The living green landscape of East Harptree
East Harptree parish stretches from the northern slopes of the Mendip Hills to the lowlands of the upper Chew Valley. It’s a diverse landscape which, whether you walk, cycle, drive or ride a horse around local lanes, is dominated by ‘green’ habitats; agricultural fields, hedgerows, unimproved grasslands, roadside verges, and pockets of woodland, all intersected by small ponds and streams, many lined with trees, that flow into the River Chew. Peeping over walls and hedges into private gardens around the village and more isolated houses adds to the variety and the pleasures of our local landscape.
These features are not just visually attractive. The network of green habitats, called ‘Green Infrastructure’ or GI, is tremendously important for wildlife, for people and for how we deal with the climate and nature emergency.
For wildlife, the GI network offers a huge range of resources, providing food, shelter and somewhere to breed for many species of pollinating and other insects, as well as higher animals like mammals, birds, reptiles and amphibians. The natural environment is fundamental to human well-being. As the Covid restrictions in 2020/21 have shown, contact with nature and exercise in natural green spaces is hugely important to our psychological well-being and physical health. GI also has a key role to play in tackling the effects of climate change, for example by filtering harmful pollutants from the air and soaking up water to reduce flooding.
But, as elsewhere in the UK, many previously common habitats and species that support all of these ‘ecological services’ are in serious local decline, with some at risk of extinction. Other effects of the changing environment are clear to see, such as Ash dieback, which is already devastating local tree cover.
Protecting and repairing the local GI network of corridors and stepping stones that sustain wildlife populations is therefore vital to how we protect nature, cope with climate change and ensure a healthy environment for future generations. The Parish Council Climate and Nature Emergency Working Group has taken stock of the parish GI network, and looked carefully at how different features link up as a necklace of GI habitats across the parish. It has produced a technical report which identifies specific actions that can be taken by the Parish Council, such as making sure that new development protects and adds to local habitat value and diversity, and others that can be taken by local residents, landowners and the community, such as East Harptree Environment Group’s (EHEG) hedgerow project at the village Playing Field and its wildlife gardening initiative. The East Harptree Green Infrastructure report focusses on high level actions. For more information about detailed projects and what individuals can do, contact EHEG at email@example.com