The last Straw

Reconnecting With Nature

This week I'll be encouraging you to do what you can within your means.

Through my studies, I've come to realise that a lot of the general public are very detached from nature and what it really means. Luckily for us, living or growing up around a rural area means we've had easier access to nature than some of the rest of the country, but it's still easy to forget the benefits of being in nature when modern living puts so many pressures on us. 

First, I'd like to remind you, the reader, that getting out into nature can have both physical and mental health benefits for us. This has been proven with multiple studies, and one study even suggests that a little bit of gardening is particularly healthy for people who may not be able to get out and about much.

When the average person is in a healthy woodland or reserve, a good garden or even a local marine area, a strange feeling of relief or freedom often consumes us. We allow our mind some peace and quiet and some time to appreciate the little things. We give ourselves a rest from daily responsibilities, from having a million and one things to do. A rest from technology, from communication, from grey buildings and pavements. Not everybody feels this, but for those of us that do, the feeling is invaluable.

 As mentioned, we live in a rural area, but just take a second to consider how much of our immediate landscape is actually natural; most of it is agriculture land or man-made nature areas, such as Alton Reservoir. Of course both have strong benefits for certain species, but I urge anyone who is able to travel to visit the forests of the Lake District or the Scottish Highlands. The difference in the woodland density is quite incredible, and the further North you go, the more birds of Prey you'll see.

If you're unable or unwilling to travel, there are ways you can get more involved with nature too. Whilst the above paragraph carries a slight criticism, our area is incredibly important for animals that are poorly adapted to urban environments.

I've mentioned gardening above - I urge anyone with a garden to take a few minutes to research ways to encourage garden birds, insects and animals. I am no expert on gardening and do not wish to ill-advise you, but there are many plants that will help out bees, for example. Bird feeders help declining bird populations, and hedgehog 'walkways' (a smallish hole at the bottom of your fence) provides corridors for our spikey friends to move about in.

Litter picking is a great activity to get you out and about. Unfortunately, our area (and Ipswich) is a hotspot for litter. By visiting areas such as The Strand, Alton Water and Shotley Gate for litter picks, you're helping your own mental health, your physical health and nature. (Em, right with baby wipes found on litter pick)

I challenge all my readers this week to actively spend 10 more minutes in nature, whether that be a garden, somewhere on the peninsula or somewhere further out. Let your mind rest, and truly look at what's around you. Listen to the birds, look at the colours of the flowers and breath in the fresh air. Nature is surprisingly underrated, yet it's treated as overrated by many people.

A Spikey Reaction To Wildlife

Here in the UK, we spend a huge amount on pest control services every year. I have been unable to find an exact national figure, but government transparency documents show that £132,619.05 was spent on pest control for the parliamentary estate alone in 2016/2017. 

Thinking logically and ignoring my own personal opinion for a minute, I can understand why certain types of pest control are seen as necessary, especially in regards to farming. 'Pests' such as rats and rabbits can quickly and severely impact the quality and amount of food produced by one field. This would be damaging both economically and environmentally. Farming would not be a profitable business, farmers would seek other jobs and a food shortage could occur. A lower food output means more land would be required to make up for the deficit, which ultimately would be bad for the environment.

Yes, sometimes pest control is justified, but are there situations where we take it too far? I recently heard that Suffolk County Council have introduced spikes on a tree outside an authority building to dissuade birds from landing and defecating in the area (link). Last year, another example of this happened in Bristol (link:).

Trees are natural habitat for birds, and birds that frequent urban areas have simply adapted to an environment that we've created. Is it fair to decide that birds can no longer use certain trees, just because they produce faeces? In my opinion, the answer is a solid 'No'. We should not be punishing wildlife simply for existing and having biological processes. We should be doing what we can to reconnect with nature, not pushing it further away from us.

It amazes me that a pigeon pooping is deemed a 'health and safety' risk. What about the risk we pose to them? We kill thousands of birds a year, either deliberately as pest control, or unintentionally via hitting them with cars, or having outdoor cats. Do we really need to take trees away from birds too?

