The Water Tower

The Water Tower
The Water Tower at Dusk

Wednesday, November 17, 2010

Something Is Rotten In The State Of Denmark

Strange title I hear you say. My favourite Shakespeare of all time is Hamlet and in recent years I have found myself telling Gerry that some strange events in our household make me want to quote the well known line “Something is rotten in the state of Denmark”.
Perhaps one of the most odd, albeit trivial, was to do with Bluebells. OK, now you think I have gone mad and I will be found drifting like Ophelia down the river Esk. Here is the bluebell story if you are interested and can bear with me on this long story.
Earlier this year in April, the Friends of Ironmills Park group meetings were attended by a lovely lass, Jo Cooke, from the Midlothian Ranger service. At fairly short notice Jo let me know about the opportunity to do some general clearance work, painting of railings and planting bluebells at a select spot somewhere in and around Ironmills Park. She didn’t need any endorsement to do this work from our group but nonetheless our group would (a) be interested in what was planned and (b) could choose a site for the bluebells. I e mailed this on to the group. In any event Jo didn’t manage to secure bluebells but she did manage all the other works.
Around the same time as Jo got her group together to do the park work, Gerry and I were visited by the local planning enforcement officer on the concern that trees were being cut down. It was our joiner sawing wood for the house build and no enforcement was necessary. We put this down to yet another irritating intrusion of our house build project. Some people thought that work had been stopped on the site due to this potential enforcement.
Having asked for a Freedom of Information request this last month with Midlothian Council I was amazed to read the correspondence on file at the same time as the request for enforcement. I quote from the FOI;  Just spoken to Janice re work being stopped at Ironmills Park (Goldwyres applic). She is asking if the planting of bluebells will also be stopped, the reason is that the woodland management plan one of the key factors is the lack of disturbance? Please advise.
 So.... someone in the group set up to improve Ironmills Park, reported on to “Janice” that bluebells were being planted on my ground and “Janice” thought she should call the council and ask that this be stopped because my woodland management plan does clearly state that biodiversity is high due to lack of disturbance.....despite the fact that Jo was acting in her capacity as Midlothian Ranger and planting in the areas owned by Midlothian and not on my ground. 

There was a note in the council files that there was evidence of "collusion" where our planning developments were concerned. 
Something was rotten in the state of Denmark.

Update 2014 - I later found out that "Janice" was "Janis" and here she is on Twitter

Interestingly Janis set up a Twitter account and only ever followed me and Twitter the company. I follow over 70 people on Twitter but I rarely tweet anything. I guess Janis just wanted to keep an eye on what I tweeted. 

I do have bluebells in my garden and they also appear in profusion on the woodland slope every year. They are not the Hyacinthoides non-scripta bluebells and there is no evidence that I have seen that any of the woodland in and around Ironmills Park could be described as purely native bluebell woods. I have seen a distictly native bluebell wood at Lymphoy House where my firends Doreen and Roy reside. Doreen tells me that they actively remove the non native bluebells to try to over turn the balance. I wonder if I should attempt this? but then, the down side of doing that would be to cause more disturbance. Aye, its always a balance. The bluebells on my ground were more evident this year due to the increased light levels after the trees were cut underneath a Scottish Power line that traverses the slope. I didn’t plant these bluebells but some folks seem to think that I did. There are masses of them. Scottish Power do a regular cut under the power line which is indeed a disturbance. But then the price for non disturbance would be no power to the houses in Ironmills!
A neighbour did give me some bluebell bulbs from her garden last year and I don’t expect they are the native british variety either.......... but at least they came from Eskbank. I have them in tubs.
Here is the real story on bluebells taken from a reliable internet site.
The UK is home to about half the world’s population of the Bluebell, with Scotland being its most northerly habitat. Over recent years however, the British Bluebell (Hyacinthoides non-scripta), sometimes known as the Wild Hyacinth in Scotland, has declined severely and is now an endangered species.
The two main causes of this decline are the loss of habitat and hybridisation with the non-native Spanish Bluebell. The Spanish Bluebell is very different to the British Bluebell, and has been planted in the wild or escaped from gardens over the last 100 years to inter-breed with the native variety, producing a hybrid. Both of these new varieties spread across the country much more quickly than the native variety can, and are taking over once purely native Bluebell woods.
In addition to this, British Bluebells are very specific about the habitat they will grow in. They like broadleaf woodlands that are at least 20 years old, with a closed canopy giving them dappled sunlight. They will also sometimes grow under very old neglected hedgerows. Spanish Bluebells, on the other hand, will grow pretty much anywhere, which is why they became so popular with gardeners.
The quantity and quality of suitable habitat has declined dramatically during the 20th century, but, thanks to work by environmental bodies such as Central Scotland Forest Trust, the Woodland Trust and Scottish Wildlife Trust over the last 30 years, there are now woodlands just right for Bluebells.
So how can you tell the difference between the native Scottish Bluebell and the Spanish and hybrid species? The Bluebell native to Scotland is of medium height, up to 50cm, and flowers April–June. The flowers are always azure blue, 14-20mm long with six bell-shaped lobes that curl back fully. They are always on one side of the stem, which droops severely under the weight of the fragrant flowers in bloom. Native Bluebells are found in mature broadleaf woodlands or along hedgerows where they get dappled sunlight.
The native Bluebell
Spanish Bluebells (Hyacinthoides hispanica) are similar in height to the British Bluebell, though much more erect, rarely drooping, with flowers which are less fragrant and range in colour from dark blue through to pink or white. The flowers can be on any side of the stem and their lobes flick out as opposed to curling back, and they have much broader leaves than the native variety. Spanish Bluebells can tolerate sunnier conditions and are often found outside woodlands, in gardens and along coastlines.
The Hybrid Bluebell (Hyacinthoides hispanica x non-scripta) is more difficult to identify, especially in the early part of the season. They are more erect than the British Bluebell, and their flowers can range in colour. Indigenous to Britain, they can still cross-breed with the native Bluebell to dilute the genetic strain.
So what is being done about this decline? The British Bluebell is a globally protected species; in Scotland it is protected by the Wildlife & Countryside Act 1986, and the Nature Conservation (Scotland) Act 2004. It is now illegal to dig them up from the wild, and suppliers must have a licence from the Scottish Government to collect Bluebell seeds to sell, or grow into bulbs to sell on.
In 2003, the charity Plantlife ran a survey of Bluebells in Britain. They asked the public to record all the Bluebells they saw, no matter what type, so they could build up a picture of the distribution of Bluebells across the country and start to monitor the spread of the Spanish and Hybrid varieties. Unfortunately, there was a very poor response from Scotland, with only three records being sent in.

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