Time for a reshuffle then…

Who would you like as the next Secretary of State for Defra?

Who would you hate getting as Secretary of State for Defra?

Who do you expect to get as Secretary of State for Defra?


I really find it very difficult to answer any of those questions. That’s why I thought I’d ask for your opinions. But if you want to be scared rigid then have a look at John Rentoul’s assessment – a usually well-informed writer.

Can it really be the case that Gove, Johnson and Leadson will be rewarded for their differing displays of inadequacy over the last two or three weeks? Really?


There must be a good chance that Liz Truss will be on her way – potentially the least effective SoS for environment the world has ever known.  Let’s just hope that she doesn’t get a job where she can do more harm.

Rory Stewart? What has his greatest achievement been? Some think that changing his mind and saying something nice about the EU might be the pinnacle – and he might be wishing he had stuck with Brexit now.

George Eustice – a Brexiteer who might just get a promotion?

In a world where Andrea Leadsom was, for a while, the second most likely person to be Prime Minister of the United Kingdom then there is no logic for who gets their fingernails on power in Britain. In a post-truth Britain, where we don’t need experts, we may be amazed by the ignorance and prejudice which jostle for supremacy in the head of the next SoS for Defra. A return of OPatz anyone?

Remember, the new Defra supremo ought to be designing options for a post-CAP England and a post-CFP marine environment.

Maybe the new SoS for Defra will have the job of winding everything up since its budget and importance will be , presumable, greatly reduced post-Brexit – at least in the eyes of most politicians. So that means a move from unimportant to very unimportant.

There is so much to look forward to…Not!





That was quick!

This video from Chris Packham probably helped:

There are more videos to come from our trip to Yorkshire last week. Watch this space.

North Norfolk, Norman Lamb MP (LIB) and Derbyshire Dales, Patrick McLoughlin MP (CON), have crossed the 200 signatures line and the following constituencies have joined the ‘100 Club’.

  • North Herefordshire Bill Wiggin MP
  • Meon Valley George Hollingbery MP
  • Gloucester Richard Graham MP
  • Chichester Andrew Tyrie MP
  • Norwich North Chloe Smith MP
  • Selby and Ainsty Nigel Adams MP
  • Angus Mike Weir SNP
  • Guildford Anne Milton MP
  • Gedling Vernon Coaker MP
  • Wyre Forest Mark Garnier MP
  • Copeland Jamie Reed MP
  • New Forest West Desmond Swayne MP

This e-petition has done wonders for my knowledge of the political geography of the UK. Although, being over 50 years of age, I do actually know where lots of places in the UK are (unlike most young people), I would not have been able to locate Gedling before a few days ago when it came over the horizon with 90+ signatures.  I do know its MP a little though, as Vernon Coaker was a Home Office minister whom we lobbied on one of the many occasions when NWCU funding was in danger.

I know the MP for North Herefordshire rather better – we are definitely on leg-pulling terms. I just know that Bill Wiggin will be thrilled with the 100 of his constituents to have got him and his North Herefordshire constituency into this list at long last.


Bowland leaflets



Could you possibly deliver these leaflets in and around the Forest of Bowland please?

If so, please contact me at mark@markavery.info and I will put you in touch with the local team coordinating deliveries.



M&S in a mess

Mon 20 July CopyHave you seen the video by Chris Packham talking about grouse shooting and lead levels in shot grouse? Have a look.

Many are asking questions of M&S ahead of their AGM tomorrow – so should shareholders and investors. Here are some questions:

  • if M&S have an industry-leading Code of Practice for game meat – why can’t we customers see it? Why did M&S intimate that the RSPB had seen it when the RSPB are quite clear that they haven’t? Why is this industry-leading Code of Practice a special secret between M&S and the grouse shooting industry as represented by the Game (and Wildlife)(Conservation)(Trust)?
  • why has M&S ignored all questions about lead levels in the grouse they intend, apparently, to sell?  Have they required their suppliers to use non-toxic ammunition? Apparently not. Have they said they will test their grouse meat for lead levels and publish the results? No, they haven’t. Have they expressed any concern or confidence in the lead levels in the meat they intend to sell? Not a thing.
  • why has M&S not disclosed the name of the estate they will use to supply their grouse? It’s hardly a vote of confidence in the supplier is it if they refuse to mention their name?

