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Pirbright Common has gone

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GemmaJF View Drop Down
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    Posted: 20 Mar 2014 at 8:33am
Exactly Chris, during my professional work I would not allow any contractor to start work without watching brief. On the one occasion a contractor ignored this instruction, animals died. All they were doing was installing exclusion fencing!

The fact is as no attempt is made to move animals in these schemes I'm not really sure what good it would do. One could protect hibernacula, but the animals will still face a moonscape when they emerge. 

It simply shouldn't be happening at all. This level of clearance would not occur during any of my contract work until after the animals were excluded, captured and relocated. Even though I've now seen it time and time again I still find it almost unbelievable these events are allowed to even happen.
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Chris Monk View Drop Down
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Post Options Post Options   Thanks (0) Thanks(0)   Quote Chris Monk Quote  Post ReplyReply Direct Link To This Post Posted: 19 Mar 2014 at 9:49pm
Being on site when the work is done is the only way to prevent damage to sensitive areas but the people organising the work don't like anyone else's opinions or knowledge. Also we never get invited to help supervise what the professionals and contractors are doing.
Chris

Derbyshire Amphibian & Reptile Group

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GemmaJF View Drop Down
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Post Options Post Options   Thanks (0) Thanks(0)   Quote GemmaJF Quote  Post ReplyReply Direct Link To This Post Posted: 18 Mar 2014 at 4:41pm
Yep, I know the guy that said he didn't understand the grid reference knew exactly where it was too!
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Post Options Post Options   Thanks (0) Thanks(0)   Quote Marsh Quote  Post ReplyReply Direct Link To This Post Posted: 17 Mar 2014 at 9:41pm
Gemma, the guy seemed to know the exact bunch of birches I was talking about, spoke to him about the big pine next to it, where the footpath was, even the slope of the ground. Still went....

Marsh
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Post Options Post Options   Thanks (0) Thanks(0)   Quote GemmaJF Quote  Post ReplyReply Direct Link To This Post Posted: 17 Mar 2014 at 8:08pm
Can't blame you for not wanting to chase round Marsh, never got me anywhere other than totally frustrated with all those involved. 

Had very similar experiences in the past of locating  hibernaculum, informing appropriate people only for the area to be destroyed. Even had a guy on the ground said 'Oh I did see your report, but I didn't understand what the numbers meant'. It was a ten figure grid references, labelled 'Grid Reference'....
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Post Options Post Options   Thanks (0) Thanks(0)   Quote Marsh Quote  Post ReplyReply Direct Link To This Post Posted: 17 Mar 2014 at 7:41pm
Gemma and Chris,
appreciate your advice, but I'm not going to bother to chase the "IMHO" damage to the site.
Over the years there has been work including firebreaks (quite extensive in some areas) and also removal of birch clumps.
The birch clumps are often a focus point for hibernation dens, and I remember phoning SWT (I'm a life member) and asking what the paint marks on the trees meant. I also expressed my concern that the works were being started when reptiles were emerging. SWT said it was too early, I mentioned the numbers of herps I'd seen on my visit and they were surprised.....They gave me a contact phone number on the Surrey Heathland Conservation thingy and I discussed a particular birch clump and the fact it was a den. Being assured that the guy new exactly where I was talking about and it would be safe (over the phone he seemed to know the site very well), I returned the next weekend to find it gone.
In reality my original post was about my disappointment that the site was pretty much dead for the foreseeable future. I know from the past (as mentioned above) that even if people on the ground warn of potential losses it still happens. Chasing my butt around with various bodies is not going to change that Pirbright is gone for around 15 years, and that it will probably never get back to what it once was. Sorry if that seems negative or whatever, but I do really appreciate your feedback and knowledge.
I'll probably get checking out some other sites I've neglected over the easy choice of Pirbright, and hopefully be able to add to the current records.
Oh, and if Keith has been herping (the most beautiful gekoes on the planet) in New Zealand 'd love to hear of experiences and advice. I've been there quite a few times and am returning this year, but have never seen a wild gecko there!
Cheers
Marsh
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Post Options Post Options   Thanks (0) Thanks(0)   Quote Chris Monk Quote  Post ReplyReply Direct Link To This Post Posted: 17 Mar 2014 at 11:07am
Marsh
Most of Pirbright Common is a SSSI and also part of the Thursley, Ash, Pirbright and Chobham SAC (Special Area of Conservation), which is a European level designation. It is also one of the rare SSSIs where the reptile fauna is included in the reasons for designation in 1993 according to the documents on the Natural England website.
However looking at the details for the Pirbright Common part of the SSSI it says:

The unit failed its targets for age composition of the heather, composition of graminoids and forbs and the amount of bare ground was only just sufficient to pass the target. There was insufficient pioneer heather over much of the site and to encourage it to grow small patches of dwarf shrub heath should be cut and removed to create a balanced age range. The creation of firebreaks would provide some bare ground which should encourage the growth of pioneer heather and dwarf gorse. The scrub, trees and bracken are being well controlled and the work will continue. Some rides and glades need to be created in the woodland. There is some suitable habitat for the SPA birds, though not very much for the woodlark which requires early successional heather and undisturbed bare ground.
This was written by their officer responsible for the site Des Sussex.

Looks like they could be doing Natural England's bidding to get bare ground and pioneer early growth heather - the sort that is a fuzz over the ground and no use for reptiles. Could be that birds are trumping reptiles under their objectives.

I would echo Gemma's advice but I would go direct to Natural England's national amphibian and reptile specialist Paul Edgar or his assistant Kat Woods. Paul.edgar@naturalengland.org.uk  or katharine.woods@naturalengland.org.uk.
Surrey ARG's website atlas shows that they have records for all the 4 widespread reptiles in the area that includes Pirbright Common, so maybe talk to Jamel Guenioui, who is their Reptiles Officer. His email is Jamel@surrey-arg.org.uk.
Keith Corbett is back in this country now, having retired to New Zealand for a few years, and is not afraid to throw some pebbles in the pond and cause some ripples.

If you want phone numbers for Paul or Keith just contact me.

Chris

Chris

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GemmaJF View Drop Down
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Post Options Post Options   Thanks (0) Thanks(0)   Quote GemmaJF Quote  Post ReplyReply Direct Link To This Post Posted: 17 Mar 2014 at 9:18am
Marsh have you been in contact with NE about it? We have been promised in the past that these events would no longer be brushed under the carpet. 

I've found confronting the organisation behind the works is not of much use.

The usual story is they instruct a contractor to do the clearance work.

Then blame the contractor for doing exactly what they told them to do. Saying things like they didn't expect it to look the way it does (not sure quite what they did expect it to look like) etc.

Really the only hope is NE involvement, but I've had little luck with it all in the past. Including cases where such works were carried out a second and third time at adjacent sites, despite attention being drawn to the detrimental effects on herpetofauna.

In the end I just became so disillusioned with the entire system that I rarely now even visit heathland sites for fear of what might have happened to them.






Edited by GemmaJF - 17 Mar 2014 at 9:19am
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Marsh View Drop Down
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Post Options Post Options   Thanks (0) Thanks(0)   Quote Marsh Quote  Post ReplyReply Direct Link To This Post Posted: 14 Mar 2014 at 9:08pm
Gemma, I believe from my chat with the SWT guy that it was reported in the (presumably local paper (I did a quick search but found nothing) and was pretty much being sl*gged off). But I don't have any date. From my visit it should seem to be a 'fairly' recent thing. Lots of recent looking ripped gorse and birch stems. Maybe a January or February thing?
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Post Options Post Options   Thanks (0) Thanks(0)   Quote Marsh Quote  Post ReplyReply Direct Link To This Post Posted: 14 Mar 2014 at 8:55pm
Originally posted by AGILIS AGILIS wrote:

Perhaps tidying up sites might make them more attractive for selling off for housing development seeing flood plains are out of fashion Keith
Do you know, that was one of the first things I thought about when I saw the mess! But, I think it's a SSII or similar so should be fairly... safe...
Marsh
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