Welcome

This site has been created to promote and protect the wildlife and countryside around the village of Bridge in East Kent, England. Much of this locality lies within the Kent Downs Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty. We hope you find the site informative and that it inspires you to campaign for the protection of this precious landscape for future generations.

LOCAL VIEWS
winter wheat in growth

winter wheat in growth

4 April 2018. After a long sleep through the cold weather, winter wheat is bursting into growth in fields all around Bridge. This crop, which currently resembles thick blades of deep green grass, was planted last autumn. Over the coming months it will mature to the tall golden crop we recognise as wheat, ready for harvesting in summer. (Picture copyright © BridgeNature.org 2018)
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Sparrows are endangered

Sparrows are endangered

The results of the RSPB’s Big Garden Birdwatch have been released. Little has changed from last year’s figures with house sparrows, starlings, blue tits and blackbirds topping the table in England. However, these results hide a halving of the number of house sparrows in England since the 1970s. Astonishingly, they are now on the RSPB’s red list of endangered species. (Picture copyright © BridgeNature.org 2018)
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red kites over gorsley wood

red kites over gorsley wood

2 April 2018. Red kites have been spotted over Gorsley Wood, near the Pett Bottom Road. Our blurry picture is from the last recorded sighting of these birds over Bridge, which was in April 2014. Buzzards are a far more common sight in this area, so the two can sometimes be confused, but red kites are easily identified in flight if a forked tail can be observed. (Picture copyright © BridgeNature.org 2018)
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lambs in local AONB fields

lambs in local AONB fields

Temperatures have warmed and lambs can be seen in some of the fields around Bridge. This is part of the tradition of mixed farming within the local AONB which maintains the prescribed character of the designated area. Ewes with lambs have been placed in the lakeside fields at Bourne Park and in the fields at the riverside between Bridge and Patrixbourne. (Picture copyright © BridgeNature.org 2018)
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The wild Brown Hare

A wild Brown Hare in the Bishopsbourne area. In our pagan past the Hare symbolised spring, fertility and rebirth. Image © Copyright BridgeNature.org 2018.

Mid-April: up on the Downs overlooking the Nailbourne Valley, in fields of brilliant yellow oilseed rape, a wild Brown Hare runs down the track between the stems. For a moment, just long enough to allow us to see it clearly, it pauses to gather breath in a shaded section of the field.

Brown Hares are members of the rabbit family, but, unlike rabbits, they live above ground in grassland or heathland if they can find it, or otherwise in the open fields of the arable farm. Mostly nocturnal, they will forage at night and rest in a shallow hollow or ‘form’ during the day. With running speeds of up to 45 mph they are this country’s fastest land mammals.

In the latter part of the 19th century there were thought to be about 4 million Brown Hares living in the grasslands and hay meadows of Britain, but recent counts indicate their population has declined by around 80% (1). This is largely due to the loss of grassland habitat and the modern intensive methods of our farmers. The Hare is almost extinct in some of the dairy farming western counties of Britain and is now seen only occasionally here in the countryside around Bridge and the Nailbourne Valley, possibly because we have an abundance of buzzards and foxes.

The stability of Brown Hare numbers across the country is further hampered by the, so called ‘sports’ of shooting, which is still legally permitted, and Hare coursing, which is illegal, but still popular in some parts of the country. So who kills Brown Hares and why? One might assume farmers would kill them because they eat grass and occasionally damage crops on the farm, but it seems farmers may not be the culprits: on one popular online farmers’ forum, every single farmer who contributed said they loved to see Hares in their fields and they weren’t bothered how much grass they ate. They blamed ignorant local bullies and thugs with guns for the killing and they wanted no part in it.

Every year in East Anglia, large, organised Hare shoots kill up to 60% (Yes! 60%) of the national population of Brown Hares in one big, obscene, shooting bonanza (2), just for the fun of it. And of course the killing occurs on a smaller scale elsewhere too. There is no ‘close season’ for Hare shooting, it is allowed to go on all year, even through the breeding season, leaving many orphaned young Hares to starve in the form when the mother is killed. This, all for the sake of continuing traditional country sports.

The Hare Preservation Trust, which works for wider awareness of these issues and protection for Hares, is campaigning for a close season from February to September in which the shooting of Hares is banned so that the young have at least some opportunity for life. There may be occasions when Hare numbers need to be controlled by humane means for legitimate crop protection, but BridgeNature.org believes it’s high time we had a total, all year round, ban on killing hares for fun and serious penalties for those who breach it. The modern British countryside should be no place for those who make a sport out of killing.

