Why on Earth.pngThe question ‘What have soils ever done for us?’ brings lots of replies: the provision of food, fibre and fuel, a source for pharmaceuticals, water purification, flood and climate regulation to name but a few.  Although we understand the need for fertility, light, water, etc, we tend to regard soil as just the medium we pop our plants into, rather than a treasure trove. However, scientific research in recent years has revealed how rich, complex and full of life it really is.

“Soil is an incredible, vital, and undervalued resource. It takes up to 400 years to make one centimetre’s depth of soil. One teaspoon of soil contains more living things than people on Earth.”  Royal Society.

Sadly, the research also reveals that soils have been in decline for a very long time, in reality since humans took up the plough. Moreover, soil loss rates have speeded up dramatically since the adoption of much more intensive farming methods and governments are now concerned to address the problem with regenerative farming approaches...

Brian the Beaver

Our readers probably know already that beavers have returned to both Cheshire and Derbyshire and are thriving in the habitats designated for them by their respective Wildlife Trusts.  Even better news is that, since 1st October 2022, they have been officially designated as native AND protected species in England as well as Scotland. 

The best news of all is that a beaver has recently appeared in the Churnet valley, having made a freedom bid from his East Midlands base and travelled independently up the catchment via the Trent and the Dove.  The Staffordshire Wildlife Trust staff who found him christened him ‘Brian’ but were sorry to hear that his incautious behaviour had led to him being recaptured and returned to his ‘transit camp’.  An enchanting creature, who doesn’t eat fish, improves the habitat and prevents downstream flooding, he and his fellows will be very welcome when they are allowed to return officially...

GR bughunt 2For this edition, we have a contribution from the coordinators of our Youth Engagement team, Sally and Moira, whose activities cross all boundaries! 

We were very interested in Buxton Wild Weeks that were held last summer and decided that it would be great to do something similar ourselves. Buxton Wild Week engaged with nearly 1000 children, working with three primary schools.

We approached schools as we wanted to get those in and around Leek involved but aiming for one week only with maybe some family activities at the weekends. It was a greater success than we thought as we now have 13 schools involved from nursery to secondary, which is amazing – if a bit of challenge!

Screenshots of carbon in atm KTGLast week MCA co-hosted a screening of the film Kiss the Ground with Fox Dox, Foxlowe Films’ documentary wing.  The film was all about regenerative farming, sometimes called carbon farming.  This practice is based on the relatively recent scientific understanding that tilling soils and leaving them bare brings about losses to the atmosphere of the carbon bound up in soil organic matter. Conversely keeping the ground covered with crops, grasses, mulches or perennial plants reduces this loss. 

Slide1You may well have heard about the Government's Environmental Land Management schemes. These will affect us all but in particular, the lives and livelihoods of farmers. They constitute a 3 tier Government reform linking to its 25 year Environment Plan to achieve net zero carbon emissions by 2050. Farmers and landowners are to be rewarded for managing their land to benefit nature and the environment..

leaf on groundFifty plus years ago, I used to help my dad in our Market Garden/Plant nursery. We used to grow a wide range of flowers and vegetables. I remember each Autumn in the late 60’s, my Dad would ask a neighbour (a man who drove the local council vacuum sweeper waggon) if he could empty its contents of leaves in a pile at the corner of our nursery, instead of putting them on the local tip. Dad even chose certain roads where he knew the trees and that there would be just leaves, very little traffic and not rubbish! When we had a good quantity of leaves we would leave them to rot and then spread them on the land as good humus. We also used horse manure with straw from the local stables.