New Agri-Environment Scheme Details Announced.


Farmers Countryside Stewardship Concerns.  June 26 2015 by Alistair Driver.

Defra has finally published the manual needed to apply for the new Countryside Stewardship (CSS) scheme on June 23rd – but it has left many questions unanswered for many potential applicants in England.

Defra Ministers had made it clear from the start they intended the scheme to be more onerous than its predecessor Environmental Stewardship in order to give better value-for-money for taxpayers- in particular when it comes to the new ’Mid Tier’ CSS strand versus Entry Level Stewardship (ELS).

But there are additional concerns about the record-keeping requirements associated with CSS, including, at the top of the list, requests for photographic evidence farmers have complied with its requirements.

A Defra spokesperson said: “Under the new Rural Development Programme for England, there are new EU requirements to show that our funding is being used efficiently.  We are working closely with stakeholders to make sure we implement these new requirements while avoiding an unnecessary burden for farmers.”


Unanswered questions remain over Countryside Stewardship Scheme, by Alice Singleton.

After months of waiting, Defra finally announced further details of the Countryside Stewardship scheme.  However, the newly published manual fails to answer all the vital questions from farmers and land managers, critics have claimed.

CLA president Henry Robinson said: “It is deeply frustrating there still remain big unanswered questions on important issues about what landowners will be undertaking if they take part in Countryside Stewardship schemes.  We are concerned this will stop some businesses from making applications and, as a result, we will see good environmental schemes not happening at all.”

Dual Use.

One specific piece of information yet to be released is the decision on dual use – where farmers and landowners can apply for different schemes on the same area of land.  For those continuing with Entry Level Stewardship and Higher Level Stewardship agreements, dual use is still available until contracts come to an end.

But new Countryside Stewardship applicants will need to wait until further in the year to hear the decision; a worrying concept with an already limited application window of three months, from July 1 to September 30, 2015.  Mr Robinson said: “It is unacceptable we still do not know whether landowners can make dual use claims. This leaves affected businesses with no ability to plan.”


The main detail which has been released is of the scoring system.

Different to other agri-environment schemes, applications for Countryside Stewardship agreements will be scored individually. An application will score more points if it includes options which address the priorities previously identified.

This makes the application process competitive, with applications unable to reach the minimum threshold score being deemed unsuccessful.  A new package has been released containing options which will help to boost an individual score if chosen by the applicant.

Applicants will have a choice from groups of options for different farm types: arable, mixed or pastoral. If more than 3 per cent of the overall farmed land combines various options, the applicant will score additional points.

However, the discontent concern is most evident in the uplands where there are fears the transition to CSS will leave a financial black hole for already struggling farmers as Uplands Entry Level Stewardship (UELS) agreements end over the next few years.  Hill farmers are worried Defra’s new environmental scheme will not replace the income provided by UELS and fear it will exacerbate a growing sense of crisis in the hills.  The new Countryside Stewardship Scheme could be the ‘final nail’ for many hill farms as the uplands faces a ‘financial crisis’, farmers warned this week.

“There is quite a possibility of a huge financial crisis heading for the hills at the moment,” NFU upland spokesman Robin Milton warned this week.  The Devon farmer said upland incomes and cash flow were being hit by low lamb prices, bovine TB and the prospect of late BPS and agri-environment scheme payments as administrative problems dog implementation of the new CAP.  But he said the ‘gravest’ concern was the prospect of CSS agreements gradually replacing UELS, which is itself the successor to previous schemes to bolster income in the hills. Mr Milton said UELS was currently worth £100m-a-year to upland farmers.  He said it would be virtually impossible to make money on CSS agreements, given the associated stocking limits and verification requirements.  “The new scheme is driven by the process of validation and the needs of NGOs, not any realistic farming or environmental concern,” Mr Milton told NFU council on Tuesday.

Durham farmer Richard Betton echoed Mr Milton’s warning of a looming over a ‘crisis’ in the hills, pointing to Defra figures showing grazing hill farm incomes down 20 per cent to just £14,600 last year.  In many cases, UELS would have made up a big chunk of this, while CSS, based on income foregone, will contribute little for those able or willing to access the scheme, he said.  “In many cases, no sane farmer would sign up to the scheme in its current form with all the hoops to jump through,” he said, adding that, even at this late, efforts must be made to make the scheme more accessible to hill farmers.  “This not the way to go ahead. It is not good for farming and the biggest tragedy is it will destroy the environment,” he said.

