All posts by simon oldridge

Biodiversity – Reason to be Cheerful

by Malcolm Baldwin

If you want a cheery sight in this winter Covid lockdown, look no further than Staverton Churchyard.  The early spring flowers are showing themselves amongst the gravestones of our ancestors.  It’s a comforting thought to know that those who lie peacefully in the graveyard are part of this annual cycle of renewal.
Frescoes of the crocus plant were found in Knossos Crete, the oldest Mediterranean civilisation pre-dating the Greeks. The spice saffron comes from the stigmas of the autumn variety – crocus sativus. These flowers in the churchyard provide early nectar for emerging queen bumblebees searching for a place to nest.

The recent heavy rain we experienced in early February has been a boost for the various mosses and lichens which adorn the headstones on the graves. The abundant presence of lichens is a sign of pure air quality; they add the patina of age to these monuments of the past.
We all think of daffodils as harbingers of spring, and for many of us they bring to mind Wordsworth’s poem
‘I wandered lonely as a Cloud’.

I wandered lonely as a cloud
That floats on high o’er vales and hills
Where all at once I saw a crowd
A host, of golden daffodils.
Beneath the lake, beneath the trees
Fluttering and dancing in the breeze.

Apparently Wordsworth’s favourite flower was the lesser celandine, another bright yellow sunny reminder of increased daylight. They are now fast appearing the Staverton Churchyard. On his death Wordsworth requested that a lesser celandine be carved into the headstone on his grave. However the stonemason was not properly informed, and thought the great man’s grave should be adorned with the greater celandine! It’s a lovely flower but not nearly as beautiful as its lesser cousin.

Staverton is well known for its snowdrops on the river bank. Their season in ending now in the constant cycle of decay and renewal. These flowers are an early treat for the bees, and they reproduce mainly by bulb proliferation. There are 250 varieties with many hybrids. So which are these? Don’t ask!

Staverton Parish Council passes motion supporting the Climate & Ecological Emergency Bill

As chair of Sustainable Staverton, I was delighted that Staverton Parish Council passed a motion in support of the Climate & Ecological Emergency Bill at their meeting last week.

Backed by almost 100 MPs, the CEE Bill is a parliamentary bill drawn up by scientists and academics which would commit this and future governments in law to following the scientific advice on climate change.

Read more here:  The motion is attached below.

Our MP, Anthony Mangnall has spoken out strongly in favour of action to tackle the climate and biodiversity crisis, and I’m very hopeful that with strong support from the Totnes constituency, he will join the cross-party group of MPs backing the bill.

All governments have to contend with keeping various conflicting groups happy in a relatively short election cycle. Making a commitment in law to follow the science will give businesses the certainty they need to invest and people the confidence to re-train in the green sector.

If you’d like to send Mr Mangnall a letter of support, there’s guidance at

Copy of the motion passed by Staverton Parish Council:

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Positive climate & biodiversity news

Here’s an article posted last Friday by John Nightingale on Sustainable Dittisham’s website.


Afternoon all

There have been some very positive things happening this week but I’d like to start with my favourite which is that scientists from Oxford University have developed a cost-effective way of producing jet fuel from carbon dioxide, achieved by using an inexpensive iron-based catalyst. So at last we won’t just be able to fly to lush tropical destinations without feeling guilty, if it helps to use up carbon, we may have to!

France has been in the news this week after Greenpeace, in hand with other French conservation groups, won a case in the French courts which ruled that the state had failed to take proper action to tackle the climate crisis. The decision makes France legally responsible for its commitments to reduce greenhouse gas emissions and therefore liable for “ecological damage” linked to global warming. Yeees! Get those lawyers over here and let’s force our government to fulfill their obligations.

Animal welfare has definitely come onto the French radar too with the announcement of plans to phase out mink farming and ban the use of wild animals in circuses as well as dolphins and orcas in theme parks. Parc Asterix has announced the closure of their sea lion and dolphin aquarium. At the same time the Paris City council has decided to shut down the ‘cruel and archaic’ live bird market that has operated since time immemorial in the city centre.

