I am always bowled over by the complexity of life forms in places where biodiversity is allowed to express itself.
One of those places is Bishop Middleham quarry in Co. Durham. The quarry has been abandoned for 80 or so years and during that time has evolved pretty naturally since then, with little human interference. The rock is magnesium limestone, and this makes it fantastic for flowers, particularly orchids.
We went there today looking for bee orchids in particular, but couldn’t find these elusive tiny plants this time round. Instead we found twayblades galore, early purples, common spotteds and helleborines growing amongst thyme, rock rose, salad burnet, greater knapweed, milkwort and a host of other plants.
Then one of us spotted something sulphur yellow and waxy: not a flower this time, but fungi. What was it? We had no idea.
Others spotted the rare Northern Argus butterfly. Common blues are actually common here. Then we found a flourishing colony of sand martins.
One species we didn’t see was the rabbit, though there were telltale holes galore. All around these holes we could discern their “lawns”: incredibly short turf which is essential for the development of the limestone flora.
Then we noted that conservationists had been busy cutting down invading scrub.
We discussed this. Was it actually a good idea? As long as the rabbits survived, wouldn’t they keep up with the grazing and keep open glades as the scrub succeeded to woodland?
In the light of the growing movement to re-wild our world, are we going to have to seriously rethink the ways in which we do conservation? Or, even cease doing conservation – at least conservation as we know it currently – at all?