M&S are brazening it out on grouse meat. They have not addressed legitimate concerns from customers and so they have lost me as a customer, Chris Packham as a customer, and many others as customers. The shareholders ought to be asking tomorrow whether this lack of consumer confidence can possibly be worth it when the profits to be made from selling a few grouse will be negligible.

Shareholders and investors should ask whether this is a business decision or a decision made for other reasons. What might those reasons be? Are they good reasons? Do they bring into question M&S’s decision-making process?

Watch the video and then sign the e-petition and don’t shop with M&S if you think they are behaving badly.


Watch this Chris Packham video

Mon 20 July CopyIf you have been following the M&S grouse story then you will be interested to see this video from Chris Packham on You tube.

Looks like M&S has lost another customer…



For new readers:

M&S refuse to answer reasonable questions 8 July 2016

M&S AGM 4 July 2016

This is not just spin, this is M&S spin 13 May 2016

M&S – oh dear, oh dear, oh dear! 12 May 2016

M&S 9 May 2016


Oscar Dewhurst – the great chick predation (1)



Oscar writes: this was taken at Minsmere, where there are around 1500 pairs of Black-headed Gulls nesting on The Scrape this year. While I was there most pairs had chicks. These are the target of several predators, including big gulls and Marsh Harriers (see next week for this photo). Herring and Lesser Black-backed Gulls would make slow passes over the colony, on the lookout for any inattentive parents that had left young chicks unguarded. When they spotted one they would dive down and snatch it, pursued by several Black-headed Gulls. On this occasion the hunt was successful.

Nikon D800, Nikon 400mm f/2.8 VR lens, Nikon 2x TC

Rural rides 1

chichYou can almost walk from North Foreland in Kent to Lands End, Cornwall along the south coast of England sticking to constituencies with over a 100 signatures for our e-petition to ban driven grouse shooting. But Chichester, on 99 signatures, is a bit of a blocker for a little while.

I’ve never been to the easternmost point of South Thanet (105 signatures) but I quite fancy the idea.

From there one has to skirt around Dover at the moment, but probably not for long, (93 signatures), and head inland to Canterbury (113 signatures) which is a treat in itself. From there one can get to the south coast in Folkestone and Hythe (113 signatures) and then on to Hastings and Rye (124 signatures) and Bexhill and Battle (112 signatures).  What a lovely walk!

We have to go inland to circumnavigate Eastbourne (83 signatures) and pass through Lewes (137 signatures) and on to Brighton, Kemptown (144 signatures) before enjoying the prospect of Brighton Pavilion (195 signatures).

Onwards to Hove (141 signatures), East Worthing (116 signatures) and then Worthing West (107 signatures).  We now have a problem as Bognor Regis and Littlehampton (99 signatures) is stuck just below 100 signatures – but not for long – but we can skip inland through Arundel and South Downs (140 signatures) and get good views of the sea and the coast from the South Downs.

We now have to make camp and wait for either Guildford (98 signatures) or Chichester (99 signatures) to reach 100 signatures and when either of them does then we have a clear run through to Lands End via, initially either South West Surrey (134 signatures) or straight into East Hampshire (108 signatures) and then Winchester (100 signatures).

We do have to move inland to Salisbury (111 signatures) before checking out South Dorset (127 signatures) and then West Dorset (155 signatures) – these are lovely places at this time of year with plenty of butterflies to hold our interest and the odd bird too.

Into Devon – glorious Devon! – where Tiverton and Honiton (134 signatures) and then East Devon (133 signatures) usher us into a rare Labour seat in Exeter (142 signatures). We skirt through Central Devon (161 signatures) before checking out, perhaps, Newton Abbott races (105 signatures). We need to avoid Torbay (86 signatures) with its killer seagulls and on to Totnes (156 signatures).