I find it extraordinary and exciting that we’re now witnessing the death of the internal combustion engine and can enjoy watching the behemoths of the oil world scrabbling to get onto the renewables wagon. BP’s oil and gas production is expected to start shrinking by at least one million barrels of oil a day and it plans to cease exploring for oil and gas in new countries. BP’s intention is to shrink its carbon footprint to net zero by 2050 by cutting more greenhouse gas emissions every year than is produced by the whole of the UK.
BP bought the electric vehicle charging network Chargemaster a couple of years ago and Shell have just acquired Ubitricity, a European wide charge points provider. ‘Green forecourts’ eh? We like the sound of that.

Electric Vehicle technology has just done a huge jump with the unveiling last week of a new electric car battery that can be fully charged in five minutes. That is a game changer for EVs and will definitely speed up the disappearance of petrol and diesel vehicles.
Jumping to the other side of the world, three jaguars, a mother and two cubs, have been released into Iberá National Park in North Eastern Argentina in an attempt to rewild the local ecosystem. It’s 70 years since jaguars have been seen in the Iberá Wetlands, after being hunted to local extinction, and the hope is to re-establish a healthy population of over a 100 jaguars in the area.

And as for tiny creatures, we don’t get much smaller than this –

Brookesia nana, a species of chameleon, has recently been found in the rain forests of northern Madagascar and is the smallest adult reptile ever described. Just two specimens have been found, one male and one female. The female is 29mm long from nose to tail while the male is considerably smaller at just 21.6mm, making him the smallest adult reptile ever described. He makes up for his diminutive size however, by having enormous genitals which, when ‘flexed’, account for nearly 20% of his length. I’ve attached a picture of the little guy although luckily there’s no flexing going on!

Have a great weekend everyone,


If you’d like to get involved in Sustainable Staverton, contact any of:

  • Greener homes group: Simon Oldridge – email – 07889 379910
  • Biodiversity group: Julia Bond – email
  • Transport group: John Forte – email

Sustainable Staverton – new name for parish biodiversity and climate group

Sustainable Staverton is a community group set up by Staverton Parish Council following its vote to declare a climate emergency in 2019.  The group has changed its name from Staverton Climate Action Group to reflect the wider focus on our entire environment including biodiversity.

Our aim is to share useful information on actions people can take to help protect and restore biodiversity and to reduce carbon footprints. This includes providing support to people claiming the Green Homes Grant which pays up to £5,000 up front for improved insulation or green heating (£10,000 for people on benefits).

Our biodiversity group is actively working to help convert more areas to wildflower meadow. Our transport group is engaged in discussions with Dartington Trust about a possible cycle route to Dartington Hall through North Woods which would offer an off-road cycle route all the way to Totnes.

We are considering separating the Sustainable Staverton pages into a dedicated website to make it easier to navigate content.

We aim to meet every month on zoom. New people always welcome. No formal commitment expected. Contact Simon Oldridge for details.

1m tall oak trees available from Sustainable Dittisham – min 30p donation



Creating Habitat and raising funds for Sustainable Dittisham

We have at least 600 bare root oak trees, most around 1m tall. Trees provide valuable habitat, retain soil and water and store CO2. You could be planting them on your land for a minimum donation of 30p per tree. All funds raised will go to a general Sustainable Dittisham fund to be used for other good projects in the area. The cost of the trees is being covered by one of our members so it ALL goes to Sustainable Dittisham. Please tick the gift aid part of the donation form because then your donation is raised by an extra 25% and please do consider donating a bit more than the minimum, 30p/tree is already pretty good value for an oak tree this size.

Provenance: The trees are UK grown from UK seed

Species: Quercus robur, Pedunculate Oak

The Parish of Dittisham Charity is kindly allowing us to fundraise through them which means that we can reclaim gift aid on your donations. The form has the payment details on it.

Download the donation form

Trees can be collected from Capton on the way to Dittisham. Just email me, Sune Nightingale, via to arrange that once you have made your donation.

Please do tell your friends about this, particularly anyone who owns land. Thank you.

Message from Hill House Nursery

The Winter Café at Hill House Nursery, Landscove is now in operation for the whole winter season, 11am to 4.45pm daily except Mondays.  Seating is spaced out for safe distancing and on fine days there is seating in the garden.  We ask our customers to wear masks when ordering at the till and talking to staff.  Pauline will make Christmas cakes to order, iced and ready for you to decorate. 01803 762261  The Winter Café will close on 18th December for three weeks.  
The Nursery remains open 7 days a week 11am to 5pm and will close on 18th December for two weeks. 01803 762273. We require customers to wear masks inside the greenhouses or when talking to staff.