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By Tony Ridd

Environmental change on the Isle of Wight

We seem to hear about the Climate Crisis and the rapid decline in biodiversity all the time in the media these days, but how are these changes affecting the Island?

One hundred years ago, back in November 1919, when the Isle of Wight Natural History and Archaeological Society held its first meeting, it was at a time when naturalists were encouraged to collect birds eggs, butterflies and press wild flowers (often rare).

Attitudes to wildlife are very different today and practices that were commonplace and indeed encouraged in Edwardian England are frowned upon or outlawed today. However, sadly that does not mean that wildlife has flourished as a result, and pressures on our countryside and coast are greater than ever. In the centenary year of the IWNHAS, we want to celebrate the survival and successes of the Society,  and it seemed opportune to take a look at how our flora, fauna and habitats are faring.

The Society is convening a special conference at The Riverside Centre in Newport and bringing together an eclectic mix of national, regional and local experts to give presentations on their areas of expertise. These include Professor Helen Roy from the Centre of Ecology and Hydrology – who hails from the Island and achieved fame by bringing to the public’s attention the arrival and spread of Harlequin Ladybirds to the UK and encouraging the public to report and map their spread – and Dr Emilie Hardouin at Bournemouth University who has been working with Helen Butler (Wight Squirrel Project) to study the genetics of our Red Squirrels, investigating whether Isle of Wight Red Squirrels are any different to those surviving elsewhere in the country. This is a packed programme with high quality speakers and no doubt will be interspersed with lively, interesting and informative discussions around the changing environment of the Island. The Conference takes place on Saturday 4th April.

Tickets are £12 (including lunch and refreshments) and available online now at https://tinyurl.com/sxzpskv.

Isle of Wight Biosphere Reserve

Since the award of the Biosphere in June, the Isle of Wight AONB and its partners have been working on a number of projects. Here are ten things you can do to help your UNESCO Biosphere:

Reduce your single-use plastics. Try reusable bottles, bags and pots.

New for old, only buy what you need when the old one breaks or is finished.

Recycle… everything you can.

Save water. Clean water takes lots of energy to make, so look at ways to save water usage, whether that is taking a ‘Navy Shower’, using water butts for gardening or even learning about using grey water.

Plant a tree or even a garden. Help prevent flooding, reduce atmospheric carbon and even create your own food.

Use sustainable transport. Take a bus, train, cycle, scoot or walk whenever you can.

Use less electricity. Use energy-efficient devices or turn things off when they are not in use.

Buy local food and drink and cut down on food miles.

Explore your UNESCO Biosphere. Go and find flowers, animals or trees. Go rock pooling and start exploring one of the most wonderful places on planet Earth.

Persuade your neighbours to do the same.

National Hedgehog Day

Did you know that February 2nd was National Hedgehog day? iWatchWildlife would like to hear of your hedgehog observations to help boost their knowledge of how local hedgehogs are doing on the Island. Please email them your records iwatchwildlife@gmail.com.

IWHG Hedgelaying Competition 2020

This year’s ‘IW Hedgelaying Competition’ is returning to Coombe Farm, Brighstone, by kind permission of Mr and Mrs James Dawes on Saturday February 29, 10am – 4pm. Competitors will be battling it out in three categories: Open, Novice and Team.

Even though competition is fierce, the atmosphere is relaxed and jolly, with competitors encouraging each other along the way with friendly banter. The day offers a great opportunity for spectators to witness a country craft at first hand, getting up close and speaking with the competitors who are only too pleased to pass on their knowledge.

The event is supported by Landscape Therapy, Pinkeye Graphics and The Isle of Wight AONB. Warm clothing and stout boots are the order of the day, as it can get very cold and muddy under foot. Help is on hand in the marquee and hot drinks and food will also be available. For more information: www.iwhg.org.

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