We should now cut through Torridge and Taw (170 signatures) in order to position ourselves for crossing the Tamar into Cornwall, which we enter via North Cornwall (109 signatures).

There are still four constituencies for us to enjoy before we get to Lands End (or maybe the Lizard – both have Choughs these days): St Austell and Newquay (107 signatures), Truro and Falmouth (137 signatures), Camborne and Redruth (121 signatures, home of Defra minister George Eustice) and then on to St Ives (138 signatures).

It would be a lovely walk – and you can’t get much more ‘southern England’ than its route. It takes us through about 30 constituencies one Green, two Labour and the rest Conservative and all have at least 100 signatures for banning driven grouse shooting.

If you are reading this in the Chichester constituency and haven’t signed up then please get on with it! That will make the walk a lot easier.

Other pleasant walks through the land of banning driven grouse shooting are planned.




Another 1000 signatures – we reached 54000 yesterday. That was quite a slow 1000 signatures but I predict we will have at least a couple of quick ones in the next week, and at least a couple more in the next week.  But we will see, we will see.

The MPs from the latest additions to the ‘100 Club’ of constituencies supplying 100 signatures to the e-petition to ban driven grouse shooting are an interesting bunch including the outgoing Prime Minister, his potential successor, a fellow Etonian, a north London Labourite, a rural SNP seat and a third Tory MP in a list of six:

  • South Northamptonshire Andrea Leadsom MP
  • Witney Rt Hon David Cameron MP
  • North East Fife Stephen Gethins MP
  • North East Somerset Mr Jacob Rees-Mogg MP
  • Hornsey and Wood Green Catherine West MP
  • Lincoln Karl McCartney MP

A quick scan of the data shows that there are eight more constituencies (six Tory, two Labour) perched on 99 signatures, so expect the list to grow quite quickly, quite soon.

And it really is only just over two weeks ago since we voted for #Brexit, and two weeks ago to the day I posted this post which, considering the pace of events, hasn’t aged too badly in that time. And two weeks ago we were on 46000 signatures!  We have momentum.


Tim Melling – Mountain Ringlet


Tim writes: the Mountain Ringlet (Erebia epiphron) is our only truly Alpine butterfly, living high on mountains in Cumbria and Scotland.  It must have been one of the first butterflies to colonise Britain as the ice retreated, but ironically it was one of the last to be discovered (25th June 1809 on hills above Ambleside, where it still flies 200 years later).

I think that the Mountain Ringlet is the most difficult of all British butterflies to photograph for several reasons.  First  it only flies in sunshine, which makes things difficult as both Scotland and Cumbria are famed for their rain.   Second it is highly localised on the few mountains where it occurs, and you are never sure if you are in the right spot when the sun appears. Thirdly, their short flight period can vary by about three weeks, so judging when to go is not easy, although the first two weeks of July is usually a fairly safe bet (This was taken on 11th July).

I photographed this one on the hills above Ambleside, where it was first discovered in Britain more than 200 years ago.  Isolating Mountain Ringlets isn’t easy as they often drop down into the grass.  I managed to catch this male nectaring on a Tormentil flower with no cluttering grass.

This was taken with a Nikon D7000 and a Nikkor 105mm macro at f4 1/1250 and ISO 800.


Mark writes:  I have often used Tim Melling’s images on this blog and now he has agreed to have a regular slot here to share his photographs. I feel lucky to have both Tim and Oscar Dewhurst supplying such wonderful images for us to enjoy.



Top and bottom



This map of signatures for our e-petition to ban driven grouse shooting (approaching 54,000 signatures) is endlessly fascinating for me – I’m that type of guy.

