Friday, 27 December 2013

Nature Networks - Strengthening the Community & Local Economy

The State of Nature report which was released on 22nd May 2013 makes for uncomfortable reading. 

Mankind started using tools around 2.5 million years ago. The Thomas Newcomen Engine was invented 300 years ago, heralding the start of the Industrial Revolution in the UK.

The State of Nature report was merely looking at how well nature has faired over the last 50 years, if you like, since Sir David Attenborough was filming the Adventure: Quest programmes.

In that relatively tiny period of time, 60% of UK species have declined, and half of those have vanished rapidly.

Our most threatened species have declined by 77% in the last 40 years.

Over 10% of species are immediately under threat of disappearing completely in the UK - things are not looking good for nature. 

Nature is vital to human existence. Healthy air, water & food all come courtesy of Mother Nature. So why are we destroying it?

Well one reason is linked, ironically to human expansion: since Sir David Attenborough started broadcasting, the world population has trebled. As we expand, we will certainly need nature more in order to survive. Something needs to be done now!

If we look at the wildlife in our parks, it's the same Butterfly, Bee, Beetle and Fly species that we see on flowers during a Summer's afternoon that pollinate the crops which we rely on for healthy, natural food. Insects form part of complex ecosystems that in turn keep soil fertile, water pure and weather tolerable. These are quite important things!

So why are we destroying Life in the UK?

Well, whilst Sir David was starting out on his national service in the navy, a Frenchman called Andre Gide was receiving the Nobel Prize for Literature in 1947. He received the award "for his comprehensive and artistically significant writings, in which human problems and conditions have been presented with a fearless love of truth and keen psychological insight".

Gide's work grew into the idea that man was torn between two systems, one divine and the other adulterated. This was not just about good and evil but also concerned "Herd Morality", where we become influenced by those around us. 

If we look at mankind's recent history, it can really be summed up in one word "exploitation", such a shame that it came from such an exciting and similar word as "exploration"!

Gide himself criticised the "large consessions" regime that exploited nature and man to the extreme in Africa, leaving land bare and people as slaves. He influenced reform of colonialism through his words.

We used to manage woodlands, and farm with nature as a community. But with advancement has come greed and unsustainabilty - we have grown and left Mother Nature behind: as Michel did his wife who had healed him through care in Gide's book - "The Immoralist".

So where are we? We appear to be in a mire! For the sake of our children's world we need to get out of this
mire. Our kids need Natural Capital (living systems that supply our basic needs) How do we protect it for them? Well we get out of this mire with Maya!!

Without nature, profits and wealth are useless!

By reflecting Gide's work "Maya" in Hindi can mean the powerful forces of good and evil. So let mankind use the good forces to secure our future? But "Maya" has also been defined in Punjabi as "money", and therein lies the warning. Our pursuit of resources and materialism makes us blind to our innovations which can protect our planet, whilst satisfying our needs. We need to open our eyes and adopt safe practices, which can yield for man and nature.

My preferred definition of "Maya" is "knowledge of the vital air". We all have the power to protect, and with another billion of us on the planet by 2025 we need to work together now as communities for nature to help put things right.

The Moving Mountains Nature Network (MMNN) supports PROJECT MAYA ( - a system of living where people AND planet are in harmony.

Our networks are being designed in a way, where the community and local businesses can prosper, whilst protecting the beauty and biodiversity of their parks, reserves and other green spaces, that form vital components of the ecological network.

We have completely free packages for businesses that support UK wildlife. 

MMNN-Farmland aims to help rural communities and economies by promoting healthy, local, sustainable produce and showcasing innovative, open farming that embraces nature and the community. 75% of the UK is farmland and we believe the farming industry AND nature can thrive TOGETHER. 

Network sites will be released early in 2014, but for now you can follow us either here or on twitter:

We are only 4 months old and are still at the construction stage. But all readers can help nature now. 

Join one of the wildlife organisations shown on our home page and join your local wildlife or "friends of" volunteer group. Volunteering for wildlife and our children's world feels amazing! 

All council websites have details of how you can help protect your parks and Local Nature Reserves. 

As you can see, we promote and support UK Wildlife Organisations. They will ALL form part of our networks. MMNN is unfunded and we are volunteers from top to bottom, so could really use your help too in supporting us and spreading the word about us and our aims.

Thank you.

Tuesday, 26 November 2013

Progress Report : Beauty of Bournemouth and 14 Local Nature Networks for 2014 - a change in our path!


We are making good progress with the mapping of Bournemouth.

Our aim was to enhance the pride in the local community, for it's parks and reserves. But, since starting our first tangible project, I have had to widen that aim slightly!

Bournemouth has a passion for life, learning, local business and tourism. My aim was to help nature here, but in the process I am falling in love with the world again!

For months now, I have seen on a daily basis, evidence that shows just how much the U.K's wildlife is in trouble. World data and reports have been added to this, giving a sad picture, as to what mankind is doing to our beautiful planet.

Whilst writing this progress report the International Union for Conservation of Nature (IUCN) produced the Red list 2013: threatened species across the regions of the world.

71,576 species have been assessed, of which 21,286 are threatened with extinction according to the international organisation.

So where is the hope? 

Energy! Not one that clouds our planet, but a pure energy. 

I am finding it in students studying at Bournemouth University who simply love life and the world. I am finding it in the massive pool of volunteers, who give, with their whole hearts everyday to a good cause. I am seeing it in the businesses of Bournemouth, who care not just for the bottom line, but also for the beauty and future of this enchanting coastal community. 

Whilst first watching the film Avatar, I slipped into a child's world of fantasy as I watched the seeds from the Tree of Souls.

We may not see it, but it does exist. We call it biophilia: an instinctive connection with the beauty and magic of mother nature.

I feel it in Bournemouth. All it takes is a warm glow and the power is woven into a beautiful shield over the parks and reserves.

Our aim has therefore been modified now, and we are in the process of creating something which all components of the Bournemouth community will, I hope, benefit from.

If you live or work within the 16 wards of the borough, get involved, simply and freely. Register your interest in our MMNN-Bournemouth Local Nature Network, with an email to

Thank you Bournemouth, not only for your time whilst reading this, but also for changing the direction of the Moving Mountains initiative!