(1) and (2) www.hare-preservation-trust.co.uk

The Mill Lane Siskins

Siskin (male), Ford Close, Bridge, March 2016. Image © copyright BridgeNature.org 2018

For the last few years at least, Siskins have been regular visitors to gardens overlooking Mill Lane in Bridge at this time in the seasonal progression, and they have been observed here again this week.

In summer, breeding pairs of Siskins are more generally recorded in the west and north of Britain where they eat the seeds of coniferous woodland, now found mostly in Scotland and Wales. In autumn and winter, native birds spread right across Britain, and they are joined by incomers from mainland Europe to feed on the seeds of deciduous trees, particularly alder and birch, together with seeds from other wild plants including thistles. Another reason for this cross country spread, and indeed the fact that Siskins seem to be generally thriving, may be the increase in appropriately stocked garden feeders now kindly provided by the public in every part of the country over the difficult winter months.

Studying records held by the British Trust for Ornithology, we may conclude that during winter the observation of Siskins in East Kent should be considered uncommon rather than rare; however, from late spring and through into the summer, any sighting of these birds in our locality should be regarded as a rare event indeed. According to our own records, the Mill Lane Siskins appear to depart each year before the summer sets in.

Siskin (female), Ford Close, Bridge, March 2016. Image © copyright BridgeNature.org 2018

The great Toad crawl

Common Toad, Western Avenue, Bridge. Image © Copyright BridgeNature.org 2018.

In recent weeks, a great Toad migration has been taking place in the countryside all over Britain, as our native Common Toads return from the land to the water, their place of birth. Unlike frogs, Toads spend most of their year away from water, living a solitary life in the open countryside foraging for insects and slugs in hedgerows, woodlands and gardens. When winter sets in they seek out a place of safety and protection from the elements. This is typically under a leaf pile, in an old rabbit digging, in the crevice of a broken wall or some similar secluded spot where they can hide and sleep through the cold until awakened by the first indicators of spring.

From February through March (and later weeks if early spring is particularly cold) Toads crawl out from their winter homes in order to seek out a particular pool or stretch of water in which to propagate their species in the rolling cycle of life. This place is held deep within the memory as their place of birth and even small ponds can attract hundreds of Toads, each using the Earth’s magnetic field like a compass to bring them home to their breeding waters on what may be a journey of up to two kilometres: quite some distance for a small creature to crawl across rough countryside. Once there, males will linger looking for mates, but females will only stay long enough to lay a long string of spawn in the water, before returning back into the wider countryside. Few people will even be aware of this enormous annual event in the life of Common Toads, for it happens in the dark on misty, rainy nights, while most of us are comfortably ensconced within warm homes.

When driving or walking down country lanes in the Bridge area late at night, the sight of a single Toad crawling over the road is not unusual, but, at this time of year, near breeding waters like the lake at Bourne Park and the Nailbourne, there are many more Toads trying to cross roads for their great annual get-together. Please drive carefully down country lanes; keep a look out for Toads; and if you see them crossing, for Nature’s sake, do your best to avoid running over them.

In this valley, an important question remains: what happens to those Toads that were born in the Nailbourne and its ponds, when they return in subsequent years for mating, only to find it dry? With this in mind, it is indeed good news for Toads (and other creatures) that the lake at Bourne Park now contains some water after a long spell without any.

Some kind of miracle

American Eastern Tiger Swallowtail butterfly (1). Image courtesy of www.publicdomainpictures.net.

Many of those who visited either of the presentations displaying the proposed new development on land at Highland Court Farm in Bekesbourne last week expressed suspicion at some of the claims made on the presentation boards. Not least of these is the notion, put forward by the developers, that their development will enhance biodiversity on the land. By this they mean: more individual species of flora and fauna would be present on the site in the years after the development.

There is a confused but partially valid argument here. While much of the land would of course be built over in the scheme, thereby destroying farmland and wildlife habitat, some of the proposed measures, like ponds, wild flower meadows and copses of trees, would undoubtedly attract a greater variety of species to those areas where they are located: but this should not be used to suggest that the proposed scheme is of benefit to wildlife overall.

However, to illustrate their point, the developers presented a board including what we might presume to be some of the wildlife we would hope to see in the revitalised areas of the farm. Among them were such valued native species as a reed bunting, a wild bee, a grass snake: all of which have been recorded in this area by BridgeNature.org in recent years. Yet remarkably, also included in the display, was what appeared to be an Eastern Tiger Swallowtail butterfly!

