Brown­field brouhaha

BBC Wildlife Magazine - - Your Feedback - Jon Reeds, Smart Growth UK

It was dis­ap­point­ing to see a hand­ful of or­gan­i­sa­tions restart­ing their un­jus­ti­fied war on brown­field de­vel­op­ment (‘Build­ing over Bri­tain’, Novem­ber 2015). Brown­field sites aren’t rain­forests. They are eco­log­i­cally im­pov­er­ished, fre­quently con­tam­i­nated breed­ing grounds for in­va­sive species, and their dere­lic­tion drags down lo­cal economies and com­mu­ni­ties and harms peo­ple’s health.

Nor are green­field sites all in­ten­sively farmed arable land, though even that sup­ports bil­lions of soil in­ver­te­brates. House-builders love to build on low­land heath – that’s why there’s so lit­tle left – and are nib­bling away at an­cient wood­land and other high-qual­ity habi­tats. We be­lieve your ar­ti­cle was one-sided, paint­ing a pic­ture of the eco­log­i­cal ben­e­fits of brown­field land with­out con­sid­er­ing the se­ri­ous is­sues that such land poses to com­mu­ni­ties. Aban­doned Look­ing through the win­dows of the lounge, I have a clear view of the re­mains of a cherry tree. Once the pride of the gar­den, it is now sadly just a pared­back skele­tal stump with a few twisted antlersl of de­cay­ing wood.

The tree may be dead but it is not life­less. An in­spec­tion of the gnarled sur­face shows a rich coat­ing of lichen that forms nu­mer­ous nooks and niches shel­ter­ing spi­ders and tiny in­sects. Puff­balls and bracket fungi also grow there.

While there is no cover nor fruit, the stump still plays host to sev­eral avian guests. The bole has many deep cracks in which I scat­ter bird seed. With plenty of thick cover nearby,b tit­tits andd fifinchesh visit through­out the day.

Wood­mice can some­times be seen scur­ry­ing round the base of the tree, hoover­ing up spilt seeds dropped by the birds; in the past this ac­tiv­ity has at­tracted a red fox.

For more than 70 years that tree has stood in a mod­est gar­den in Sprow­ston. A vast ar­ray of crea­tures have called it home – and still do.


A coal tit vis­its Barry’s dead cherry tree.

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