Developments for 2014

In view of the above, we have now revised our plans. It has been so hard making selections, but we have now decided to commence work next year on networks across the following 14 areas, based on the passion I have felt since MMNN was launched on 13/8/2013:

1. City of Edinburgh
2. Dundee City
3. Dovey Estuary
4. Leicester City, Blaby, Oadby & Wigston
5. Brightwell, Foxhall & Purdis Farm
6. Walsall
7. Bracknell Forest
8. Tower Hamlets
9. Cheshire West & Chester
10. Ealing
11. Croydon
12. City of York
13. Bedford Borough
14. Wolverhampton


We are still only 3 months old! We are young but we are forming policies that we believe will help meet biodiversity goals in 2020 and 2050, and pay respect to the incredible work of my hero, Sir David Attenborough.

We are therefore researching & promoting the following:

1. Permaculture (Including Agroforestry and Forest Gardens) via native systems. "Maya" will be the subject of our next article!
2. Natural Capital.
3. Energy for the world and Mother Nature, not for profit or politics.
4. The unsung heroes - those that are advancing Ecology and the study of Plants, Invertebrates and oceans. 
5. Initiatives that do not offset nature. There is no time for that! We just have to value it and regenerate urban scars. Our Geography is different to Australia and solutions should respect that fact.
6. Respect for our natural history: farming and woodland. We need to keep farming competitive, whilst recreating a landscape across 75% of the UK's land area that held the diversity of wildlife that I fell in love with as a child. What do I have to say about Woodland? We all know that it's great and worth protecting!!

Thank you.

Monday, 4 November 2013

Stage 1 Complete - The Catalyst is Ready..

MMNN is now almost three months old. 

Firstly I want to say a massive THANK YOU to my small but tireless team of volunteers. Without your support, passion and commitment, we could not have reached this point so quickly.

To see our current position clearly, I want to have a quick look back at our perceived role, which was defined, not long after our launch in August 2013:

MMNN: It's role in the U.K. (click to enlarge)
MMNN was designed to be complimentary and not as a substitute or rival for any other part of the UK's Wildlife Network. In fact, whilst gathering my thoughts for this article I received some wise and consise words from a talented individual who is combining her gift with the power of Biophilia (basically defined as the innate and genetically determined affinity of human beings with the natural world - per Biologist E.O. Wilson). She said:

"We are all working towards the same end, we just chose different paths. Nature Matters!!"

I have recently undertaken a fascinating journey, exploring these various "paths" that exist in the UK, that can lead to our biodiversity goals being met. I have been fortunate enough to find so many remarkable individuals and initiatives, whose work is serving to ignite the flame that draws more people towards nature.

Others are investing so much time and effort, whilst creating projects across Britain, which show innovation and passion for nature. Whilst reserves remain a safe haven for wildlife, thanks to our marvelous national organisations, it is sad that the vast majority of the UK's land area remains "unprotected".

Whilst considering the fact that 75% of the UK's surface area is managed by farmers, I looked at schemes which, whilst being revolutionary in some aspects, draw on ancient practices to increase biodiversity, maintain food webs AND produce crops effectively.

I had a wonderful chat with the the creators of Dorset Forest Garden at Beaminster Bottom Farm in Dorset. For anyone who is not familiar with the principles of Forest Farming, the farms' own words on it's home page serves to provide an excellent summary:

"Imagine a garden that is not fighting nature, but working with it. 

Where most of your time in it is enjoying its beauty, diversity and not to forget food! In fact a garden that cuts out the supermarket and makes eating local food as simple as walking out of your door and selecting what’s in season.

If you’re new to the concept – a forest garden or food forest is nothing to do with gardening in a forest, but creating a multilayered garden that mimics a young woodland but where plants are chosen to maximise the health and productivity of the space.

A forest garden is beautiful and delicious, a polyculture developed in harmony with nature and so incredibly low maintenance.

So is this for you? I’m not going to say you’ll get a completely un-biased opinion from us! We’re big fans of forest gardening; for our UK temperate climate it ticks so many boxes. In our damp climate, the land’s natural state is woodland. In fact if left alone, ground will slowly revert to woodland. Because of this the further we try to maintain land from this natural state – the more work it takes to maintain.

Here are a few bullet points that makes us such enthusiasts of food forests.  They are:
labour saving,
High yielding,
A relaxing, beautiful space,
Contain huge biodiversity,
Locking up carbon – making it kind to the environment,
Both a source of harvest and income,
Good way of putting children in touch with where food comes from, as well as educating them on other topics – environment, biology, design…"

This practice of Forest Gardening can have a major impact on levels of biodiversity and participation in urban settings, and also create a "living class-room" for children to learn more about nature, carbon issues and sustainable farming.

Another developing practice in the UK is Agroforestry (Simply agriculture that incorporates the cultivation of trees)

Research over the past 20 years has confirmed that Agroforestry can be more biologically productive, more profitable, and more sustainable than forestry or agricultural monocultures. (Source:

If we can offer our 300,000 UK farmers an incentive or reward for adopting methods that enhance biodiversity, whilst maintaining their place in the market, we shall be able to halt the decline of wildlife across an area that represents 75% of our land surface area.

Whilst there is talk that 15% of direct payments to farmers should be " held-back" to contribute towards biodiversity work, I do hold three fears:

1. If this money is not kept to manage biodiversity across our farmland, then a policy that holds so much hope for wildlife would end up feeling like Biodiversity Offsetting. A system which would let people ignore biodiversity, as long as they forfeited money, for wildlife projects elsewhere, would do little to produce a unified nation that cares for and respects the power and beauty of nature, especially at a time when we are trying to define it's true "value".

2. We should be careful not to penalise farmers who are already actively protecting or enhancing biodiversity. We need to protect initiatives like the fantastic Conservation Grade Scheme - a sustainability protocol being implemented by farmers in return for contracted premium prices for their crops. We cannot simply put everyone in the same boat. 