Hill farmers have received an uplift in their BPS this year, reflecting the unique challenges they face but also the end of UELS. Cumbrian farmer Alistair Macintosh insisted this would not go anywhere near to covering the loss of UELS.  While some farmers would readily resort to farming free of environmental restriction, he warned many who came out of UELS would be unable to do so because they had already fundamentally their land and businesses under current schemes. “There will be no easy return to food production for many,” he said.



There are four landscape areas of interest locally here in East Sussex, the High Weald, Low Weald, South Downs and Pevensey Levels.

2.3 Mid Tier.

Mid Tier aims to address environmental issues in the wider countryside, such as:

  • reducing diffuse water pollution from agriculture; and
  • improving the farmed environment for farmland birds and pollinators.

Multi-year management options and capital items, including the water capital grants in this Tier are designed to deliver environmental improvements in the wider countryside. Applicants can select from 120 management options and capital items.

2.4 Higher Tier.

Higher Tier agreements are for the most environmentally significant sites and woodlands. These sites will usually need complex management such as:

  • habitat restoration and creation;
  • woodland improvement;
  • woodland creation and associated maintenance;
  • measures for priority species, and vegetation mosaics; and
  • measures for the historic environment.

Land managers will need one-to-one advice and support from Natural England or Forestry Commission advisers to help them to build their application for Higher Tier. Applicants can select from the full range of the 244 scheme options and capital grants available.

(An exception to the competitive process is applications for organic conversion and management options. These are not scored and all eligible applications will be accepted subject to the availability of budget).

Week Ending Saturday, June 20th

Wednesday.  We removed the three ponies from Sussex Wildlife Trust’s Chailey Warren reserve, one of which was returned to the herd grazing across Chailey Common, bringing the number there up to 20 ponies.  (Recently, we obtained another 5 ponies from Suffolk for Chailey).  Pic below was taken immediately after it was re-introduced back into the herd – the scene resembled the Serengeti !P1020104

Friday.  Site meeting to discuss which areas to pony graze on Eastbourne’s coastal downland, the ponies being due to return in late autumn.  Eastbourne Borough Council recently approved their new Downland Management Plan in which, pony grazing is now an important element.

Saturday.  Went and watched the new film ‘Mr. Holmes’ based on the idea of an elderly, retired Sherlock Holmes played by Ian McKellen.  Set during 1947 in East Sussex with Cuckmere Haven, Seven Sisters, Winchelsea and Pett Levels used as locations.  I didn’t know there was a railway station at Cuckmere Haven!

Mr. Holmes - viewed 27 seconds ago


Seven Sisters Country Park Decline

Thursday, June 11 2015.

Below, are a few words from an e-mail I received today from a botanist friend visiting the Seven Sisters Country Park at Exceat in East Sussex.  I had written only recently to the East Sussex CC, who supposedly manage the Park concerning a number of issues about its declining condition.  The reply from their Director of Communities… was rather dismissive of the points I raised.

Here is independent proof if ever more were needed!

Am at SSCP…
Orchid bank devoid of flowers and still grazed, it’s almost mid June!”

This area of the Park used to be fantastic in June for orchids including the scarce early spider orchid and dwarf/burnt-tip and of course, countless butterflies.  Management has simply got to change!

orchid.early spider


Early Spider Orchid, Ophrys sphegodes photographed at SSCP a few years ago.

The Case for Protecting Oceans From Climate Change

One Earth, One Ocean.

Christiana Figueres is Executive Secretary of the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC).

José María Figueres, Co-Chair of the Global Ocean Commission, is a former president of Costa Rica.


NEW YORK, June 8 2015 – The ocean and the atmosphere are linked in ways that are only just beginning to be fully understood. Like siblings, the sky above us and the waters around us share many characteristics – most notably these days a need to be protected. We are siblings working on a shared agenda to defend both – an agenda that will define the future for many millions of brothers, sisters, fathers, mothers, friends, and neighbours, as well as life-forms on the land and in the seas, now and for generations to come.

Fortunately, governments around the world are beginning to understand the challenge, and are expected to deliver – or at least make progress toward – two important agreements this year: a new global treaty to protect marine life in international waters, and a climate-change accord to safeguard the atmosphere. Together with a suite of Sustainable Development Goals, these agreements will serve as crucial road signs indicating the path to be followed by the world’s national economies over the next 15 years and beyond.

The planned accords come amid extraordinary efforts by countries, cities, companies, and citizens to protect the climate and the ocean. Investments in renewable energy are running at well over $250 billion a year, and many countries are spending as much on green forms of energy production as they do on fossil fuels.

