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Orchids, motorbikes or a compromise?

Updated Saturday, 11th August 2007

Rare orchids and displaced bikers vie for priority on wasteland in Milton Keynes.

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There is a piece of ‘waste’ land near where I live in Milton Keynes.  As an ecologist who used to survey these bits of unused land in London for their wildlife value I am quite aware that odd corners like this are certainly not wasteland as far as plants and animals are concerned, infact they are part of the green lungs of the city.  Anyway it turns out that this local bit of land has an interesting array of chalk loving plants including several species of orchid. I also noticed a set of new wooden pegs in the ground as if it was about to be built on so I contacted a range of people and it turns out that the area may have a bike track put on it. The full story is nicely told in a local paper article.

The Parks Trust are planning to move some of the best habitat to another site close by that has very similar conditions. The history of moving plants or bits of habitat by consultants or other organisations is not good, schemes very frequently fail and/or are not monitored correctly resulting in the failures not being reported.  Translocation should be seen as the very last resort if there is no other way to save the species.  However, the Parks Trust here generally have a good record of habitat management and are one of the few organisations that might be able to get this kind of thing to work properly.

I was particularly interested in this little episode as I was almost cast as the villain of the piece for finding the orchids which might stop the bikers from using the land, the bike club had been kicked off their previous home of many years by developers and have nowhere else to go.  It did remind me that one of the species of orchids on the site is in a rather similar situation, it declined rapidly as Britain’s species rich meadows were destroyed during the 20th century but some plants were able to switch to living on old industrial sites so long as they had high ph soil.  Unfortunately now these industrial brownfield sites are the chief target for development so the plants are being thrown out of that home too.





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