Damage to Bluebell Hill Roadside Nature Reserve

Photo by Dave Watson

There has been significant press and social media coverage of the damage to the Bluebell Hill Roadside Nature Reserve northbound on the A229, due to emergency drainage works carried out by Kent County Council.

Many reports in the press have directly linked the destruction of this habitat with works being undertaken for Brexit. Whilst it is true that the works were delivered as part of Operation Brock and the planning for a No-Deal Brexit, the focus on this has drawn attention away from the real, critical issue.

Much of the conversation surrounding this sad episode detracts from the seriousness of the devastation that is occurring to wildlife and natural spaces, in Maidstone, in Kent in the UK and globally at an alarming rate.  The bigger question we should all be asking ourselves is why wildlife is in the situation where damage to a single, half-mile stretch of road verge can lead to such a loss of important species, - species which to all measures should be abundant.

This incident belies a much bigger issue in our environments; we cannot continue to push our wildlife to the edges of the space we live in. Roadside Nature Reserves, like Local Wildlife Sites, are sites designated for their value to wildlife but with no statutory protection which means we all too often have to focus on putting things right after they have gone wrong.

Road verges are essential wildlife corridors through our fragmented landscapes but we need to make more space for nature as Kent Wildlife Trust campaigns for a Wilder Future and Wilder Kent. This is not how things should be and this is exactly what our Wilder Kent plan aims to address.

We cannot continue to push our wildlife to the edges of the space we live in.

The challenge we face in our Roadside Nature Reserve project is how to manage road verges safely and with the maximum benefits for wildlife. The Roadside Nature Reserves are managed wherever possible by the cut and collection of the cut material - this replicates the natural grazing management we use on many larger nature reserves.

In many places, we achieve this with support from local authorities but this work was undertaken by a different department in Kent County Council to the one who supports our RNR project. We have been liaising with them since the work started. This will lead to a closer working relationship and we have a commitment to better communication in the future.

Following discussions with Kent County Council, we will be working together to restore the Bluebell Hill Roadside Nature Reserve over the next few weeks. This work needs to be done sensitively by hand and Kent County Council will be funding equipment, tool and refreshments for staff and volunteers to join in this effort.

Wilder Kent - Kent

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