Our native Costa Rica, for example, now gets 80% of its energy from renewable sources. In China, renewables are expanding rapidly, and coal consumption fell by 2.9% year on year in 2014. Meanwhile, offshore, the need for more marine reserves and sustainable fishing is being recognized and, in some cases, met, with technological breakthroughs strengthening officials’ ability to monitor and track illegal catches.

Scientists studying climate change have shown how the problem can be tackled by adopting a clear path with progressive milestones. We must bring global emissions to a peak in the next decade, drive them down rapidly thereafter, and establish a balance between emissions and the planet’s natural absorptive capacity by the second half of the century.

The ocean has historically played an important role in achieving that balance. As a natural carbon sink, it absorbs approximately 25% of all the carbon dioxide emitted by human activity annually. But we are overtaxing its absorptive capacity. The carbon dissolved in the ocean has altered its chemistry, driving up acidity by 30% since the beginning of the Industrial Revolution. The rate of change is, to the best of our knowledge, many times faster than at any time in the last 65 million years, and possibly the last 300 million years.

If CO2 emissions are not brought under control, the rate of acidification will continue to accelerate – with deadly effects on the ocean’s inhabitants. As CO2 from the atmosphere is churned into the world’s waters, it reduces the availability of carbonate ions needed by many marine animals and plants to build their shells and skeletons. If CO2 levels continue to rise at their current rates, scientists estimate that around 10% of the Arctic Ocean will be corrosive enough to dissolve the shells of sea creatures by 2018. Many other oceanic bodies face a similar future.

International agreements succeed best when the political, economic, and social trends of the time align, as they have now, to give rise to a new vision of the future and a new relationship between humanity and the planet we share. Realizing this vision will involve multiple generations. Both the ocean and the climate are in need of global, credible, measurable, actionable plans to provide for their protection. Our scattered, fully protected marine reserves must be expanded from the 1% of the ocean they currently protect to form a truly global network.

Last month, 13 Caribbean heads of state and government called for an effective global agreement, citing current and emerging impacts. It is an alarming list: “more frequent extreme events, more intense and changing rainfall patterns, more ocean acidification and ocean warming, coral bleaching, rising sea levels, coastal erosion, salinization of aquifers, the greatly accelerated emergence of new communicable diseases, reduced agricultural productivity, and a disruption of fishing traditions.”

Such threats are proof of the urgent need to expand the international rules providing for the conservation and sustainable management of the climate and marine life. The climate-change agreement expected to be reached in Paris in December will not solve the problem at the stroke of a pen, just as no agreement to protect marine life will, on its own, lead to a healthier ocean. But it is essential that we establish the policy pathways needed to ensure that all countries play their part in protecting the planet, while assisting the vulnerable to adapt to the effects of environmental degradation already underway.




Vegetation Response to the Reintroduction of Grazing on English Mire and Wet Heath

Groome G.M. & Shaw P. (2015) Vegetation response to the reintroduction of cattle grazing on an English lowland valley mire and wet heath. Conservation Evidence, 12, 33-39


We report the results of a nine year study of the effects of restoring low-intensity cattle grazing on the post-fire recovery of vegetation on the lowland valley mire and wet heath of Folly Bog, Surrey, UK. Four distinct vegetation communities were studied, with repeated recording of quadrats (n = 652) inside and outside grazing exclosures.

Species richness increased across the valley mire, largely as a result of grazing-induced decreases in purple moor-grass Molinia caerulea and litter and increases in bare ground. Uncompetitive liverworts and waterlogging tolerant graminoids were particularly favoured. Purple moor-grass and litter removal also encouraged the spread of bog-mosses Sphagnum spp., although trampling in the wettest vegetation resulted in locally severe damage to the moss layer. On the firmer substrates of the wet heath, there were no such deleterious trampling impacts. Here, both bog-moss cover and species richness increased significantly, largely due to suppression of shade-producing heather Calluna vulgaris and litter, and the maintenance of bare ground.

Our results reveal that the resumption of low intensity cattle grazing had many positive conservation benefits. However, site managers need to consider grazing on a site-by-site basis and retain flexibility to change stocking times and levels as conditions dictate. Other forms of management to supplement grazing will most likely continue to be required.

[The Exmoor ponies of the Sussex Pony Grazing & Conservation Trust are starting to gain similar results on a large heathland site in the Ashdown Forest area.]

More Ponies for Chailey Common

Embedded image permalink                                                                                               [Photograph by Anna Bogg]

Thursday.  Five new ponies arriving at Chailey Common having travelled down from Suffolk, after being kindly given to the Sussex Pony Grazing & Conservation Trust by the Rare Breeds Survival Trust.  This takes the number of ponies we now have grazing at Chailey to 19.