This is either an unfortunate error, or the developers are proposing some kind of ecological miracle, because the Eastern Tiger Swallowtail butterfly resides only in the Americas (2). Our own native species of Swallowtail, Papillon machaon britannicus, which looks rather different, lives only on the Norfolk Broads, primarily because its sole larval food plant, Milk-parsley, grows there. Occasionally, Britain is also visited by the Continental Swallowtail Papillon machaon gorganus which closely resembles its British cousin, not the American relative.

The proposal for development at Highland Court Farm may attract support or criticism, but we suspect there is very little chance that it will attract any Swallowtail butterflies on a permanent basis.

(1) The picture presented above is not the same photograph that was displayed in the presentation.
(2) In 1932, a single Eastern Tiger Swallowtail butterfly was discovered and captured in County Wicklow, Ireland, having been accidentally imported from America.

Shivering in sugar

Shivering in sugar. The reality of spring lambing is not as sweet as those cutesy calendar pictures of gambolling lambs would have us believe. Image © Copyright BridgeNature.org 2018.

Mid-March 2018 saw temperatures plummet into the freezing zone again, as a second fall of snow descended onto the district and much of southern England. The snow shrouded landscape looks magical in winter, but snow and freezing cold bring misery to wildlife and farm animals alike: so we must not allow ourselves to pretend, either in pretty photographs, or in our own imaginings, that all is comfort and happiness in the fields. Every year in Britain, around 4 million lambs die at this time of year (1), mostly through stillbirth and illness of one sort or another, but hypothermia from exposure is another major factor killing about 1 million annually. This is generally a more serious issue on exposed upland farms in the north than in the lowlands of the south, but in extreme weather exposed southern lambs are vulnerable too.

In the field, the proven methods of prevention of hypothermia in ewes and lambs are increased calorie intake, the provision of fresh water, and some kind of open shelter, like an open barn or an enclosure of straw bales. Animals are at risk in sub-zero temperatures if these measures are not provided, but they can endure surprisingly cold weather if they are.

In the modern age of industrial farming it is commercially beneficial to get lambs born and out to the fields as early as possible in the year in order to feed our meat markets’ insatiable demand for early lamb. In the old days lambing was geared for later in the season and in adverse weather conditions vulnerable animals might have been held for longer within the shelter of the lambing barns, but that in itself can be a cause of illness in sheep. The thick woolly coats that adult sheep carry in winter can cause them to overheat in poorly ventilated barns and disease spreads rapidly in confined, overcrowded spaces.

Most farmers do their best to maintain a healthy flock, it’s not in their own interests to lose animals to early death, but animal welfare is labour intensive and adds to costs and these days it is simply expedient to “allow for a certain percentage of loss to stock” as they say in commercial speak. What kind of losses are deemed acceptable are a matter of farming ethics, commercial reality and public ignorance.

References
(1) https://www.animalaid.org.uk/the-issues/our-campaigns/animal-farming/suffering-farmed-sheep/

Pest, pet and prey: the frightened Rabbit

Wild Rabbits playing on Star Hill, Bridge. Image © copyright BridgeNature.org 2018.

One very familiar and seemingly ubiquitous creature in the landscape of the Kent Downs is the wild Rabbit. Bridge residents who venture out into our local countryside will know we have our fair share of them here. Originally from the south west of Europe, they were brought into Britain as farmed animals in the 12th century by the invading Normans who kept them in managed warrens to provide a cheap and easy source of meat and fur. Of course some escaped and, finding a landscape they could adapt to, they naturally bred like… Rabbits!

Given its countryside status as a bit of a pest, particularly one that lives gregariously out in the fields, it is odd that parents of young children frequently buy them a Rabbit as a pet to be kept in a small hutch out in the back garden. It is wilfully ignorant, cruel and quite obviously runs contrary to the animals’ natural way of life. The hutch gained popularity in Victorian times when Rabbits were captured alive and held for a short time before being killed for the pot; but even the barbaric Victorians were not so misinformed as to think they were actually being kind to a much loved pet in the way that many children are deceived into believing by trusted adults today. It is a national disgrace that Rabbits are kept confined in small hutches in primary schools all over Britain to this day.

Wild Rabbits, Bridge area. Rabbits live in structured family groups. Image © copyright BridgeNature.org 2018.

