Tuesday, 15 May 2018

Dormice(1)

I think I may have mentioned in a previous article that I look after a couple of woods for The
Woodland Trust, that is about to become three. However, as a result of my connection with the two original woods I began to consider if they held Dormouse populations. It would appear that no formal surveys had been conducted by the Trust. The more I thought about it, and became more familiar with the woods, the more convinced I became that there must be Dormice within each of the two woods. I had not seen a Dormouse since childhood, that’s a long time, and things have changed considerably over the years. The Dormouse is now listed as an endangered species and is fully protected under law. Both British and E.U. Law. It must not be disturbed, injured or killed and it’s habitat must also be protected. All of these matters are overseen by The Peoples Trust for Endangered Species. (P.T.E.S ). They are also the body which collate all info regarding the Dormouse and they keep the National records regarding it. In order to get this information there have to be people who collect it and these people have to have a licence issued by the P.T.E.S.. Having discovered all of the above it became clear to me that I could not just launch into a major search for Dormice in "my" two woods.

I also discovered that there are a number of establishments where courses regarding Dormouse conservation and management are conducted. The Woodland Trust happily paid for me to attend one such course held near Exeter early last year. This proved to be a delight and, as a result of the on course survey, I saw my first Dormouse, actually several, for many a year. 

As a result of all of the above I am now working towards my own licence. This involves going on surveys held by other licence holders and being trained in the techniques used to survey and record Dormice without causing harm to them. I have now been involved in many. As surveying does not take place during the winter months, ( the Dormice hibernate), the new season has just begun. On my first survey this year, in the first box we opened, we found a torpid Dormouse. We weighed the little creature and replaced it into the box and throughout it remained asleep and completely unaware of what was happening to it. This is not unusual behaviour for Dormice, they often go into a torpid, hibernating like state for short periods of time during the summer months. 

In woodlands where Dormice are monitored boxes are put up in order that the Dormice can use them, not least to breed in. The Dormice do not use these boxes to hibernate in. They use a location which is on or very close to the ground as they need moisture in order that they do not dehydrate during the long period of hibernation. The boxes used for Dormice are basically a reverse design of an average bird box.The entrance hole is placed facing the tree trunk and the roof slopes away from the tree. The roof is wired on to the base of the box which prevents it falling off or being removed by squirrels. The whole structure is them strapped to the tree trunk at a height of about six feet. When surveying, the box lid is eased carefully to one side to permit observation of the inside. Carefully it has to be as Dormice are nothing if not agile and fast. A careless surveyor will be lucky to see the back end of the Dormouse as it disappears high into the trees if a box is opened without great care. Last season on one occasion a lad,who was new to Dormouse surveying, unfortunately opened up a box without due care only to be amazed, and completely embarrassed, when from within the box a family of mum and about five little Dormice exploded all over his arms and shoulders as they scampered hell for leather into the upper branches of the tree. He will never make that mistake again !

Part two next month.

Monday, 9 April 2018

Roads and things

I don't know if it is the norm elsewhere but down here in Dorset it has become very much the norm to close roads when work needs doing. Once upon a time, when road works needed doing a system of traffic lights was put in place allowing, throughout the work, one side of the road to operate pretty much as normal. When one side was finished the lights were simply transferred to the other side. This, as far as I saw, worked quite well and, it seemed to me, a good way of managing the works. 

All that has now changed, the whole road is closed. We are currently undergoing such road works on the A30 and there is a rolling programme of closures throughout the whole of April. Each closure covers several miles. There are diversions in place, however, it doesn't seem to have occurred to the great thinkers in the Council that the local lanes are totally unsuitable for modern traffic needs. There is, for example, a very large car storage facility just west of the road works. This is on an airfield and is serviced by large numbers of vehicle carrying lorries each day. These huge lorries carry eight or nine cars at a time. It would appear the storage site is also a distribution centre as the aforementioned lorries seem to both take in and out their loads of cars. Just imagine for a moment the utter chaos when one of these monsters goes along a diversion which is barely wider than the lorry itself. 

The old lanes of Dorset were never meant for such vehicles. when a car meets one of these vehicles the car must give way and reverse as it is totally unreasonable to expect such a large, loaded or even unloaded, lorry to reverse. Simply there is nowhere to go! Add to that the fact that the car meeting the lorry is, almost certainly being followed along the diversion route by a number of other cars and, bingo, you have chaos. Great planning! I suspect that the whole situation regarding these road is driver by the two modern great Gods …. Money and Health and Safety. I also suspect that the premier God here is Money. When a traffic light system is in place or, as sometimes used to happen, a convoy system there is money involved. When work is controlled by traffic lights it takes a bit longer to complete so, extra cost. When a convoy system is in place it requires extra staff in the form of drivers to manage it and, again, extra cost. This is, all conveniently, backed up by the second God, Health and Safety. 

Although the two systems above have been used without mass traffic casualties for years there appears to be great danger involved for the work force these days. In practical terms this means delays and disruption for all of the local residents and visitors using the area for the month of April, lovely. But hey folks, take heart, there are Council notices dotted around the place telling all whom care to read them that the Council is working hard to make life better for the people of Dorset and doing all sorts of wonderful things to encourage tourism, trouble is, it doesn't actually seem like it! As someone once said, "you couldn't make it up!"

This being a rural area we have, like all rural areas, large numbers of tractors operating around the place. I am sure the residents of Kingsley will be very familiar with them. However, the modern day tractor is quite a different beast from the ones of yesteryear. Today the driver is perched eight or ten feet above the ground in an air conditioned cab operating a system, which is computer controlled, in a vehicle which can travel at high speed. They are big, I mean very big, high, wide and fast. No longer the fifteen or sixteen miles an hour of the old tractors. These monsters really shift. The problem down here seems to be that, for the most part, they are being driven by people whom have had a brain removal operation. These people are almost always young men barely out of their teens. Add to that the fact that it is common place to see them propelling the said tractors, at high speed, with a mobile phone clamped to their ear. These tractors fill the lanes and if you meet one there is nowhere to go. If one or other or both vehicles are unable to stop the result is tragedy. Obviously the tractor wins, a car hitting such a solid mass has no chance. It feels a bit like taking your life into your hands when driving around the local lanes. 

Hardly a week goes by without a tractor encounter of some kind and they are scary. I am of an age where I can justifiably say I am not a boy racer, or, anything like. Experience tells me to drive carefully around the lanes, as mentioned, they are narrow and apart from the tractor menace they also play host to horse riders, cyclists, runners and walkers, but sadly the tractor drivers appear to be oblivious to all of this. Like all other rural areas we don't see policemen any more, I can't recall the last time I saw a police vehicle in our village. I guess if there were more police about driving would improve. I was talking about this to a police officer that comes beating with me and he gave me the figures for tractor related deaths in Dorset last year and, whilst I forget the exact figure, the number was considerable. If you come to Dorset be aware! 

Wednesday, 28 March 2018

Save our pub

As some will be aware The Cricketers Inn is up for sale and won't necessarily continue as a pub.

The Localism Act provides a mechanism whereby we can have the pub listed as an "Asset of Community Value" which will protect it for a period allowing time for us to develop a plan to perhaps purchase the pub and run it as a village enterprise.

If you'd like to support this idea please do two things:-

1) Contact parish councillor Claire Millhouse (or the Clerk Karine Nana Yonko) and let her know your thoughts.
2) Support The Cricketers Inn by eating, drinking & socialising there