Shortly we will witness the return of grazing livestock for the new season and thus continue the very ancient tradition of summer grazing on the riverside. The cattle are absolutely crucial to the management of the Sudbury Common Lands pastures and it is worth bearing in mind that domestic livestock have grazed here since time immemorial. So please appreciate the importance of this farming regime and allow it to continue unhindered into the future. Any inappropriate behaviour by out of control dogs or other unacceptable behaviour could jeopardise this tradition which makes the meadows the priceless asset that they continue to be.
It is impossible to begin to fit all of nature’s unfolding majesty into so brief a newsletter but reference to particular plants or animals is always possible. This month’s story is about a fern and lost keys though this was not a case of lost keys at all but loss of curiosity and wonder for nature itself.
Each year the rangers check on the populations of a scarce native plant called adder’s tongue fern which can be found on the meadows during spring. It is of extremely ancient evolutionary origin, having appeared long before flowering plants graced our planet. Having no flower it, instead, reproduces by spores. It is a plant of old undisturbed grasslands and it pushes up a simple single broad leaf and, in favourable conditions, a stem that carries two rows of spores. It is truly curious. If grassland management changes or ceases the plant simply disappears and yet it is very site faithful where management suits it. Checking its status involves walking around looking diligently in the grass for it is very unobtrusive. On one occasion, while doing this, the rangers were asked whether they had lost some keys. On hearing, however, that it was a rare plant that was being admired the enquirer lost all interest and continued on his way. Sadly, that is how most of us adults view the natural world. Children, of course, are naturally open to the amazing variations and quirkiness of nature which is what makes it such a joy to take school groups out on the riverside during the summer months.
Adults, parents and teachers all need to reconnect with nature in order to give children the opportunity to appreciate the enthralling wonders out on the riverside. Sudbury Rotary is doing sterling work in encouraging schools to leave the classroom and get out there. If the teachers do not ‘connect’, children will most certainly miss out on learning about their local environment. However, it goes so much further than that. Research demonstrates the enormous benefits that children accrue from a connection with nature in terms of health and well-being and even educational attainment. Those in regular contact with nature achieve significantly higher attainment in English. Perhaps it is the use of all those adjectives to describe the wonders of nature! Hopefully teachers will remember that they have an unparalleled natural resource right on their doorstep and will join the rangers in exploring its many hidden delights and secrets.