Is It Time Chinese Lanterns Were Banned?


Is it time “lethal” Chinese lanterns were banned?

21 May 2015.

[This feature can be found in the July issue of Cotswold Life, available to buy at].

The poignant act of releasing a Chinese lantern can have lethal consequences. We ask, will you be saying no to lanterns at your wedding?

They have killed farm animals and wildlife and caused devastating fires. But still people celebrate everything from their 21st birthday to their wedding day by launching Chinese lanterns. Bride takes a closer look at sister title Cotswold Life’s ‘Ban the Lanterns’ campaign. Paul Keenan reports

Simon Pain loves to walk the land of his Billow Farm, near Berkeley in Gloucestershire. But one such walk left this passionate farmer close to tears and determined to bring about a change in the law. Mr Pain found a barn owl caught in the remains of a Chinese lantern. The beautiful bird of prey was dead. Mr Pain had no way of knowing how long it had suffered but it had undoubtedly been a slow and agonising death. For what? So that party-goers could launch a blazing lantern into the night sky.

Is the impact worth it?

Those few minutes of celebration would have been quickly forgotten. But the impact can be unimaginable. Like the fire in Smethwick in the West Midlands, started when a Chinese lantern landed on a plastics and paper recycling plant in the summer of 2013.

It was the largest ever dealt with by the West Midlands Fire Service, with more than 200 fire fighters and 40 fire engines tackling the blaze. It destroyed 100,000 tonnes of recycling materials at a cost of around £6 million and left three fire fighters in hospital. The fire service had long opposed the use of the lanterns and called for an urgent review of the legislation in the aftermath of the devastating blaze. But despite voluntary bans being introduced by some county councils, Mr Pain says that in reality, little has been done.

The effect on livestock

Mr Pain, an arable organic and conservation grassland farmer at Billow Farm where he and his wife Hazel also run a popular livery yard, has heard too many stories of the ongoing suffering caused to farm animals. “Cows have died in agony with bamboo parts from the lanterns sticking in their throats,” he said. “Others have ingested wire from the lanterns into their stomachs. It is a simply horrific death. The lanterns were designed initially in China to be hung from trees. That is the only way they can possibly be used safely and then they would need to be got rid of safely. Even in China, they have been banned from flying in many areas. They are only launched over large areas of water.”

UK legislation

In the UK, the Government has left it to local authorities to make legal moves on the use of lanterns. Last year, Warwickshire County Council became the latest to ban people from setting off lanterns on council-owned land and property. Councillor Les Caborn said: “While these lanterns may look nice, when you launch them, they can cause untold damage to our countryside, wildlife and to businesses. I hope other residents follow our lead to ensure the safety of our communities.” The county’s community fire safety and arson reduction manager Moreno Francioso said it was a significant decision. “We know this won’t stop people launching them from their back gardens,” he said. “But we do hope that people will now think twice about the potential risks, before using them.” Other councils to introduce the ban include Cardiff city council and other county councils with large areas of rural land, including Norfolk, Staffordshire and Essex. But Gloucestershire is not among them. No formal motion has been brought to bring the same regulations to the county, with the authority preferring to leave it to individuals to make their own decisions on the use of the lanterns.

Fire hazard

Chief fire officer Stewart Edgar, of Gloucestershire Fire and Rescue Service, is concerned at the dangers they cause. He said: “The use of Chinese paper lanterns has increased over the last few years. When they are released into the sky, they pose a significant risk to property and wildlife and have been linked to several large scale fires since their use became widespread. We strongly discourage their use and ask members of the public to look for safer alternative ways to celebrate.”

Action is needed

That’s not enough according to Mr Pain, also vice-chairman of Gloucestershire National Farmers’ Union. “The county council needs to take the lead here,” he said. “The very least they should do is ban them from their land.” Mr Pain is driving the NFU’s own campaign against the lanterns, which calls for an outright ban on their sale. “I’m delighted that Cotswold Life is launching this campaign,” he said. “We must get to the point when the lanterns are no longer used in our country.” Some venues have introduced biodegradable lanterns to try to lessen the potential risks. But Mr Pain said they were not the answer. “They still need to include wax blocks to light the lanterns, so the fire risk remains. The bamboo that can be so lethal to animals does not degrade for at least 30 years and the chemicals in the fire-retardant paper are also dangerous.”

Public call to action

NFU Deputy President Minette Batters said: “I know from personal experience just how dangerous sky lanterns can be after losing a cow from my own herd. It is really encouraging that local authorities are now starting to see sense and have banned the release of lanterns on their land. However, we would like to see many more follow suit. Members of the public can play a big part by writing to their local councils spelling out how dangerous sky lanterns can be. Please back British farming and think twice before setting sky lanterns alight and releasing them into the environment. The NFU continues to call for an outright ban and we will continue to lobby government until action is taken.”