I have chosen to contact Suffolk County Council to share my views on the measures they've taken. If you would like to do the same, you can contact them via their website:

Write to them: Suffolk County Council, Endeavour House
8 Russell Road
Ipswich,
IP1 2BX

Or phone them: 0345 606 6067

I hope you've enjoyed reading this post, and I'll be back soon with more.

The Last Straw:

Hey! My name is Em and I have chosen to write this blog in association with Peninsula News and Features.

As is mentioned in the ‘about me’ section, wildlife and conservation (and, by default, the environment) are huge passions of mine.  Recently, I’ve been wondering if I could do more to help out the environment – something many others have been wondering after such documentaries as ‘Blue Planet II’ aired.

A quick google search lead me to the idea of ‘zero-waste living.’

One of the key aims to live a zero-waste lifestyle is to cut out or severely reduce plastic consumption, which is where the title of this blog begins to make sense.

According to the Marine Conservation Society, it’s estimated that the UK population uses 8.5 billion plastic straws a year. A single plastic straw can take up to 200 years to decompose. Imagine the mass of plastic that adds up to.

In 50 years’ time, every single plastic straw that was ever created will still be in our environment, whether it’s still one piece or has broken down into microplastics.

Thankfully, more and more people are becoming aware of this issue, and alternatives are popping up all over the place.

My personal favourite alternative is a paper straw. Why?

Because although metal can be re-used and recycled, it still uses up so much resource and remains in the environment if it is not disposed of properly.

Something as simple as a straw is easily misplaced, and while I do support them over plastic straws, they can be a little costly. ‘Biodegradable’ plastic straws still take a long time to decompose, and require specific environments for the decomposition to take place. Landfill and the open environment are not ideal; therefore, they also remain in the environment for longer than is necessary.  Paper and cardboard take between two and six weeks to decompose.

This means that no paper product has a lasting affect on the environment beyond the initial use of resource. Most people and companies finding plastic alternatives are also careful to source their products sustainably – after all, why get rid of plastic just to contribute to deforestation instead?

The reason it is so important to consider paper-based alternatives is pretty obvious if you ever drive down a dual carriageway. Plastic litter is everywhere, and it’s now not only affecting animals and their habitats, but it’s worked its way into our own food supply. We are well aware that many plastics can release toxins that are dangerous to us and other animals, so why are we still using things so easily replaced, such as plastic straws?

I will finish this post with a very obvious request: Give paper straws a go. It’s healthier for you, the people you care about, animals and the environment.

I hope you have enjoyed this post and I’ll be back soon with my next one, have a good day. 

© Copyright Shotley Peninsula News and Features

A little bit about Em Hull:

Em 26 years old and studying a BSc in Wildlife Management and Conservation, so her main points of interest are environment and animal related, although she also has a range of other interests such as reading, writing and tea (and more tea). Em enjoys being outside and have a passion for photography.

She have lived on the peninsula for most of her life. Her parents have lived in Chelmondiston since before Em was born. Em attended the local playgroup, primary school and Holbrook High School (as it was previously known). After high school, it took her a little while to figure out what she wanted to do with myself. After trying A-levels, a Health and Social Care Diploma and an Art and Design Diploma, as well as three years in full time employment, Em came across a Foundation Degree in Animal Science. She loved every minute of it, and has now progressed onto the BSc Wildlife Management and Conservation top-up.

Em spent my childhood exploring the peninsula via the footpaths and day trips and has seen many establishments change hands, houses built, and families come and go in her time in Chelmo.

In hindsight, I probably owe my current love of wildlife and conservation to the easy access I had to the countryside as a child. In my eyes, the peninsula remains a fantastic place for children to grow up in, despite the developments that have taken place in the last 20 years.

There is a wealth of wildlife, including different varieties of mammals, birds and bugs.