Bankers and biodiversity

The City of London might not be the first place that you would look to understand how nature conservancy developed in this country.  The Wildlife Trusts, the umbrella organisation for local groups that care for their environment, makes it clear that they owe their existence to the Society for the Promotion of Nature Reserves, for which Charles Rothschild, a partner in the merchant bank of N M Rothschild & Sons, was the catalyst.

I thought about him during Joe Beale’s excellent talk on Zoom to the CABAHS meeting on 17 May. Members learned a lot about biodiversity in the area of Greenwich Park, Blackheath and Charlton.  We also learned how important it is for people to work together.  Joe didn’t just mean small groups of concerned individuals, although those are crucial.  He meant engaging with local councils and other bodies to make sure everyone’s interests and concerns are understood.   

"Worthy of Preservation" - responses to Charles Rothschild's questionaires
“Worthy of Preservation” – responses to Charles’s questionaires

This is what Charles Rothschild did.  He sent out questionnaires to local natural history societies, asking for nominations for sites that could be nature reserves:  sites that were ‘worthy of preservation’.  On the basis of these returns, the newly-created Society for the Protection of Nature Reserves published a list – Rothschild’s List – and sought government intervention to protect the sites.  Here is the list, published in 1915.     

https://www.wildlifetrusts.org/about-us/rothschilds-list

Joe also brought home the importance of keeping records over time so that measurements of improvement and, sadly, deterioration have value.  In the link above The Wildlife Trusts also presents an analysis of the condition of Rothschild’s Reserves, 100 years on.   

This document features a pie chart of habitats, 2% of which are pavements.  I wonder if our very own Terry might well be responsible for some of that, based on what he told us he was up to at the end of his road! 

Charles Rothschild was an extraordinary man by any measure of means.  His collection of fleas, now the national collection of fleas in the Natural History Museum, was lovingly catalogued by his daughter, Miriam, who was herself a powerful advocate for nature, advising the Prince of Wales on the creation of his garden at Highgrove.

One of his fans is sports- and nature-writer Simon Barnes, whose book, Prophet and Loss: Time and the Rothschild List is available on Kindle for only £2.37.  If members were to buy the book (profits to The Wildlife Trusts) they could buy a cake from the WI at the CABAHS community day at Charlton House on 30 May and still have change from a fiver! 

Melanie      

Rachel de Thame: How to beat the Coronovirus blues by getting back to nature (The Sunday Times, 29 March 2020)

Great article, read the whole thing if you subscribe. If not here is an extract:

“While we remain largely confined to our homes, really take it all in during your daily walk or run through the park. Above all, make the most of any outdoor growing space you have, be it a narrow suburban strip, roof terrace, balcony or window box. No matter the size, each can provide an escape from the news and break the monotony of being cooped up. Encourage others in your household to get involved. Especially children, who might just tire of games consoles and Snapchat for long enough to become hooked on this “growing things” malarkey. Gardening teaches that the effort and patience required to achieve long-lasting rewards can feel as good as instant gratification.

Getting out in the garden makes us fitter, and growing our own food can transform our diet. Fresh vegetables and fruit are essential for good health, so if you are sowing seeds now then pick as many edible plants as you can. It’s easy, and if you don’t want to dig up your ornamental borders then grow herbs and salads among your roses and dahlias, and sow curly-leaved parsley as an edging for the front of flower beds.

Gardening engenders a sense of wonder and is as good for the soul as it is for the body; the benefits to our mental health and general wellbeing are well documented.”

I love the idea of parsley as an edging for flower beds!

Go wild gardening

CABAHS Committee member Paula, reminds us that even the smallest urban garden can attract and help wildlife. She suggests you can select a small space in a patch of lawn to sow wild flowers as well as well-known plants. Plants such as Echinacea, Foxgloves, Hollyhocks and Lavender – there is a huge choice to pick from, or how about letting the grass grow and think of the time you will save in not mowing! It will attract insects, bees and who knows what else will show up. Check out the RHS tips for creating a wildlife garden

Has your ‘wild bit’ attracted any unusual wildlife? Let us know!