Monday, 1 February 2021

Lockdown, a catastrophe for wildlife

The sickest joke of all these days is when I hear people say that nature has thrived during lockdown. No it's not, get real. Just because a flock of semi-domesticated goats wander the streets of Llandudno or a feral goose nests in an unusual location or a load of people with more time on their hands than normal have suddenly started noticing nature, it does not mean that all is well in the natural world. 

The truth is lockdown has created a massive problem on a scale the like of which I've never seen before. Everywhere is overrun with people and dogs, and precious few of them have any respect for the places they're visiting, or any clue about the damage that they are doing. Even on days of bad weather Pennington Flash is heaving with people, and they're everywhere. They don't even stick to the footpaths, they or their dogs crash through wildlife habitat and flatten it, creating new footpaths where wildlife used to live. Ground nesting species such as skylarks and meadow pipits have no chance at Pennington Flash these days. In summer people walk through the tiny part of the nature reserve that remains, canoeists feel free to go into Ramsdales flushing everything and anglers fish on the spit or in Rammies reedbed. It's horrible to see, Pennington Flash is not a great wildlife haven, it's a wildlife disaster area.

And here's another example today. Two cyclists trespassing at Lightshaw Flash and flushing everything on what is meant to be a nature reserve. How dare they! There are precious few places left which are true havens for wildlife these days, but I thought that this was one of them. How dare these people pollute this place with their presence.

God help Lightshaw if it ever gets added to the proposed Greater Manchester National Nature Reserve, for which a condition of funding will no doubt be to make it more accessible. Lightshaw Flash is far better off a well kept secret. These cyclists are just the forerunners of an army which is waiting to descend. They make a track through what was once impassible vegetation and before you know it there'll be dog walkers going that way letting their dogs run off the leash, throwing sticks into the water for them to retrieve and creating ever wider footpaths around the site. When that happens wildlife at Lightshaw is doomed, it will just become a smaller version of Pennington Flash, overrun with people and dogs, and where wildlife is represented by coots, mallard and Canada geese. 

I despair, yet apparently the majority of the population think that lockdown is good for wildlife, and the myth is even perpetuated by certain respected wildlife presenters on the telly. I know that everybody is desperate for some good news stories these days, but things need to be said as they truly are, not glossed over just to make people feel good. Lockdown is a catastrophe for wildlife and probably the final nail in the coffin for some species and certainly for some nature reserves.

The car park at Pennington Flash on a bitterly cold February day when the wind cut through you like a knife. The cars in the middle in these photos are queueing, waiting for people to leave so that they can take their place. Imagine the scenes on a nice day.  Of course I'm not suggesting that I have any more right to be here than anybody else, though I would like to know how many of these "stayed local". I'm just pointing out the unfolding wildlife catastophe.

The only hope wildlife has at the flash is for a wet spring to keep water levels up and people out of the nature reserve. 

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