10 reasons to ban Chinese Lanterns

  1. The frames of lanterns can seriously injure or kill farm animals and other wildlife if directly ingested
  2. Frames can be chopped into animalfeed during harvest
  3. Animals can become entangled in lantern frames
  4. Fire risk to standing crops and buildings
  5. Civil Aviation Authority concerned lanterns can be drawn into aircraft engines
  6. Lanterns have been mistaken for distress signals by coastguards
  7. Cause litter wherever they land
  8. Marine life endangered by lanterns falling into the sea
  9. Biodegradable lanterns are still a fire risk – and bamboo takes decades to degrade
  10. All lanterns are unpredictable because it is impossible to control where they land


Six alternative ways to celebrate

  1. Plant a tree to create a long-lasting memory of your occasion
  2. Small firework displays
  3. Stationary candles and nightlights
  4. Static lights or outdoor lights
  5. Blow bubbles – completely safe and come in all sizes from small bubbles to giant bubble makers
  6. Pop a balloon – put raffle tickets in a balloon before blowing them up and pop them, rather than release them


Warming of Cretaceous Period Punctuated with By Cooling

Extreme global warming of Cretaceous period punctuated with significant global cooling.

Date:May 28, 2015 Source:Goethe-Universität Frankfurt

Scientists at the Goethe University Frankfurt and at the Senckenberg Biodiversity and Climate Research Centre working together with their Canadian counterparts, have reconstructed the climatic development of the Arctic Ocean during the Cretaceous period, 145 to 66 million years ago. The research team comes to the conclusion that there was a severe cold snap during the geological age known for its extreme greenhouse climate. The study published in the professional journal Geology is also intended to help improve prognoses of future climate and environmental development and the assessment of human influence on climate change.

The Cretaceous, which occurred approximately 145 million to 66 million years ago, was one of the warmest periods in the history of Earth. The poles were devoid of ice and average temperatures of up to 35 degrees Celsius prevailed in the oceans. “A typical greenhouse climate; some even refer to it as a ‘super greenhouse’ ,” explains Professor Dr. Jens Herrle of the Goethe University and Senckenberg Biodiversity and Climate Research Centre, and adds: “We have now found indications in the Arctic that this warm era 112 to 118 million years ago was interrupted for a period of about 6 million years.”

In cooperation with his Canadian colleague Professor Claudia Schröder-Adams of the Carleton University in Ottawa, the Frankfurt palaeontologist sampled the Arctic Fjord Glacier and the Lost Hammer diapir locality on Axel Heiberg Island in 5 to 10 metre intervals. “In so doing, we also found so-called glendonites,” Herrle recounts. Glendonite refers to star-shaped calcite minerals, which have taken on the crystal shape of the mineral ikaite. “These so-called pseudomorphs from calcite to ikaite are formed because ikaite is stable only below 8 degrees Celsius and metamorphoses into calcite at warmer temperatures,” explains Herrle and adds: “Thus, our sedimentological analyses and age dating provide a concrete indication for the environmental conditions in the cretaceous Arctic and substantiate the assumption that there was an extended interruption of the interglacial period in the Arctic Ocean at that time.”

In two research expeditions to the Arctic undertaken in 2011 and 2014, Herrle brought 1700 rock samples back to Frankfurt, where he and his working group analysed them using geochemical and paleontological methods. But can the Cretaceous rocks from the polar region also help to get a better understanding of the current climate change? “Yes,” Herrle thinks, elaborating: “The polar regions are particularly sensitive to global climatic fluctuations. Looking into the geological past allows us to gain fundamental knowledge regarding the dynamics of climate change and oceanic circulation under extreme greenhouse conditions. To be capable of better assessing the current human-made climate change, we must, for example, understand what processes in an extreme greenhouse climate contribute significantly to climate change.” In the case of the Cretaceous cold snap, Herrle assumes that due to the opening of the Atlantic in conjunction with changes in oceanic circulation and marine productivity, more carbon was incorporated into the sediments. This resulted in a decrease in the carbon dioxide content in the atmosphere, which in turn produced global cooling.


The Frankfurt scientist’s newly acquired data from the Cretaceous period will now be correlated with results for this era derived from the Atlantic, “in order to achieve a more accurate stratigraphic classification of the Cretaceous period and to better understand the interrelationships between the polar regions and the subtropics,” is the outlook Herrle provides.