Mersehead Monies


Interesting to note the recent appeals from the RSPB which is aiming to raise funding to buy land adjacent to their existing reserve at Mersehead. There’s no doubt that Mersehead is a grand place, and in fact it is so near my home that I often walk the dogs there on winter evenings after work.

On the face of it, making nature reserves bigger should be a no-brainer, but I start to wonder if it really is the right path. The RSPB is already one of the biggest landowners in Scotland, and it’s hard to see what real benefit we will gain from their ownership of even more land. Sustainable, future-proof conservation will depend upon integrating wildlife into a real, living countryside with genuine financial pressures. This new appeal to raise £285,000 will simply lift the land into a bubble-wrapped world – an island of conservation bliss in an ocean of change and decline.

It is difficult to see an endgame when you set out to fix the countryside by buying it, and there is little doubt that £285,000 could be more effectively spent on rolling out conservation lessons learnt on the existing reserve to privately owned farms along the entire Solway coast. Real change and progress in conservation will come when we work out how to unlock busy farmers and commercial foresters, and buying land to squirrel away makes no progress in that direction.

Despite a massive and vastly effective PR and fund-raising machine, the RSPB frequently fails to connect with the farmers and landowners who could make a real difference – (perhaps that’s a consequence of ten years spent blaming farmers for the decline in wild birds). It may be ambitious, but if the RSPB could get under the skin of existing land-based industries rather than forever colliding with them, they might find themselves welcome to have a say in the management of the entire country.

Just a thought.

One thought on “Mersehead Monies

  1. rupert stutchbury

    £285,000 is a lot of money and takes a lot of funding raising. Your idea that “there is little doubt that £285,000 could be more effectively spent on rolling out conservation lessons learnt on the existing reserve to privately owned farms along the entire Solway coast.” is fine in so far as it goes, but it doesn’t actually go very far in conservation lessons over the long term, yet does buy a parcel of land forever. Little islands of ‘conservation bliss’ as you rather disdainfully call them, provide areas which in the long run could be the only places left in which certain species can breed. You can teach one lot of farmers the benefits of beetle banks or wet bits or whatever but if the financial climate gets hard enough they go back to ploughing and draining fields to within an inch of their lives. You, yourself have said in your blog that your own farm has changed out of all recognition over the years for economic reasons and is a far less welcoming place for Curlews and others on which to breed. Safe havens for our wildlife like tiger reserves in India might be the only way to save some species. Education is great but should be an ongoing drip feed of information and encouragement rather than a blitzkrieg of ‘rolling out conservation lessons” to farmers at the expense of buying up land. Like the National Trust, RSPCB land can still be productive and well farmed in the appropriate place, despite being designated a ‘reserve’.

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