In the UK we have an inspection service covering food establishments, which helps protect people from being poisoned. Would it not be great to create a "Biodiversity Task Force" to ensure that farmers are thinking about biodiversity and protecting our amazing wildlife?

Such a task force could work closely with our Local Records Centres (LRC's) (who could also do with some extra funding) so that farms are subject to 5 star biodiversity assessments. Under such a scheme, local naturalists, experts and patch watchers, could apply to get involved in the farm surveys, designed by local experts, under a permit scheme, allowing limited access to land. 

Not only would this increase the amount of coordinated and repeated recording for future "State of Nature" reports, it would offer our children the opportunity to study wildlife and become guardians of the countryside under part of an inspectorate system, similar to what we have in meat production. Permits could be issued by the government to those that have demonstrated to local recorders, Wildlife Clubs and LRC's, that they have the necessary skills and passion for nature to conduct impartial surveying. 

3. We are in a potentially strong economic position, with regard to UK farming. Perhaps surprisingly the average size of our farms in the UK are larger than the European average 
(Source: means that we should be able to enjoy a competitive edge by virtue of achievable economies of scale.

History actually made me cringe as a child, because I learned about so many industries, within which we were once the world leader. So many crowns have fallen!! With 75% of our land given over to farming, we have to keep our eye on the ball and not lose our place in this market. 

The consumer will only buy fresh, healthy, sustainable, local produce, if it remains sensibly priced. If we are going to take something from the farming kitty, then let's make sure that the funds go to schemes that protect biodiversity over a land area that has no "reserve" status to protect it, whilst rewarding wildlife-friendly farmers AND maintaining their place in the market.

There is much much more that has come from our review, and the amazing people and organisations that we have and will continue to come across, will be incorporated in one of two places:

1. This main MMNN site will now become a reference site connecting the "1st Element" to the volunteer wildlife network, and the public. It will encourage membership, participation, volunteering and recording through the national wildlife organisations and via our local Councils that manage so many of our green spaces. ( Please note: we are in the process of adding "Link areas" which will cover Schools, Wildlife Identification, Council Biodiversity work and Farming)

2. We are now focusing on the creation of our Local Nature Networks. After the launch of our maiden MMNN- Bournemouth Local Nature Network, we will conduct an appraisal to see just how effectively we have served to encourage, coordinated recording, participation, biodiversity protection and education, across the launch area. This experience will assist in the creation of other networks around member sites. The local network will aim to help send the "1st Element" deep into local communities. We have a few surprises, which will become apparent on launch, which we hope will demonstrate the potency of the MMNN catalyst.

In this regard, I wish to thank our members for their continued interest and support, and to all of those involved in Biophilia, Forest Farming, Agroforestry and on so many other biodiversity "paths" that have influenced our thinking, whilst designing the characteristics of the MMNN catalyst.

Local councils are under extreme pressure, whilst trying to manage biodiversity with ever-decreasing staff and resources. MMNN will support them, whilst minimising requests for information. We shall now use the LRC's and the NBN Gateway to obtain site wildlife information, whilst our focus will remain on working towards coordinating surveying and encouraging more participation and volunteering across member green sites.

Our Local Networks will bring together all patch watchers, wildlife bloggers,"Friends of" and other wildlife groups so that they have more support.

Our community work will become apparent on the launch of our first MMNN Local Nature Network.

I am carrying out a fund-raising walk in Spring 2014. Half of the proceeds will go towards local School wildlife activities and equipment. If you are a wildlife-friendly school near Smestow Valley LNR, Wolverhampton, Clayhanger Marsh, Walsall or Harborne, Birmingham, please register your interest in this event. Local businesses can also get involved.

The other half of the money raised will support local biodiversity projects. If you require help to fund such work in the above areas of the West Midlands, please email brief details and links for our consideration.

If you support our ethos, join MMNN today. It's free and our benefits are becoming more apparent as we prepare to cross the three month mark since our "birth" on 13th August 2013.

To join MMNN or get involved in our fund-raising event, please contact us at

Thank you

Sunday, 27 October 2013

Bournemouth Local Nature Network - due to launch soon!! Register your interest NOW and help "The State of Nature"

Now that the mapping of Bournemouth (defined as the 18 wards, falling under Bournemouth Borough Council), is well under way, MMNN is inviting members of the following "groups" to register their interest in becoming part of the MMNN- Bournemouth Local Nature Network:

Local wildlife clubs,
Regional/County wildlife recorders,
Local sections of the National Wildlife Organisations,
Wildlife "bloggers",
Garden Wildlife recorders (and "bloggers",)
"Patch" watchers who record wildlife in the Borough
"Friends of" and Parish wildlife groups,
Local wildlife/ecology experts,
Council Parks and Biodiversity teams,
Parks and their Rangers,
Wildlife Reserves and their Wardens,
Leisure Services providers,
Conservation volunteers and Volunteer Groups,
Wildlife-friendly nurseries, schools and Colleges together with students/ groups from Bournemouth University.
Places of Worship, with an active local wildlife policy,
Green Local Press and other media,
Museums and Zoos,
Pro wildlife and visitor-friendly farms,
Outdoor Activity Centres,
Youth Hostels,
Environmentally friendly local businesses or businesses that simply want to help protect their local wildlife and green spaces.
Arts and Culture - if you can "tap on" to the amazing energy of Biophilia, you are an important component our our local networks. Please get involved!!

This list is by no means exhaustive, so any other individual or organisation can register to get involved and help promote wildlife conservation, awareness and recording in the area.

We also need help from the children of Bournemouth!! Please ask your school, mum or dad to
e-mail your wildlife pictures to us, and we will include them all across our pages.

We will also be asking children to design a logo that MMNN will use as it's official emblem.

To register your interest in the MMNN- Bournemouth Local Nature Network or send pictures, simply e-mail us at

Join MMNN today!!..... Together, we really CAN make a difference to "The State of Nature" in the UK.

Thank you.

1st November 2013 - I just have to say a massive thank you to the wonderful people and caring organisations of Bournemouth!! As we are mapping the area, we are coming across a range of beautiful, gifted and committed people. It is an absolute pleasure working with you all, and thank you for your interest in this network. There is a lot of work still to be done, but we hope to have got round you all soon.

