Things to look for when walking: Signs of Climate Action and Recovery
Eagle-eyed Climate Champion Jennifer discusses the signs of climate action and recovery right on our doorstep in Fife.
When out enjoying walking in the countryside in winter over the past couple of years, I have been sharply aware of Climate Change and its effects on my local surroundings: water gushing off fields already water-logged after prolonged periods of heavy rainfall; ditches, burns and rivers bursting their banks to create floods on roads and pathways as never seen before in these areas; mature trees which have survived harsh conditions for many years, uprooted by extreme storms; unnaturally mild winter days persuading tiny summer-visiting warblers to stay, unaware that there won’t be food to sustain them through the harsh conditions which lie ahead. I have also observed a decline in wildlife, as intensive farming practice has continued to disregard the needs of the natural world: hedgerows have been ripped out removing habitat essential for wildlife; ploughing and re-seeding immediately after harvesting has led to a sharp reduction in the numbers and varieties of birds which depend on left-over grain for winter feeding.
But as I walk this year, I have become increasingly aware that another change is taking place: a change to take positive action against the damage our irresponsible life-style has inflicted on the natural world. Here are some of the signs of recovery which I have noted with delight when walking in the Markinch area.
Stubble fields are back ! Thanks to recent changes in the Government’s subsidies policy, farmers have an incentive to let fields lie fallow over winter. Grain is a main crop in much of Fife, and this winter local farmers have left vast swathes of stubble fields untouched. Two to three years ago these fields were harvested, ploughed, heavily sprayed with harsh chemicals and re-seeded, often within a mere two week period. Nature was deprived of its task of breaking down organic material to replenish the soil’s nutrients and wildlife was deprived of winter sustenance. But the new approach is working, it’s only four months since harvest and already I have seen results: as I walk across the fields, skylarks which have been absent in recent years, lift from their frail, little shelters on the ground, and yellowhammers huddle together on fence wires. For the first time in several years my dog has raised a brown hare and I have watched this magnificent creature bound away, over the field at incredible speed. Migrant starlings, attracted by a plentiful food supply, have taken up residence nearby and I have been treated to the breath-taking sight of a murmuration, as hundreds of these birds swoop overhead, twisting and diving, tightly packed in swirling gyrations, seeking a safe communal roosting place at dusk.
Walking further down the road in Markinch, there is evidence that Fife Council is playing an active part in climate recovery with its new Grassland Management Programme. Severely reduced mowing will have two benefits; it will cut carbon emissions and also allow these areas to return to a natural condition. Grass and wild flowers will be left to grow, providing shelter and food for birds and small mammals; mowing will be restricted to tracks, winding through the long grass, enabling us to enjoy our walks without disturbing the wildlife. The Council is keen for members of the community to get involved and you can look for detailed information about your local area and take part in their grassland consultation here.
From any vantage point on my walk, I can see wind turbines all around producing more and more low carbon, renewable energy, and although not yet visible, work has begun on the Neart na Gaoithe project, aptly named in Gaelic ‘Power of the Wind.’ Over the next four years 54 turbines are to be constructed 15 kilometres off our coast and will supply low energy electricity to 375,000 homes, displacing 450,000 tonnes of carbon each year.
Walking along the coastal path, I catch sight of a single offshore turbine near the Energy Park at Methil. This is being used in a ground breaking project funded by Ofgem, the first of its kind – in the world! Power from the turbine is being used to extract hydrogen from water in a form that can be delivered safely through existing SGN networks, to provide 300 local homes with 100% green energy for heating and cooking,
It is very heartening to realise that at both national and local level, our Governments have recognised the threat that Climate Change poses and have begun to take positive action to redress the damage. But climate recovery is not all down to Government; each one of us must accept responsibility to play a part if we are to succeed in this challenging task, and walking has a part to play. As you read this, newly imposed Covid restrictions will mean that driving is limited and walking outdoors is once again, our only means of social interaction. So let’s turn walking into something positive. Take pleasure in leaving the car at home – you will be helping to reduce Carbon emissions; encourage a reluctant neighbour to join you (albeit socially distanced:) and share your enthusiasm for walking – even in winter; be determined that the enthusiasm sticks and the walking habit remains long after Covid has gone. As you walk, see how many signs of Climate Action and recovery you can spot: look out for the new turbines appearing in the Forth, check out the Grassland Management near you and see if you can be the first to notice something new.
What signs of Climate Action have you spotted in your area? Large scale wind turbines or small scale garden projects, keep your eyes peeled when you are out walking, and share your discoveries on our social media pages. You may be surprised by how many people are doing their bit.
This post is one of a series of walking blogs by our Climate Champions to promote our Winter Walking Festival. You can find a number of great Kirkcaldy walks with downloadable routes in our Kirkcaldy Winter Walking Festival Programme. You can also take part in our walking photo competition to win a £30 Kirkcaldy Gift Card – click the festival link above for details.
Fife Council, www.fife.gov.uk
William Starkey, wikipedia.org.uk
Spectrum Energy: spectrumenergysystems.co.uk