Rural Reading: Chill and bitter spring for wildlifeBy Adrian Lawson
April 20, 2012
There has definitely been a resurgence in wildflowers in the last few years.
For a while, many species were declining alarmingly, but 20 or more years ago people started to wake up to this and take some positive steps to turn things around.
Primroses, cowslips, violets and many more plants slowly recovered.
Parts of parks were set aside in Reading to allow wildflowers to grow. With the wildflowers came birds and butterflies and bees, and a whole new food chain started to develop. There is much more birdsong in parks than there was in the 70s and 80s.
The future though is looking pretty bleak.
Much of the care that has been shown for many years to encourage wildlife has been abandoned. The cowslips in Southcote Linear Park have vanished; the grass has grown long and rank through neglect and smothered them.
View Island, once the home of three different types of orchid and many scarce plants, is now a sea of nettles and brambles. The delicate grass that was so special when the island was first restored 12 years ago (it was a major millennium project) and which was full of yellow meadow anthills has gone.
A half-hearted attempt to get the reeds out of the pond only saw them dumped on the bank, smothering the ragged robin. The grass hasn’t been cut here for years.
The bluebells in the woods in Prospect Park have all but disappeared as brambles and goose grass run rampant.
Half of all the hay meadows in parks will now be cut every couple of weeks – it is cheaper than once a year, and useless for wildlife.
When the migrant songbirds arrive from the south not only will they be faced with a chill wind and torrential showers, but barren and lifeless parks.
It will affect many birds – swallows, green woodpeckers and the song and mistle thrushes.
The last surviving colony of yellow rattle, once really common, will soon be history.
It is a chill and bitter spring.