We need humanity not razor wire...
NEVER doubt the kindness of neighbours and friends.
In recent weeks, moved to something akin to despair by the plight of desperate people fleeing war zones and arriving in what is effectively our back yard, I decided to stop wringing my hands, and work out some practical steps to take.
And I found that, across the UK, and indeed much of Europe, there is a deep belly roar from the grass roots; people aghast at what they see in the news, are taking responsibility and taking action.
In Buckinghamshire, this has taken the form of an organisation, ‘Jungle Solidarity’, which has sprung up to collect much needed items to take to a camp near Calais.
I worry that as soon as I mention Calais, some readers will think of disrupted summer holidays, refugees on train tracks, our over-stretched welfare and health systems and so on. Well, there may well be a cornucopia of agendas out there, but fundamentally these are desperate, individual people who need humanity, not razor wire.
So Calais. Just a mile outside the town, there is a refugee camp, home to several thousands of people who have fled Darfur, Afghanistan, Syria and elsewhere, and now endure harsh, basic conditions. One of those basic conditions, thankfully, is safety. This camp is known at ‘The Jungle’.
Many people there are waiting for their asylum applications in France to be processed. Others would like to apply for asylum in the UK, however, as we have seen on TV, it is not easy to get across the Channel, but you cannot apply for asylum from outside the country. So for these people, to live in The Jungle is to be in limbo.
At the top of Jungle Solidarity’s necessities’ list last week was food. How basic is that.
So I did a quick email to friends and neighbours, saying if they cared to donate, I would take everything to our nearest collection point.
Within hours, a large container of nutritious, easy-to-prepare food appeared on my doorstep, and over the last week, it has just kept coming, quietly, bit by bit.
I feel proud of my friends, and really humbled.
And across Buckinghamshire, churches are collecting, communities are coming together, lorries are being volunteered, action is being take – watch out for the comedy night being hosted by the Elgiva on October 13.
People are responding to their fellow humans’ need.
TWO national reports Farming Fit for the Future and Water Matters published last week advocate the restoration of the natural environment to be put at the heart of plans for the future management of farmland, rivers, lakes and wetlands in England.
Here in south Buckinghamshire we’ve already seen the benefits for wildlife of looking after the land near the River Misbourne and River Chess, two of the chalk streams that flow off the Chilterns.
The water vole is a much-loved animal that many people remember from EH Shepard’s illustrations of the character Ratty in The Wind in the Willows. When Kenneth Grahame was writing his children’s novel about creatures of the river bank and wild wood, water voles were a common sight. Changes in agriculture during the 1950s and the arrival of American mink wreaked havoc among the nation’s water vole populations. Wildlife groups called for protection of water voles and their habitats; and in 1996 water voles were named on the list of 12 priority mammal species in the UK’s first Biodiversity Action Plan.
In 1998 water voles’ burrows and bankside habitats were included in an amendment to the Wildlife and Countryside Act (1981), to give them further protection. Later that year the Berks, Bucks & Oxon Wildlife Trust set up the UK’s first Water Vole Recovery Project.
Julia Lofthouse, BBOWT’s Water Vole Recovery Project officer, leads a team of 50 dedicated and trained volunteers who survey water courses looking for signs of water voles and logging information onto a central database.
Local landowners are helping too, by allowing bankside vegetation to develop with grasses and reeds for water voles to feed on, and, most importantly, by monitoring and controlling American mink. Data gathered from the surveys during the last few years shows how small colonies of water voles have, over time, merged to create larger populations on the River Chess and the River Misbourne. This could only be achieved with the help of local farmers and landowners restoring waterside habitats.
Find out more about the Water Vole Recovery Project www.bbowt.org. uk/vole.