We must dismiss any spurious excuses about ‘domesticated’ Rabbits being bred for captivity: it should be clear, a Rabbit is a Rabbit, there is not some convenient division in the species between those that like being trapped in a tiny wooden box all their lives and those that don’t! Rabbits are intelligent and active creatures, they need a lot of exercise and the freedom to roam about grazing. Out in the wild each one may graze over an area as large as three football pitches in a day. Furthermore, being herbivores and non-aggressive, they are one of nature’s ‘runners’, animals that run away from a predator. If threatened in the field they escape to hide within the safety of their burrows, away from the sight, smells and sounds of the predator, but, confined within a small hutch in the garden, they have nowhere to run when a dog, cat or fox comes sniffing around them. This is a terrifying experience for them.

Burrows deep in the ground also provide good temperature insulation and protect Rabbits from the extremes of weather: in a simple wooden hutch, exposed to the elements, they often spend their lives trembling in cold and terror in the winter and cramped in horrendous dehydrating heat in the summer. Huge numbers die every year from poor living conditions, bad diet, neglect, and undiagnosed diseases. Those that survive often do so only to suffer the loneliness of isolation.

Rabbits are very social creatures: in the wild they live in large family groups structured by a social hierarchy within a warren; so they don’t like being alone, but they don’t want human friends either, they prefer Rabbit company to people company; they hate being picked up, will scratch to escape if they can, and are very prone to injury if they are dropped. Clearly these are not animals which are at all suited to becoming children’s pets, and in the UK the RSPCA say they have more problems with neglect and cruelty to Rabbits than any other creature (1). Rabbit owners generally hide details of their own negligence, but veterinary figures suggest many hutched Rabbits die within days of purchase and few live their full life expectancy of seven years or more. Perhaps that is a mercy.

On Kent’s open downs Rabbits are charming, harmless creatures trimming and fertilising the grass, as prey they provide food for other creatures of the countryside. Unfortunately, on arable farmland they are a major nuisance: wild animals living in the wrong place. Recent figures suggest £100m of produce is lost to Rabbits in the UK (2), and in consequence many farmers understandably feel the need to cull them. The Rabbit’s main natural predators are foxes and buzzards, so this begs the question: if fox hunting ever was about efficiently killing foxes, why would any arable farmer condone a sport which kills his biggest ally against the Rabbit?

As pest, pet or prey, the life of the Rabbit is full of fear: mankind is its nemesis. Where does this gentle creature really belong? Somewhere in a wild place, far away from us.

(1) http://news.bbc.co.uk/1/hi/6166113.stm
(2) http://www.countryfile.com/countryside/truth-about-rabbit

The plan

The land around Bridge is not just pretty scenery, it is a working agricultural landscape. Image © Copyright BridgeNature.org 2018.

After years of hard work in preparation, the Bridge Neighbourhood Plan has been presented publicly for consultation with the people of the parish. All residents are invited to comment. So, how does it look from the perspective of Nature, wildlife conservation and agriculture?

The plan appears to be very much geared towards preserving the unique identity of Bridge, maintaining a strong sense of separation from the city of Canterbury and protecting green spaces around the village. It presents as a ‘green plan’ accepting and supporting the use of environmentally friendly initiatives and technologies as they arise. These include: maintaining public transport links, an improved cycle route to Canterbury, clean air policies, electric car charging points, preservation of green spaces in and around the village, flood and sewage pollution prevention policies and sustainable building practices.

We sense that this plan is also a valiant attempt to resist major development in Bridge while fulfilling a demand for need established affordable homes. The latter is a generous gesture and it may win public approval, but even the building of affordable homes of this type is only intended to be allowed within an AONB in exceptional circumstances, and these might be considered hard to justify when so many new houses are about to be built outside the AONB just a few minutes away at Mountfield Park.

Unfortunately, there is a further sense within the plan that various policies on development contradict each other. Policy C3 expresses support for the proposal to build 40 houses near Bridge Surgery, although the need for more housing than 11 affordable homes has not been established. This does not comply with national planning legislation (NPPF 2012), current AONB management policies, CCC’s District Plan, or indeed other policies within the Bridge Neighbourhood Plan itself. Residents should recall that, in a trade off for the recreation ground, this proposal was voted into the plan by the public, but that does not mean the idea is appropriate or that it will pass muster with the planning authority.

The idea that Bridge includes, and is surrounded by, green space is made much of within the plan, but it is described in an abstract sense and there is surprisingly little acknowledgement that the surrounding fields are working farmland in an historic and beautiful corner of England: one that has been protected for future generations by AONB designation of the same status as that of a National Park. A further indicator of this omission is the poor presentation of the pictures showing protected views within the plan, sometimes as tiny images, which can barely be seen. Better presentation might endorse the recognition that these views are worth protecting.

