Country Diary: We must fight for this young pilgrim and all British wildlife | Environment

A the peregrine falcon, a juvenile female with mahogany feathers and pale scalloped edges, darted from the rock and brought with her a trail of nervous jackdaws, their wings slicing through the blue air of that bright morning. It may seem strange, but the moment reminded me of words published 30 years ago about this same column. For its readers, suggested Melvyn Bragg, the campaign diary is “one of their touchstones of sanity”. In turn, the Pilgrim was my reassuring shot of sanity in a world gone mad.

Beeston is a National Trust property inside a national park, but even this place has been emptied of wildlife diversity in recent decades. Many of Britain’s most protected areas could be much better for nature. The ambition for a richer landscape thus became a conservative pledge in the last election, built around an intention to dedicate a third of the land to the billions of non-human inhabitants who live there.

The new prime minister, however, wants a bonfire of UK nature conservation legislation. This is a direct threat to the previous administration’s environmental land management program, which was set up to deliver public benefits, including greater biodiversity in exchange for public funds. Liz Truss would rather go back to the old system of giving billions of pounds to landowners just for owning land.

On top of that, 570 environmental laws, taken over from European directives since Brexit, are suddenly threatened. No wonder the National Trust and 77 allied organizations have united to fight what they see as a blatant attack on nature.

What Bragg saw in the campaign diary was something that diverted attention from the “mouth and mammon” of human autodrama to our fellow citizens – plants, lichens, insects, fish, amphibians, reptiles, birds, mammals. The things that are the indispensable common ground of these islands, and that have an existential right to persist here. Today, however, the times are out of whack.

So for the sake of this young pilgrim, I summon all my fellow contributors to this column and invoke the spirits of past great columnists (Bill Condry, Enid Wilson, back to Thomas Coward 116 years ago), and reject the attack extraordinary of this government against nature.

Country Diary is on Twitter at @gdncountrydiary

Beeston Tor in Staffordshire, which has lost much of its biodiversity in recent decades. Photography: Mark Cocker

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