale up our operation so that any farmer or landowner who wishes to vaccinate his badgers has this choice.”

Somerset badger cull to be extended

Dominic Dyer, Policy Advisor for Care for the Wild International, said: “Extending the cull is an inevitable last clutch at the straw by the government and NFU, and highlights yet more flaws in a hopeless policy. They failed to shoot as many badgers as they needed to ensure the culling didn’t make the situation worse. They now claim that they don’t need to kill as many badgers as planned because apparently in the last six months the numbers have ‘dropped’. What happened – did all the badgers hear about the cull and take off on holiday?

£1000 per badger

“We estimate that the cull so far has cost around £2 million, including police costs. If they kill around 2000 badgers that works out at about £1000 each – this must be the most expensive cull in history. Vaccinating badgers would be much cheaper.

“Scientifically this policy is a disaster. There was only a slim chance that it could have any benefit whatsoever in reducing TB, but the bungling of the figures has shot that out of the water. Meanwhile, any sense that it was being done in a humane way has been pushed aside in the rush to slaughter badgers, with reports of them being trapped in cages and blasted with shotguns. It’s time to end this debacle now and get on with finding a humane and effective way of dealing with bTB.”

Badger cull facts

Key Fact No 1: The 10-year Randomised Badger Cull Trial showed an increase in bTB of 25% around pro-active culling areas as a result of perturbation. Source: AHVLA.
Key Fact No 2: A vaccine against bTB for use in cattle does exist but until very recently it was not possible to distinguish between a vaccinated animal and an infected one. A new test does make this distinction but it isn’t yet fully tested and approved under EU legislation and won’t be for several years. An oral vaccine for badgers is currently being worked on by the AHVLA.