Sadly this does not look and read like a Neighbourhood Plan which values farming: indeed, there is so little mention of farming, farmland and the outlying countryside of our parish that it reads like a plan for the village centre, which only acknowledges farming as a scenic view from the window, and only appreciates countryside as a place of recreational pursuits. On page 26, in general text we read, “The plan will encourage and support the use of land to establish sustainable farming, allotments and community orchards…”, but that sounds almost like a slap in the face for existing farming, which faces many complex environmental, economic and political challenges. On the same page we are offered Project F2, which says it will “support new developments that allocate land to uses such as sustainable farming, allotments and community orchards”. Is this saying it will approve new housing development if such land is offered as a sweetener? It certainly reads that way and it is alarming. The plan needs clarity here. Perhaps Project F2 should be replaced with a project which states, “Sustainable farming will be supported and the further use of land to establish allotments and community orchards will be encouraged”. And what of a project statement on local woodland? And on wildlife conservation?

Of further concern is Policy A3 which supports a proposal to convert redundant farm buildings at Great Pett Farm, Bridge, to light industrial/commercial units. This is a proposal from agents acting for the landowner; but how and why are the landowner and the authors of the plan so sure that Great Pett Farm will never again need its barns and its farmyard? What is the long term ambition for farming in the fields around Bridge? We don’t find an answer in the Bridge Neighbourhood Plan.

To be fair, we are perhaps asking the plan to speak beyond its basic remit on some of these issues, but maybe it should. This should be a plan presenting, not just a defence of our village from urban expansion, but a vision of Bridge parish as a thriving, historic, rural landscape which treasures its AONB status, its countryside, its farming heritage and its wildlife, along with its community. The plan is a bold effort, but our parish has much to be proud of, and we should not hesitate to speak loudly in praise of what it is we are defending: a little more expressive recognition of farming and countryside would be welcome.

Wildlife in extremis

Small songbirds like this Blue Tit are most vulnerable in freezing weather. Image © Copyright BridgeNature.org 2018.

This week, in view of freezing temperatures and the covering of snow which the district has experienced over the last few days, BridgeNature.org reiterates our plea for people to think about our wildlife out in the cold. The sad truth is that huge numbers of smaller animals and birds will simply die of starvation and hypothermia over this period. It has been calculated that in the notorious winter of 1963, 50% of all Britain’s birds died, but no one seems to have any idea how many small animals perished.

We can’t all do a great deal to assist animals in the frozen countryside, but we can at least offer food to the birds visiting our garden bird tables and try to provide a regular supply of fresh water, which is vital. Any water in a butt will be frozen solid, and birds do not like our tap water, it has too much of a chemical smell for their tastes, so supplying a drinking station is not easy. If water is left out, after a day or two it will lose its odour, so that is one option, but of course in this weather it is likely to freeze pretty quickly too. So, a better alternative is to try to keep a bucket of melted snow somewhere where it won’t re-freeze, then top up the bird bath, or a flat container, with this every day, or twice a day if possible, so that the birds will at least have some opportunity during the day for a drink. Bird feeders are essential, but it is also helpful to clear a surface high off the ground, perhaps on a garden table, and put extra food out.

It is not a good idea to regularly spread seed or food on the ground near the house, for this can attract rodents to the home, but in these extreme conditions a handful of bird seed scattered on bare ground under a hedge at the end of the garden or at the roadside verge will do little harm and may save a tiny life.

Pictures as words

A word like ‘cat’ in written English has no resemblance to the real thing, so association has to be taught, often with supporting imagery. (Cat image courtesy of WP ClipArt.com)

English is written in a modular symbolic form: the word ‘cat’ has no inherent relationship to what we know as a cat, it acquires its meaning only through learned association. The letters within words denote sounds and sometimes meanings as well, but they are not constant. Contrary to what we were taught as infants, ‘A’ is not for apple, it has many other uses and when placed within the spelling of apple, the letter itself is meaningless other than as an indicator of sound; but even that can change, as it does in ‘day’.

On a website about nature, such observations may seem like irrelevant pedantry, but there is a view that the need to record and write about our natural world in this confusing, abstract form has changed the very way we regard nature itself, and limited the manner in which we discuss it. Some leading international ecologists contend that, in the same way that when we give something a number instead of a name, it loses its character and identity, the abstract symbols used in written languages of modern western culture serve to anonymise nature and distance us from it in our discussions of the natural world.