You can see that a lot of the support is coming from large rural upland constituencies near grouse shooting areas, and that much of the rest comes from other rural areas. Here is a reminder of the top-10 highest performing areas by number of signatures;


  1. Calder Valley Craig Whittaker 317 CON
  2. Ross, Skye and Lochaber Ian Blackford 230 SNP
  3. High Peak Andrew Bingham 223 CON
  4. Skipton and Ripon Julian Smith 210 CON
  5. Isle of Wight Mr Andrew Turner 204 CON
  6. Inverness, Nairn, Badenoch and Strathspey Drew Hendry 203 SNP
  7. North Norfolk Rt Hon Norman Lamb 199 LIBDEM
  8. Bristol West Thangam Debbonaire 198 LAB
  9. Derbyshire Dales Rt Hon Patrick McLoughlin 194 CON
  10. Brighton, Pavilion Caroline Lucas 194 GREEN

There is another way of looking at these figures though (didn’t I say that they fascinated me) and that is to take into account the number of voters in each constituency. Although the 650 Westminster constituencies have roughly the same number of voters in them they vary from 103,480 in the Isle of Wight (see list above) which is difficult to split in two, and the Western Isles or Na h-Eileanan an Iar with 21,884 (another group of islands). That looks like a massive, fivefold variation but c600 of the 650 constituencies have between 60,000 and 80,000 voters.

When you take those figures into account the top 10 looks like this (ranked by % of voters having signed our e-petition):

  1. Ross, Skye and Lochaber Ian Blackford 0.34
  2. Calder Valley Craig Whittaker 0.3
  3. Derbyshire Dales Rt Hon Patrick McLoughlin 0.25
  4. High Peak Andrew Bingham 0.24
  5. Skipton and Ripon Julian Smith 0.21
  6. North Norfolk Rt Hon Norman Lamb 0.23
  7. Orkney and Shetland Alistair Carmichael 0.23
  8. Westmorland and Lonsdale Tim Farron 0.22
  9. Argyll and Bute Brendan O’Hara 0.21
  10. Penrith and the Border Rory Stewart 0.2

So Ross, Skye and Lochaber leaps to the top of the list by dint of its small population, there is a bit more reshuffling of the order, and there are now three LibDem constituencies represented in the top-10 (err that’s three out of a total of eight remember).

Let’s turn to the bottom-10. No offence! It’s a convenient term.

Not surprisingly, there is much less support from Northern Ireland and from urban centres with London and the West Midlands being particular cool spots for support;

  • Newry and Armagh  Mickey Brady 9 SF
  • Mid Ulster Francie Malloy 12 SF
  • West Tyrone Pat Doherty 13 SF
  • Fermanagh and South Tyrone Tom Elliot 13 UUP
  • Edmonton Kate Osamor 16 LAB
  • Brent North Barry Gardiner 16 LAB
  • Harrow East Bob Blackman 20 CON
  • Birmingham Hodge Hill Liam Byrne 22 LAB
  • Leicester East Keith Vaz 25 LAB
  • Birmingham Perry Bar Khalid Mahmood 25 LAB

And if we look at these in terms of % of voters signing our e-petition it looks like this;

  1. Newry and Armagh  Mickey Brady 0.01
  2. Mid Ulster Francie Malloy 0.01
  3. Brent North Barry Gardiner 0.01
  4. Fermanagh and South Tyrone Tom Elliot 0.01
  5. Edmonton Kate Osamor 0.01
  6. West Tyrone Pat Doherty 0.01
  7. Birmingham Hodge Hill Liam Byrne 0.02 
  8. Harrow East Bob Blackman 0.02
  9. West Ham Lyn Brown 0.02
  10. East Ham Stephen Timms 0.02

I’m grateful for any support from Northern Ireland but it is a big ask to get those numbers up very much. On the other hand, I say again, if anyone has a magic way to unlock support in Labour urban seats, then please let me know. That support must surely be there, we just aren’t finding it at the moment.

I think we will probably pass 54,000 signatures this weekend and there are plenty of things planned for the second half of July. But don’t wait for them – please sign this e-petition that will get politicians and decision-makers to address the massive problems of driven grouse shooting.