MMNN -  Ipswich, Cheshire, Leicester and York Local Nature Networks coming soon!!!

Tuesday, 22 October 2013

Good Recording and Bad Recording - Thank you "Living Record" and "Peter Orchard" for helping me to demonstrate the two Extremes!!

I stated in my Month 2 progress report, that MMNN was due to start mapping out the Local Wildlife Networks, around member sites.

Part of this work has taken me on a tour, albeit it on-line around the beautiful County of Dorset. I have been talking to some amazing groups of volunteers, who have worked tirelessly, to record wildlife and get involved in the hard work on the ground needed to help the Councils manage sites and their fragile habitats.

Whilst conducting this work, I received an e-mail from Peter Orchard, creator of a rather grandly named "The Nature of Dorset" website. Wow!! all the information I would need under one roof!!....or so it seemed!!

I'm not sure where he found out about MMNN but he stated in his initial e-mail that "I record in Dorset and put the data collected on here:"

He went on to say "It currently has data for 145 sites and over 1,450 species. In paragraph 2 of Peter's homepage he clearly states "Once at the species data you can see where I have seen it" - I being the key word here.

So, twice he has claimed they are his records already!! To all you bloggers and patch watchers out there, I think you will agree, it's hard enough to cover one site well with personal wildlife records. This Guy tells me he can do it across 145 sites!! He must have the legs of a Cheetah.

Anyway, I have been so busy on the MMNN initiative, so I just sent a brief reply praising his identification area, as it supported the young and learning naturalists.

To my surprise, the very next day, Peter sends me an e-mail offering a platform for my members to record wildlife in Dorset, via his site!!! Not only does this guy eat Wildebeest for breakfast, he is also an overnight "Einstein", creating a policy of recording for Bournemouth in a matter of hours.

Alarm bells started ringing. You will see from my article posted on 20/9/13, that I had become aware of the wonderful work of Adrian Bicker at "Living Record", through people who were serious about wildlife, and who were also passionate about the importance of accurate recording, verification and validation. I was also aware that the hard-working team at Dorset Environmental Records Centre were already working with Adrian. Why did Dorset need to start sending it's records into "Peter the Cheetah"??

My instincts got the better of me! I took a deeper look at his website and picked a few LNR's that were about the same size or bigger than my own patch. I was amazed at the number of records for each of the 140 odd sites listed. Not only that but how can you land species like Dartford Warbler, Water-Rail, Wood Cock, Red Kite and Black-tailed Skimmers, on sites where they are rare, whilst spreading yourself so thinly over so many sites.

I e-mailed Peter Orchard, asking how he had managed to visit so many sites and create so many of his own records.

MMNN cares about the need for engagement and participation, and I had noted that Peter had missed a lot of hard-working Dorset wildlife volunteer groups off his organisation and weblinks (I am in the Midlands, he should know them better than me!!). I asked why he had omitted this valuable connection that would add numbers to volunteer events across his home county. 

Incidentally, if any readers are connected to any of the following guardians of UK Wildlife, you may wish to advise them to consider removing their association, and emblems from this site:

Apologies to the RSPB - you have got two because Peter doesn't know the difference between a Podcast service and a stunning wildlife haven! 

Please note that Peter Orchard hadn't even linked the emblems to these organisations/initiatives/reserves, which means that, for example, the amount of Butterfly counts in Dorset, were less than they could have been if he had made his 18,000 annual website visitors aware of the plea for more records, to help protect them.

I received answers from Peter. He has managed to visit so many sites and make so many recordings because "I am retired. I have a car, it is my hobby (no passion!). there are 36 weeks from the beginning of March to the end of October. I started visiting reserves when we moved to Dorset 7 years ago. Two visits each week in that time period over 7 years is around 500 recording visits"

The reason he gave for not including local "Wildlife Warrior" groups of volunteers on his "County site" (that appears 2nd only on google to another volunteer organisation that makes a REAL difference to the state of nature: Dorset Wildlife Trust),  was that in 2009 (within 3 years of entering the county!!), he offered 20 groups a wildlife recording platform and they were not interested.

Peter, if you are reading this whilst rapidly editing your website (I have screen-shots), the reasons why you are in this article are two-fold. First you have placed personal feeling above acting in the best interests of wildlife. Secondly, every day, I hear about Council's on ever tighter budgets with ever-decreasing staff numbers, trying to enhance LNR's, the newly labelled LWS's and other sites. At the same time, I talk to teams of heroic volunteers, passionate about their patches who are trying desperately to help the Council's execute their management plans, whilst also organising events and making wonderful wildlife records.

So let us do some basic Maths. Peter actually states that he has conducted 788 recording sessions in 7 years, although he admits that some of those sessions are from his garden (I am amazed he has got time to maintain a garden!). 
788 visits across 145 sites in 7 years!!! that means that on average, he visited each site less than once a year!!!

When I put this to Peter, he said that "it is not an exact Science" ( I hope the "Nature of Bournemouth" recording platform that he is proposing for the area, is more of an exact science!! Though I don't think it's going to happen now somehow after MMNN's exposure!!).He then said that he is discovering new sites all the time.

Well I decided to put this to the test. After a little bit of surfing social groups that I need to do for my work anyway, I came across the following flicker link following Peter's visit to Kinson Common LNR:

You will see Peter pictured there, as he appears on his own site. Please note that the flicker feed is dated 2nd April 2013. He comments: "I had a very pleasant morning just getting to know the place"

Lets have a look at the page for Kinson Common on "The Nature of Dorset":

The page tells you to "Click the pic to see my complete species list for this site"

You will note:
1. Peter has Firecrest in his records, calling it a good spot on 31/3/13. Yes Pete,very good spot considering you were over 15 miles away on that day!: I asked Peter in my last email, before breaking communication with him, where he was on 31/3/13 and he told me he was at Stokeford Heath!!, as evidenced by his own site:

The Firecrest was actually found by a well-respected local "patch" watcher. It was his record. How could it be Peter's when he visited the site for the first time, two days later and never mentioned the Firecrest sighting in his Flicker update?

