40 days of…?

Today is St Swithin’s (or Swithun’s day) and by tradition the weather today will stick with us for the next 40 days.  At the moment the sun is shining here in east Northants – I wonder!

Whatever the weather, in 40 days the swifts will be largely departed and wader passage will be well underway.  I wonder whether it’ll be a great time for brown hairstreaks and silver-spotted skippers?

Back in Winchester in 850, the Bishop, St Swithin, would have been able to hear and see wolves in the Hampshire countryside, and might just have been able to encounter a brown bear, although lynx had probably departed several centuries earlier.



It’s raining, raining, raining

Malene Thyssen, http://commons.wikimedia.org/wiki/User:Malen

It’s raining.  It’s still raining.










Sveter: Photo of a rainbow taken in the Czech Republic.

And when it rains on your parade, look up rather than down. Without the rain, there would be no rainbow.

G K Chesterton









By 4tilden at de.wikipedia [Public domain], from Wikimedia Commons

A crown is merely a hat that lets the rain in.
Frederick The Great





By Atoma (Own creation) [CC-BY-2.5 (http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by/2.5)], via Wikimedia Commons

A rose must remain with the sun and the rain or its lovely promise won’t come true.

Ray Evans

Memorial at the Little Bighorn






You see, I had been riding with the storm clouds, and had come to earth as rain, and it was drought that I had killed with the power that the Six Grandfathers gave me.
Black Elk

David Wright [CC-BY-SA-2.0 (http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/2.0)], via Wikimedia Commons


A bank is a place where they lend you an umbrella in fair weather and ask for it back when it begins to rain.

Robert Frost


Worth a look, and then another look

You can get a sneak preview of one chapter of my new book, and so much more, by walking into your local WH Smith or similar and buying this annual.

My article is about bird reintroductions and covers some of the material of Chapter 8 in Fighting for Birds – 25 years in nature conservation.

Do you know what gender the kingfisher on the cover is? And how can you tell?

You can also buy this beautiful volume online here.



Yes it’s a male kingfisher.  Females have orange lower mandibles – it’s the lipstick you see?



A bucolic scene

I just had to take a ‘snap’ (although iPhones make a faint buzz rather than a snap) of these flowers, as I have seen so few this year.


Where was I, do you think? Answer at ‘end of day’.


Answer:  thank you for some good guesses, and some well argued thoughts and near misses.  St James’s Park.


Wuthering Moors 22

This email exchange shows that the cost of the abandoned legal proceedings by Natural England against the Walshaw Moor Estate were over £1m of taxpayers’ money.  This is your money and you have been given no satisfactory explanation for why the case was dropped when a few months earlier NE had been pursuing the Walshaw Moor Estate for 43 alleged breaches of environmental legislation.

Rumours abound over the size of the HLS agreement that has been agreed with Walshaw Moor Estate.



From: Smyllie, Jim (NE)

Sent: 09 March 2012 17:53

To: Dondi,Arik M (FFG-CCEDAR)

Cc:Arkle,Tanya (ERG-LOR); Mortimer,Robin (ERG)

Subject: RE: RESTRICTED- REGULATORY: Update on the Walshaw Estate



Apologies for sending this a little later than I would have hoped.  But I hope it does the job for you.

Total spend in relation to the appeal,  the JR and the criminal proceedings

(including expert and legal costs)@ :                          £1,022,000


This can be broken down as follows:

Legal spend inquiry and JR:  £762, 000

Legal spend criminal proceedings: £104, 000

Expert costs at the inquiry: £122, 000

Miscellaneous costs (printing, T &S): £20,000

Aerial photography: £14,000



1.  Natural England tried unsuccessfully for several years to have a realistic discussion with the Estate around future management of the Moor including offering support for management via the HLS scheme.  These negotiations failed and the Moor was, in Natural England’s opinion deteriorating so badly under the Estate’s management that it felt it had no choice but to take regulatory action and serve a notice modifying the Estate’s existing old, and poorly worded, consent to prevent further damage.

2.  It has taken the litigation including a 5 week public inquiry relating to the notice modifying the consent, a threatened judicial review and the instigation of criminal proceedings to allow Natural England to have a productive conversation with the Estate about future management of the Moor.

3.   Natural England is satisfied that it has secured a solution which ensures that the Moor, which is a SSSI, SAC and SPA, is now better protected and that there are controls in place relating to the management of the protected habitat.

4.   The cost of getting the Estate to the table to negotiate has to be set against the fact the Estate estimated their entitlement in terms of compensation  as [section withheld].  ­ The HLS agreement that will underpin future management of the Estate will pay no more than [section withheld] making an overall saving to the public purse (taking out the spend on the proceedings) of potentially [section withheld]·

Happy  to offer any further  context  by email or verbally. Jim

Jim Smyllie

Executive Director, Delivering with Communities

Natural England



From: Dondi, Arik M (FFG-CCEDAR)

Sent: 08 March 2012 10:57

To: Smyllie, Jim (NE)

Cc: Arkle, Tanya (ERG-LOR); Mortimer, Robin (ERG)

Subject: FW: RESTRICTED- REGULATORY: Update on the Walshaw Estate

Jim- I suppose this was inevitable…

Special advisers are keen to be able to address questions about the cost of the legal proceedings.

Do you have an estimate for a) defending the appeal, b) preparing the prosecution c) defending the Judicial Review?

I guess the justification of the costs will come from NE fulfilling its statutory duty and the benefits of securing environmental protection.

We should treat the cost of the eventual HLS agreement as separate, as it is not just expenditure related to the legal situation, but money that you would seek to spend in the normal course of delivering policy outcomes.