Some Mandarin word symbols are still recognisable as pictographs of real world natural objects today. Image © Copyright BridgeNature.org 2018.

In comparison, the written languages of Ancient Egypt, Japan and China use pictographs, little representative images, to describe and discuss the natural world. In Mandarin the sun was, in ancient times, depicted with a recognisable image of the sun; today the word for a tree is still a recognisable pictograph of a tree. Could it be that the use of this type of written language, as opposed to ours, inherently fosters closer cultural connections with nature? Some people believe so.

Various modern English letters also began their history in ancient times as depictions of real entities, but they have evolved over the ages to the extent that most are now barely recognisable as illustrations of their original subjects, and they no longer have any meaning associated with that origin. The letter A began life as an image of an Ox’s head (you can get the idea if you turn the A on its side), but it does not mean ‘Ox’s head’ in any words in which it is placed. B was a house (unrecognisable in its modern shape); D was a door; L (upside down) was a walking stick; M was water, showing the waves on the sea; N was a snake; O was an open eye; P was a mouth (ironically still used in jokey modern text messages to show a mouth with a tongue out); Q was an image of a monkey (and yes that sweeping lower stroke was its tail); X was a fish (representing the part where the fish’s tail joins the body). An X was used as the secret fish symbol of early Christians.

It’s a strange thing, but even discussing these ancient origins of our English letters and Chinese pictographic words does seem to draw us a little closer to the natural world of our past, and it invites conjecture on how a pictographic modern western language, if we had one, or even some other linguistic form, might have influenced discussions and attitudes to nature and ecology today.

This article was inspired by the visionary and thought provoking book ‘The Spell of the Sensuous’ by David Abram.

Chasing a misshapen ball

The current cricket facilities at Highland Court Farm are historic, on a small scale, and have old world charm; few would consider them obtrusive. The proposed new sports complexes would be on a significantly larger scale. Image © Copyright BridgeNature.org 2018.

In recent months a huge new building development scheme has been proposed for Highland Court Farm on the Bekesbourne Downs in our local AONB. Within it there is a very substantial element of sports complex development included. Indeed, the developer indicates that a new home for Canterbury Rugby Club is a fundamental part of the plan, along with club and pitch facilities for other ball sports. While building development in an AONB is always controversial, traditional sports pitches may appear less so, on the grassy surface at least. The original terms of Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty designation do indicate some conditional support for recreation; so does that mean modern sports pitches and clubhouse complexes comply as an appropriate use of land within an AONB?

From the outset AONBs were envisioned as working conservation areas, the work being farming and forestry, and something close to the original description of the designation is set out in the Countryside Agency’s 1991 Policy Statement on AONBs:

“The primary purpose of the designation is to conserve and enhance natural beauty.

In pursuing the primary purpose of the designation, account should be taken of the needs of agriculture, forestry and other rural industries and of the economic and social needs of local communities. Particular regard should be paid to promoting sustainable forms of social and economic development that in themselves conserve and enhance the environment.

Recreation is not an objective of the designation, but the demand for recreation should be met insofar as this is consistent with the conservation of natural beauty and the needs of agriculture, forestry and other uses.”

While this policy discusses meeting a requirement for recreation, it means something rather different from pitch activities such as football, hockey, tennis and rugby: the policy was clearly intended to provide for activities such as hiking, cycling, horse riding and fishing, all for the benefit of enjoying the beautiful rural scenery of the AONB. Quite obviously it was not condoning the building of sports pitches, stands, stadiums, membership clubs and car parks, all of which would, by their very nature, interfere with the needs of agriculture and forestry while despoiling the rural scenery of the AONB.

Bridge village has a recreation ground which is underused for traditional ball sports. Image © Copyright BridgeNature.org 2018.

Those local people who wish to spend their leisure time chasing balls, already have plenty of facilities in which to do so, but our local village recreation grounds are underused by local people for traditional amateur sports, suggesting there is limited demand. Those who have most to gain from the new facilities proposed, would be commercial sports clubs wishing to expand, and they would draw supporters and participants from all over Kent, possibly to be joined by sporting opponents from far beyond. This would not be appropriate or welcome here: valuable farmland in our AONB is not the place in which to create showpiece sports facilities for everyone in Kent, either for the sake of those few who are unsatisfied with what they already have, or to enrich those who would exploit the land for their own commercial interests.

Bekesbourne village recreation ground is also much underused for traditional sports. Image © Copyright BridgeNature.org 2018.