2. Peter's own "Kinson Common species list" states that Dartford Warbler, Water Rail, Woodcock, Red Kite and Black-tailed Skimmer are all "present" there. Anyone who visits this important site regularly will tell you that all of these species are extremely rare there at best!! How damaging is this information to wildlife conservation?

3. The species list for Kinson Common contains endless records from 2011, over a year BEFORE Peter first says that he visited the site.

The evidence is endless, but from it comes some key points that I wish to highlight. This overlaps with reports I have had, and acted upon from Cheshire bloggers; that wildlife recording platforms (thankfully not attached to the U.K's Local Records Centres, but most likely taking up valuable wildlife funding),are holding false and misleading information regarding species present on sites of extreme value to wildlife, in that area.

1. It concerns me that two instances of this nature have been exposed in the two months since MMNN was launched, and  I have only just started mapping local networks.

2. If you are an individual recording wildlife, send your records into your local wildlife clubs and recorders. MMNN is pushing for these groups to be more easily found at information points on green spaces and through Schools, Council Websites and local groups, to encourage participation.

3. If you are one of the thousands of local wildlife, Parish or "Friends of" groups, that exist across the country and you are looking for a recording platform for your valuable sightings, find your Local Records Centre (LRC)via the National Biodiversty Network (NBN) site:

Send a brief e-mail, asking for their advice on the best record entry systems. Please do not call them unless urgent, as they are doing an incredible job on ever-tighter funding, sending quality records onto the National Biodiversity Network, which is used to help create the STATE OF NATURE reports.

4. If you are approached by anyone claiming to have a wildlife recording platform for you to use, be very careful. Send an e-mail to your LRC, asking them to check the product. The Wildlife Trusts are truly wonderful. Contact your local Trusts, and they will provide assistance, as well telling you about other ways to get involved with wildlife locally.

For the people of Dorset, you are in safe hands. Any threat to the quality of wildlife records has been nipped in the bud, and in any case would never have got through the tight controls that exist at the NBN and at the LRC. To this end Living Record is already approved by the Dorset Environmental Records Centre, and I would strongly recommend them for any wildlife group, not only in Dorset, but across the UK, as they are well respected by local experts and recorders, and they share our passion for wildlife.

I have also looked closely at the work of the "Friends of" and other volunteer wildlife groups that exist in Dorset. From what I have reviewed, and mapped so far, I see them, together with the army of wildlife bloggers as being KEY to realising the dream of halting the decline of wildlife in the UK.

If you want to see original and accurate records of what you can see at Kinson Common, please visit: - brilliant slogan by the way!!....Protect, Preserve, Promote!!! Well done to you all on your fine efforts.

Peter Orchard - you obviously hold a love, of sorts for wildlife. It's just a great shame, that you didn't use the last 7 years to support all of the incredible groups that exist in Dorset, and who you stole records from, by claiming them as your own, after paying "token" visits. 

How many kids have looked at your site and got mum and dad to drive them over to see a Dartford Warbler and Red Kite, only to find out off a proper wildlife recorder, that they are not there, when they arrive. Disappointment in children is damaging. You could, by now have created so many local wildlife partnerships, which in turn would have created a new army of volunteers in the county, to help the Council's and Wildlife Organisations meet their Biodiversity objectives.

To our members in Dorset, rest assured, MMNN will help them.

Thank you for taking time out, whilst reading this article.

Thank you also to the Centre for Environmental Change & Human Resillience at Dundee University, for recently encouraging people to get involved in MMNN. I am extremely honoured to have had my aims and articles studied by such an Institution. It makes me even more determined to move mountains for nature.

I live in the Midlands, and so at a local level, thanks also to our local blogger "Chaz" at Clayhanger Marsh Log, who provided a testament as to what MMNN is setting out to achieve:

To those that have the power to help this important wildlife site in Walsall, West Midlands (which includes an SSSI) preserve it's biodiversity and safeguard it's future, please contact us at 

Chaz has watched over this site as a true "guardian" for years, so come on everyone, let's give him and the wildlife there a hand!!

Join MMNN today and together, we really can make a difference. Simply e-mail your request to and you will be sent a simple "welcome" form to register the sites where you watch and record wildlife.

If you are a blogger and you support our initiative, please add us to your site links.

Many thanks.

Sunday, 13 October 2013

Month 2 - Members Update and Progress Report

It has been a busy month, as emphasis has moved from "spreading the word" to starting action towards our goals.

Only a small amount of networking has been conducted this month, but even so our membership has now crossed the 200 site mark; way beyond expectations, considering the original plan was to attract 500 sites over a 12 to 18 month period. Some truly wonderful sites have joined the network and I look forward to working with them all.

We are almost half way towards the 500 member site mark, where we will appoint a patron, trustees and become a nationally recognised body.

Our aims now are to:

1. Map and strengthen local wildlife networks around member sites, and prepare to engage their local communities. We shall be working closely with the Local Records Centres (LRC's).
2. Obtain species lists and identify "at risk" species for member sites.
3. Raise awareness of wildlife events taking place on member sites, in order to increase the level of participation and volunteering.
4. Raise the profile of MMNN, so that we can start sending our message to the media and central government, regarding the State of Nature and how we feel that our decline in wildlife can be halted.
5. Agree a surveying plan for 2014, to create more trend data on member sites with the national wildlife organisations.

The following developments are working towards these aims:

Local Wildlife Networks

Local networks of recorders, wildlife experts, nature clubs and societies, friendly societies, volunteer groups and other interest groups will be mapped to cover  the following areas of the UK, around member sites:

Bracknell Forest, Berkshire
Ellesmere Port, Cheshire
Greater London: Croydon, Greenford and Tower Hamlets areas
Leicester City, including Blaby, Oadby and Wigston
Lichfield/Barton-under-Needwood area Staffs
Macclesfield, Cheshire
Redditch, Worcestershire
Solihull, West Midlands
Stratford-upon-Avon, Warwickshire
Walsall/Brownhills, West Midlands
Wolverhampton, West Midlands

Areas will be added, as new members join the network.

