Climate Change: Transforming our country parks

Shorne Woods is one of nine country parks located in Kent, and following the UK parliament calling a climate change emergency, you may be wondering what the future has in store for parks such as these.

Located in Gravesend, Kent, Shorne Woods is a country park which includes a number of facilities such as a café, a sensory garden, fishing lakes and picnic/play areas.

The main reason most people visit the park however, is to experience a day out with nature.

Tim Bell, manager of ‘North and West Kent Ranger Services’ at Shore Woods, believes that Climate Change has a number of impacts on the park.

Rainfall

Climate Change causes an increase in evaporation in the atmosphere, which in turn means that rainfall will have a noticeable change.

Tim says: “Rainfall has changed to become shorter, heavier downpours which causes more erosion on footpaths as the volume of water often exceeds the capacity the ground can absorb.

“Leading to more flooding and more flowing water in the park that washes away the top layer of paths, leading to a higher management cost”.

Warmer Winters

‘Global Warming’ used to be the more widely used phrase for Climate Change, as it was believed that our climate was getting warmer.

Now, people are more aware that the effects of what we do to our environment go further than just an increase in temperature year round.

However, this does not mean that our climate is not getting warmer. At Shorne Woods they are noticing that winters are getting much hotter.

Tim Bell says: “The lack of cold winters means the whole cycle of life of the parks is affected.  Newts may not hibernate at all, or hibernating species wake up too early or go to sleep too late.”

Trees

With a change of climate, comes a change to the habitat of the park. According to Tim, “Trees like Sycamore now thrive as they like a warmer climate. It used to be invasive, now it is becoming naturalised and changing our woodlands forever”.

Ponds drying up

The diversity of the nature at Country Parks, such as Shorne Woods, is very important as one of the primary goals of the park is to educate children on the wildlife.

One problem is that due to the change in climate, some habitats become uninhabitable for the usual wildlife.

An example of this that Tim spoke of was the life in ponds.

“The ponds don’t hold water all year round as they are only rain fed.  This affects the biodiversity of the ponds as it is dry mud in peak summer as opposed to damp soft mud”.

Flowers, Butterflies

Photo courtesy of https://500px.com/guidolinicola

When it comes to Parks, you can’t get more iconic than flowers and butterflies.

However, Tim says that the change in weather is causing a shift in these forms of wildlife.

“With the mild weather starting earlier each year – it often means flowers bloom earlier and so as summer progresses there is less food for the second and third broods of butterflies which affects their population.”

The Importance of Country Parks

Although there are all of these hurdles that country parks face, Tim still see’s the importance of evolving with the times and keeping country parks open and thriving.

“Parks provide a green lung in often very built up areas.  Parks are essential to help people have fun, keep fit, improve their wellbeing and health.

“Over one million people a year visit the Kent County Council owned Parks so they provide a leisure facility to many people. They also provide a large haven for wildlife in a very built up county.

“Many of the parks have rare habitat like Remnant Wood Pasture, Chalk grassland, Veteran Trees, acid grassland and are sites of special scientific interest.”

Tim says that they will “work to steward the land through any changes that take place”, although “this can add to the year round maintenance costs of the parks”.

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