As most of you may know, we live in the countryside, on the edge of a village in Devon. On one side we have neighbours, on another a field, on a third is the road through the village and on the fourth is a small school. When we first moved here 21 years ago it was the village school that we had next to us and everything was fine. It was only a couple of years before the school closed due to lack of children, there were only 12 attending the school, so it wasn’t surprising when this happened.
A private school bought the property and once again, everything was fine until this year when it was announced that the school was closing and that the plot would be used for development. The first planning application for 12 small houses was withdrawn, we presume because half of the houses were to be built on green belt. We are now considering the 2nd planning application which is for 3 huge houses to be built on one side of the plot, not on green belt.
The houses are so huge that they will be built right up to the boundary of the little lane that runs between us and them and the proposal is that the trees and hedges between us should come down. The trees must be at least 100 years old and the hedge is rather a scruffy mess. A scruffy mess to us humans but a wonderfully safe highway for the dormice that live there along with all the other little creatures.
We have spent rather a lot of time googling dormice and finding that they are a protected species and so is their habitat, so they do have the weight of the law to protect them. It’s just that we have to alert everyone to the fact that the dormice are there. We mentioned them and the large bats that live in the trees that they want to cut down, bats are also protected by law, but no-one seems to have taken any notice of our first objection, probably because the first plan was withdrawn before it got to the committee stage.
While sitting here composing our objection to the second lot of plans, there was a knock on the door. Would you believe it, co-incidence or what…..Devon Wildlife Trust were going round all the houses in the village trying to recruit new members !!! Poor man didn’t know what he was letting himself in for ! He gave us various phone numbers to call and web sites to visit and loads of information to read. We have also found a local independent councillor who objects to the trees and hedges being felled, so have asked her for support. She came round yesterday, had a look at the trees and hedges from our side, was really delighted that we had dormice and bats living there and promised to do what she could.
It’s not a case of us not wanting any development at all next to us, just not to put the houses so close to the trees and hedges so that they have to be cut down and the habitat for our protected animals destroyed. We have found hibernation nests at various times in the garden when I have been tidying, so we know the dormice are there, if only I had photographed them . They live where there is oak,hazel,honeysuckle and bramble, all of which we have along that hedge.
The large bat that we have seen remains a mystery, it comes out of the huge trees during the day and swoops lazily over the pond and the circular lawn hoovering up the midges, we have seen this a few times during the summer. It is much larger than the little Pipistrelle bats that dart round the house on summer evenings and much slower in its flight, so hopefully someone at the Devon Wildlife Trust is going to identify it for us, and yes, we did sign up to become members !
Since we have been here the variety of wildlife is increasing year on year, we now have our own private nature reserve here. It is possible to have a wildlife friendly garden without it looking a mess and being full of nettles ! It is just the backs of the borders that I don’t tidy and there are a few corners which never get disturbed but the rest looks just like anyone else’s garden I hope. If I am buying new plants for the garden I try to think of what else will enjoy the plant apart from me. We have so many different varieties of birds, bees and butterflies these days so we weren’t surprised to find that the dormice had joined the voles, shrews and field mice that we sometimes see in the garden.
Also by the hedge that is under threat, is our pond which has a thriving colony of newts, don’t think they are great crested, but even so, don’t want their habitat disturbed. We have seen a grass snake swimming in the pond, they also like to have somewhere nice and shady to lie up, under all the brambles in the lane would be ideal, no one can walk in the lane, the brambles block it totally!
So there we are, fighting to save the habitat of our dormice and bats, someone has to help these animals that are threatened, only threatened because we humans think we have a right to put concrete everywhere. We know that one day plans will be submitted that will be passed by the council , surely we can live side by side with the wildlife that was there before us and a compromise be reached. Will let you all know how we get on.
Thanks to Bengt Lundberg and the BBC website for the fantastic dormouse photo, wouldn’t you want to save such a gorgeous little creature, along with his home ?