Once mapped, the local networks will be engaged, so as to provide greater support for member sites and their LRC's. A directory of local schools and places of worship will also be compiled for future engagement and fund-raising activities

Site Wildlife Records

Our policy is to minimise "red tape", and make information requests as easy as possible (our simple "Welcome" Forms for new members have been warmly received!!). Over the next few weeks I shall be contacting members, in order to obtain site species lists, and indications as to whether each species is stable, on the increase, decrease or has an unknown status.

I shall also be asking for details of species which are known to be subject to heaviest decline or are under threat of loss from the site. The Local Wildlife Network and national organisations can then be engaged, in order to consider action plans, where they have not already been implemented.

MMNN has the ambitious aim of PREVENTING the loss of any IDENTIFIED species from member sites. Site profiles can be highlighted to the local wildlife network to increase the level and areas of recording.

Member Events

Awareness and participation are key to switching on the public. To this end MMNN will "spread the word" regarding events on member sites. The new "Twitter feed" on this site has already proved to be an excellent way to help with this.

If members have any events planned, please e-mail full details to .We will then cover the event on this site and ask local wildlife "bloggers" to mention it.

Once the local networks have been mapped, we can add further strength to this awareness initiative.


Once I have received all species data from members, I shall be working with their Local Wildlife Networks and the National Wildlife Organisations, in order to design a programme of surveys for 2014.

There will be particular emphasis in obtaining more information on "at risk" species. By coordinating surveying across member Local Ecological Networks, we will gain more clues as to why a particular species is in decline.

Council's need more coordinated and repeated survey work from local experts and volunteers, so that they can monitor progress towards their biodiversity goals.

The Newly created Local Wildlife Sites (LWS's), also require more support from volunteers and the Local Wildlife Network in order to protect the site and build a bank of data for the newly designated green spaces, that are important to the Local Ecological Network.

There is much work to be done in this area.

Raising the Profile of the Moving Mountains Nature Network

I have started planning an event for Spring 2014, which will demonstrate the power of MMNN.

I shall be walking from Wolverhampton to an area of central Birmingham, via a member site, which is requiring support from it's local network and community, in order to protect the diverse range of species and habitats that occur there.

There will be "BioBlitz" events and fund-raising, involving local schools and groups, at the start, stop-off and finishing venues, and the local wildlife networks will also be involved.

The local and national media will be invited to cover and attend the event, and this will provide a voice for our cause.

Believe it or not, I have logged every comment and issue raised by members, biodiversity officers, rangers, bloggers, "patchers" and other interested individuals since MMNN was launched on 13th August 2013. These will be added to and converted into a draft document, available to members, before release, that will tackle EVERY issue that has been raised.


The event will demonstrate how together, communities, Councils, volunteers and the local wildlife network can deliver powerful messages and also demonstrate a unity in the battle to halt the decline of the UK's marvelous wildlife.

Finally a word to those non-members who are aware of the Moving Mountains Nature Network, and either manage or record the wildlife that live on their parks, LNR's, LWS's, "patches" or other sites of importance to nature -  join MMNN today. Become a "guardian" for your much-loved areas, give it greater protection and help us to halt the decline of wildlife in the UK.

Joining is free and easy!! Just register your interest by sending an e-mail to and include your name and details of the sites under your control, or where you watch and record wildlife.

You will be sent a simple "Welcome" form to complete that registers your sites with the network.

Together, we really can make a difference!!

Friday, 11 October 2013

Twitter Feed - Moving Mountains to Connect People with Wildlife

As part of the push towards connecting more people with wildlife, I have now set up a Twitter feed on this blog, that will provide you with updates regarding wildlife events, issues and sightings. They are all my comments or retweets, and will not include personal or provocative opinion from others. Media releases will be shown, where I feel that they are relevant to the understanding and protection of wildlife.

No retweets will necessarily reflect the opinions of our members.

MMNN members who follow us on Twitter will benefit from having their events and causes highlighted on this blog.

I hope that this adds to your experience, whilst visiting this blog.

Thank you.

Tuesday, 8 October 2013

The Environmental Audit Committee has launched a new inquiry into the Government consultation on Biodiversity offsetting in England, which proposes to introduce a system for allowing biodiversity loss associated with developments to be measured and offset against compensatory biodiversity gain elsewhere.

To submit your own written evidence to the inquiry please go to:

Please follow the guidance when making any such submission to the inquiry.

The deadline is Tuesday 15th October 2013.

I am considering making a personal submission to the inquiry myself. If you prefer, please email your views (or information which supplements my last blog) to:, and it will add to my thoughts.

I think that you will all agree that this policy would have a major impact on how well we can achieve our biodiversity goals.

Thank you.

Thursday, 3 October 2013

Biodiversity Offsetting - Join the Debate

I have been following the issue of "biodiversity offsetting" with interest. The phrase "NET gain", I feel is always a cloak that can hide devastation and make it look like action is being taken, when it isn't. Figures are then used out of context, with the "gains" being branded as success while the LOSSES are conveniently swept under the carpet.

I have been keen to see the media reaction to this policy, and for ease of reading, and to get up to speed with how the policy has been received, please follow these sample links:

Just the thought of seeing wildlife as monetary "credits" for land deals feels appalling in itself. Then the idea that you can destroy long-established wildlife areas and replace them, just like that, sets a bad precedent. What example is this setting, whilst we are trying to engage the public and help them to understand the TRUE value of nature and the need to protect it.

How can developers simply "buy" other habitat? What are they doing? Knocking down houses to create it? NO!!! It's already precious habitat that SHOULD be protected anyway, under our commitments to biodiversity.

Who is going to manage the new "reserves" or "reserve extensions"? Proper management of wildlife areas takes up considerable human and financial resources. The wildlife organisations are already stretched, and then all of the sudden, they have to magically create a new army of thousands of volunteers and money pots to manage the new land? Are the builders going to pay for 25 years of management, necessary to create and protect  rich ecosystems?

