February has arrived with brighter skies and a mild spell, for now. The golf course however is still trying to recover and with the water table now higher than usual, any slight showers make it very difficult for any more water to go anywhere. The team has taken advantage of the calm conditions and managed to cut some grass on the course – a rarity during the last month or so. It’s a difficult balance between trying to be productive on the course and the risk of causing significant damage – a one-tonne fairway machine could cause a lot of wheel damage in turning around on wet roughs. Even hand mowers, trying to navigate around the course with wet banks and low-lying water can impact the appearance of the holes and the course’s ability to drain.
Conservation and Irrigation
There have been further works at the recycling area next to the 8th hole, with progress made on the log conservation wall. Ashley and his team have been installing drainage on the 16th hole in an attempt to displace any standing water from the green surround and 17th tee. On the croquet lawns, Chris and the team have been levelling Lawn 3, a substantial task, which has had to be undertaken on the stop start process to take into account the conditions. We have also been renewing irrigation in other areas. Adrian, our irrigation technician is a wizard at installing pipe work and keeping the system up and running. You will see him around the gardens in the next few weeks, trenching and installing pipe work, always with a smile. Despite what the weather has to throw at the department, the team are marching on with projects and preparing the course and grounds for the spring start up.
Drought Resistant Planting
The Beth Chatto Gardens Director David Ward has called for plants to be given a drought-resistant rating and has supported Affinity Water’s #WhyNotWater campaign, calling for consumers to demand changes to legislation and policy supported by government and manufacturers. Ward said: ‘I absolutely support the Affinity project. I also particularly support giving a drought resistant rating to plants and that is something we should explore further. Like a fridge with an energy rating, why not buy a plant with a drought rating.’ The Beth Chatto philosophy for drought resistant planting has been the inspiration behind the planting at the 7th green, with planting that will require less watering once established and is the template for what we hope to create around the estate.
Urban Tree Challenge
Mayor of London Sadiq Khan has secured £2m from the Government’s Urban Tree Challenge Fund to help plant almost 7,000 street trees across the capital. The funding was secured in collaboration with London boroughs, who will plant and maintain the new trees. Khan has matched the funding from the Forestry Commission, the organisation running the fund, with £1m from the Mayor’s Greener City Fund, alongside £280,000 from the Royal Docks Enterprise Zone, and £1m from participating boroughs. As a result, 2,898 trees will be planted in London by the end of March and a further 4,040 trees will be planted next winter. The Mayor has also awarded £1.1m to 54 community projects, part of his Greener City Fund to improve and create green spaces. These new projects will be delivered this year across 23 boroughs, enhancing and improving access to parks, greening school playgrounds, cleaning up canals and rivers, installing new community gardens and creating new wildlife habitats.
Peat extraction ban
The Committee on Climate Change (CCC), an independent non-departmental public body, formed to advise the Government on tackling climate change, has recommended banning peat extraction and sales. The CCC, which is chaired by Lord Debden (former Conservative environment secretary John Gummer) said in its new report, Land-use: Policies for a Net Zero UK that the Government should ‘ban the extraction of peat’. Less than 1% of peat area in England is commercially extracted, mainly for use in the horticulture sector. ‘Since 2012, no new licences for extraction have been granted. Nevertheless, some existing licences are not due to expire until the early 2040s. The extraction of peat for all uses in the UK should cease by 2023, and the Government should work with those licence holders to encourage a cessation of activity well before the expiration of their licence. This could include paying compensation, where not prohibitively expensive. The ban could be passed through an amendment to the Environment Bill.’ As reported on BBC Radio Four’s Farming Today on the 4th February, ‘in 2011, the Government introduced a voluntary phase out of peat for horticultural use in England (by 2020 for the amateur market and by 2030 for the professional market).’ However, this voluntary approach has not produced the desired decline in sales despite the availability of peat-free alternatives for compost and bedding. As primary legislation may be required to bring in the ban, this will provide sufficient time to scale-up the market for peat-free alternatives. Defra is due to publish an England peat strategy, detailing the future for peat use, at some point in 2020 after the document was delayed by Brexit and the election from publication in 2019. Peatlands are a type of wetlands which are among the most valuable ecosystems on earth: they are critical for preserving global biodiversity, provide safe drinking water, minimise flood risk and help address climate change. Peat bogs and fenlands are the largest natural terrestrial carbon store; the area covered by near natural peatland worldwide (>3 million km2) sequesters 0.37 gigatonnes of carbon dioxide (CO2) a year – storing more carbon than all other vegetation types in the world combined. Damaged peatlands are a major source of greenhouse gas emissions, annually releasing almost 6% of global anthropogenic CO2 emissions. Peatland restoration can therefore bring significant emissions reductions.