Countryside group celebrates 30 years of improving Bromley’s natural environment and appeals for new members

With the natural environment becoming ever more important, the Bromley Countryside Volunteers are looking for fresh members.

Anyone looking for a rewarding outdoor activity is welcome to join the team.

Team spokesman Bob Fisher said: “Our members have just celebrated 30 years managing and enhancing the borough’s countryside for the benefit of wildlife and the wider environment.”

He said that while the borough council is responsible for 200 hectares of land with special scientific interest and five local nature reserves, a lot of important work is carried out by his team.

Bromley also contains the largest area of green belt countryside of all the London boroughs. And the more urban areas likewise have a wealth of wildlife habitats, many of which are designated as Sites of Importance to Conservation.

He said: “The team’s work involves all types of countryside management on land the council owns or for which it has a responsibility. The work is very rewarding and varied.

“Tasks depend on the time of the year, weather conditions and the type of site. Common tasks include the annual grass cutting, raking and scrub clearing to manage chalk grasslands in late summer. This is to encourage a wide range of wildflowers in spring and summer including primroses, orchids and vetches.”

On Keston Common, the team can often be found clearing bracken and gorse to regenerate the growth of heather and undertaking rejuvenation tasks at the bog, a unique habitat in Greater London.

Early months of the year the team operates in Crofton Woods coppicing hazel to encourage woodland diversity and to provide material for use in hedgelaying which is undertaken on sites throughout the borough.

Bob said: “Evidence of this most satisfying task can be seen at Scadbury Park, Jubilee Park and most recently in Norman Park. Other tasks can include clearing overhanging vegetation from footpaths and repairing or erecting countryside furniture such as chestnut post and rail fencing along bridleways or where there are interesting wildlife features to protect.”

Nature surveys are also undertaken.

He said the Bromley team is made up of men and women, operates on sites throughout the south of the borough from the small Cheyne Wood in West Wickham, through to Scadbury Park Nature Reserve to the east.

And he suggests: “When out walking lookout for the team’s logo on signs and shirts.”

Bob said: “Everyone knows there’s a climate emergency, but the loss of biodiversity is just as catastrophic. In the last 50 years, we’ve destroyed well over half the UK’s biodiversity; many birds, insects and wildflowers that once gave our green and pleasant land such richness have simply disappeared.

“No single organisation can save the UK’s biodiversity on its own.

“Instead, we must all work together: individuals, organised groups of volunteers, local authorities, the private sector, government bodies and politicians.

“Biodiversity is the term scientists use to describe all the amazing variety of life on Earth, and how plants and animals interact with each other.

“Humans need a rich biodiversity to supply us with food, clean air and clean water, to help us adjust to climate change, and for health, culture and recreation.”

After years of ignoring this crisis, governments around the world seem to be finally waking up to the fact that we urgently need a new approach to managing nature. A worldwide inter-governmental panel for biodiversity and ecosystem services has been set up, and the UK government launched a 25-year environment plan.

Bob said: “But in the background, quietly and determinedly, and without making a fuss, groups of volunteers have been working for decades all around the UK to ‘do their bit’ and protect what little biodiversity is left.”

Anyone interested can contact Ian Wright, the senior conservation and community ranger at idverde, either by email using Ian.Wright@idverde.co.uk or by phone on 01689 862 815.