I feel that what we should be doing is raising awareness of the crisis facing the UK's wildlife, encouraging people to engage today, and future generations to care.Conservation, surveys and trips to local green spaces SHOULD be part of the national curriculum. ALL LWS's, LGS's, LNR's and Country Parks should provide information on how to get involved in nature, and to guide those with a passive interest towards their local wildlife clubs and recorders.

The national wildlife organisations need more than 5% of the population "switched on" to wildlife, in order to meet the challenges ahead. If the government could help just another 5% of the population to love nature, DOUBLE the resources would be available from new volunteers, reserve entrance fees, subscriptions and donations. Imagine the impact that this would have in terms of halting the loss of wildlife!!

Back to the planning issue.

There are pilot biodiversity-offsetting schemes running across the country. Well the media and public have had a positive feeling about it, haven't they?? So all looks well?

This isn't rocket science!! When a developer submits a planning application, if the proposed site has ANY value to wildlife at all, then the developer should be aware, from the outset, that they would have to pay for a full site wildlife survey to be carried out, at full market rate, so that our dedicated experts are remunerated properly for their critical skills in assessing the location and it's links to the local ecological network.

If we are going to trade wildlife, then maybe it should be this way: If the wildlife survey finds that the site has a low value to wildlife, then contributions under S106 could be sought from the developer in the usual way, to contribute towards local amenities, including management of LWS's and LGS's. If however, the site has a value to wildlife, above a set level (based on habitat quality, variety of species, existence of BAP species...), then planning is refused outright.

This would automatically reduce the number of planning applications in areas of importance to wildlife.

To offer some sort of middle ground, if wildlife values were modest, but significant, THEN there could be provision in the planning rules to allow the developer to submit proposals which would contribute to local biodiversity. This policy would then be considered on a "case by case" basis, requiring approval from a respected organisation, such as The Wildlife Trusts (funded by Planning Application Fees).

I am aware that other countries have biodiversity-offsetting schemes. Does that make it right for the UK?

The Defra consultation process can be found at:

There is a Greenhouse think-tank paper at:

FoE, RSPB, Woodland Trust public positions are at:

The Wildlife Trusts position here:

Join the debate. Whilst I have expressed personal views, again in this article, MMNN is about pursuing the best approaches for wildlife, rather than personal subjective goals.

To all members and followers: please get involved by submitting your views to or provide your comments at the bottom of this article, which will be moderated.

Future MMNN action, will be based on common views, published here first, in order to allow a second period of sharing, before being acted upon.

Join MMNN today. Together, we really can make a difference.

Thank you

Friday, 27 September 2013

“Local” is the Word to Halt the Decline of Wildlife in the UK – BUT only with National Coordination

In order to stop wildlife loss we need to:

  1. Protect and extend existing sites of importance to wildlife
  2. Identify and protect new sites, which are seen as important components of the ecological network.
  3. Coordinate and increase wildlife recording, to create more distribution and trend data for species and so provide the evidence, which identifies the root causes of decline in biodiversity.
  4. Engage, educate and involve the 95% of the population that, at present, have no direct interest in wildlife and conservation.

At a time of cuts in staff and funding across the nation, it really is going to be a challenge to meet our 2020 biodiversity targets, but answers do lie within….

With this in mind, now lets explore the “local” principle in more detail.

Local Communities

I have started here, because this is the engine room that will drive us forward towards saving our wildlife.

Inside our Schools, Places of Worship and local neighbourhoods, there is a force which, if tapped into will really propel us swiftly towards our goals. The fuel is there, we just need it igniting.

A “Your Country Need You” style campaign, which goes into all schools, highlighting the state of nature and what can be done to help, if supported by TV broadcasts, would provide the torch in the engine room, to make it fire up into action.

Amazing organisations like “Natural Connections” in the South-west exist to support wildlife education outdoors, but still the vast majority of our children aren’t being led out as part of their early-years and Science time-tables.

Local Green Spaces (LGS’s)

Introduced under the 2011 Localism Act, and although not solely selected for wildlife value, LGS’s can be a point of first contact for the potential new converts to the love of nature.

A single notice board at the main entrance to an LGS can sign-post people of all ages to their local wildlife clubs and nature reserves, where they can learn more.

Links between LGS’s and local schools are easy to establish, and similar notices at local places of worship would also encourage participation, which would be echoed through the network of incredible Local Parish Groups that exists across the country.

Local Wildlife Sites (LWS’s)

I was amazed to discover that under the National Planning Policy Framework, there are 40,000 LWS’s tagged across England alone.

Nature Improvement Area funding may seem to be significant, but it is inevitable that embracing another 700,000 hectares of country will put new pressures on ranger services and biodiversity management, whilst already trying to improve biodiversity on their LNR’s and parks.

There is an army of volunteers just waiting in society to be encouraged to help, but we must engage and educate them first.

Local Reserves

With over 200 RSPB reserves and 2,300 Wildlife Trusts sites as an example, we are so lucky in the UK to have such a wide network of glorious places tailor-made to convert those with a basic interest, into avid wildlife enthusiasts, with the encouragement of wardens and their staff.

However funding is always stretched, since these sites rely on donations, entrance fees and memberships from the 5% of the population that are switched on to nature.

Just imagine if we just doubled the number of wildlife enthusiasts in the UK through engagement and participation? Imagine the impact that this would have on the levels of visitors, memberships and donations, and how this could be used to start new projects and acquisitions. Positive feedback – more producing more!!

Local Patches and Local Ecological Networks

I have placed these two together, purely because the “patch” watchers and wildlife “bloggers” spend so much time and energy recording nature in “wild Britain”, where there is no protection given to the “patch”, as a reserve or by designation.

So many “patchers” that cover parks or reserves report declines in species, within these protected areas because of what is happening in the surrounding countryside. It is the “guardians” of our unprotected land that will probably hold the key to solving the riddle, of what has caused such a dramatic decline in wildlife over the last 40 years

These volunteers do so much to help us see what is happening across these vital sites, within the local ecological network.

Local Wildlife Clubs and Societies

When I was 10, it was the West Midlands Bird Club that provided all that I needed, to understand and explore birding. Local reports, trips, details of reserves, keys to hides at sites that just grabbed you and dragged you into a magical world of nature through their splendour, and trips that brought people with similar interests together to share, have fun and learn.

I wish I had had greater access to dragonfly, mini-beast, botany and other wildlife groups to make me a rounder naturalist. They are more accessible now and we really need to promote them to our children at a local level. The State of Nature report has taught us that we must not focus just on the trendy areas of wildlife (Birds, Butterflies….). We desperately need more data to help understand what is happening in other areas of our ecosystems. Lets give every beast a chance, be they giant or mini!!

Local wildlife groups are the gateways that draw on the energy of youth and nurture our future recorders, experts and scientists.

Lets link these wonderful clubs and associations into school websites and on display boards within our green spaces. Every convert will be spreading the word, through their local communities - more positive feedback.

Local Experts, Local Recorders and Local Records Centres (LRC’s)

It’s great to have systems, where anyone can access a website and feed information into the wildlife records system, but it must be a nightmare to verify!!

By sign-posting school children and green space users to local wildlife clubs and societies, they are already heading towards their local recorders. The local recorders then have close relationships with local experts and the LRC’s, so that the quality of information is maintained as the volume of data expands.

Verification work is so much easier and faster, if it flows through the local network first on its way to the National Biodiversity Network. This allows local data platforms to serve local areas and meet their unique requirements (in terms of species, habitat, funding requirements etc..). LRC’s should be supported and properly funded as part of the nation’s commitment to biodiversity. To my mind they are a cornerstone of the UK’s biodiversity plans, simply because they are close to source records, and have a good knowledge of their part of the ecological network, working closely with the data providers.

David Attenborough didn’t spend this many years educating us all, only for us to create a cold monster that swallows up data from unknown individuals, clogging up the network with potentially duff data, and jamming the verification system in the process. We need high quality data and coordinated surveys to find answers. Nothing less will do.

If our existing system of verification, validation and data sharing is fine, then why are so many of our “patch” watchers reporting that internet based data platforms are producing lists for their sites that include species, which do not occur and in some cases, have never occurred there!!!…and these were mammals, not bryophytes!!!

The beauty of having the local recording network is that it forms a foundation that can efficiently support Local Nature Partnerships.

Local Nature Partnerships (LNP’s) and Local Wildlife Partnerships

This is the “glue” that will stick everything together. It will link the schools, places of worship, councils, neighbourhoods, local groups, clubs and associations, recorders, experts and LRC’s.

Local wildlife partnerships will have a massive role in supporting unprotected “patches” that contribute to the Local Ecological Network, and which potentially hold the key as to why our wildlife is vanishing. This would give massive support to our army of “patchers” and “bloggers”.

Setting up LNP’s was one of the commitments made in the Natural Environment White Paper 2011 and there are 48 across England. This is to be commended, but most people see local partnerships as covering a smaller area and there are many “wildlife partnerships” being set up on a more local level, to tackle local issues. This will go a long way towards supporting the national initiative, whilst providing accurate information and sign-posting to local communities.

Local Partnerships have a better understanding of local businesses, clubs, groups and recorders that could not so easily be achieved at County level. There are many shining examples of these partnerships already out there, and it will be great when every “patcher” and every school is connected to one for support and sharing. One major benefit that would arise from this is that sites would have coverage of more areas of wildlife, as enthusiasts from different areas of wildlife meet. More and more “blogs” will contain information about all aspects of nature, and with better site information, it will be easier to protect them.

Local Councils and Authorities

Nobody is better able to engage the public, than those that serve the public. This last two months has brought me closer to the officers that manage our green spaces and it has only served to reinforce the feeling that I have developed, whilst working with the council that control my local patch. I see commitment, passion and endeavour.

With LNR’s (1,500 of them), Country Parks and now responsibility for developing 40,000 LWS’s, our biodiversity officers and ranger services need help. Budgets are tight, staff have been lost and yet targets remain high. Failure will let Mother Nature down! No pressure there then!!

One answer lies within reach. Volunteers – thousands of them waiting to be engaged across the country, if only we can reach them and explain, at a local level the economic and social value of nature, in the ways explained above?

The second major aid is the coordination of surveys and recording, so that officers can evaluate their performance on biodiversity easily and accurately. As we engage the public, our experts will be needed to perform greater volumes of verification work. If every dataset can be used to create trend data, no resources will have been wasted. A quick review of old datasets may allow life to be breathed into them too.

Whilst local is the way to enhance records and embrace the nation, we also need national coordination and support, including:

-          Campaigns through schools that highlight the importance of wildlife and lead children of all ages  outdoors to explore and engage with wildlife.
-          Campaigns from central funding that provide information points in LNR’s LWS’s, LGS’s and  Country Parks that sign-post the public towards their local wildlife clubs and associations.
-          Coordination of surveys across the country, which are repeated to allow more trend data and  provide better evaluation tools at all levels.
-          Media coverage which will make the nation aware of the state of wildlife and explain the economic  and social value of nature to our country and its communities. This would compliment the school and  parks campaigns.
-          Removal of the “red tape” from the volunteering system, so that a new, vast army can rise and add  force and resource to the movements. They should be promoted as saviours, by their communities.

MMNN will help towards these goals.

MMNN will also help “patch” watchers raise the profile of their sites, and will give them more support by helping to establish local wildlife partnerships. “Patch” issues have already been taken up on behalf of MMNN members, and this power will increase as soon as we gain official recognition.

Declining species can be protected by sharing your information with those that can help to save them. All the effort and intimate knowledge gained by dedicated “guardians” on their patches will be used to help protect both the site and wildlife in general. It may well lead to future designations being given to your sites.

MMNN has a unique role in being able to influence both recording programs and public participation.

MMNN will help link sites of importance to wildlife with their local communities and local wildlife networks to create a caring protective force around them.

When MMNN has 500 members, we shall gain official recognition and commence fund-raising and educational activities. We now have 164 member sites, with a substantial uptake from councils – an amazing feet, given the network was only launched six weeks ago.

In any event data sharing and coordinated surveying is due to commence early in 2014.

Join the Moving Mountains Nature Network today.

Together, we really can make a difference.