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NATURE AND ENVIRONMENT
Highland Bio-diversity

Caithness Draft Index

Biodiversity Index

Nature & Environment Index Page

Caithness Draft Plan
The Caithness Biodiversity Group  -  October 2002

6. Town & Village

Introduction

In an area such as Caithness where the countryside is so valuable for biodiversity, it is possible to overlook the importance of the built environment. However, towns, villages and roads provide an important biodiversity resource, both in terms of the habitats and species they contain and by securing the interest of the local population in helping the wildlife and plantlife on their doorstep.

Biodiversity Objectives

Objective 6.1 Provide greater funding to make parks and school grounds more attractive to wildlife.

Objective 6.2 Provide greater resources to recycling schemes to encourage local people to re-use and recycle waste.

Objective 6.3 Invest in resources to deal with litter, including old vehicles, to prevent fly-tipping.

Objective 6.4 Encourage the later cutting of grass verges and hedges to encourage wild flowers and wildlife.

6.1 Parks & gardens

Habitats & species

Caithness folk value their town parks and urban trees, and both Wick and Thurso have well used parks adjacent to their respective rivers. Smaller towns and villages such as Reay, Castletown, Halkirk, Dunbeath and Latheronwheel have woodland, riverside and coastal walks joining the towns to the surrounding countryside. Thurso, Wick and Halkirk have rivers with associated wildlife habitats that extend right into the towns.

Habitat: (N: National priority, L: Local priority) Present in Caithness:
Parks & gardens (L) Yes

Key species dependant on parks & gardens:
Swift Cotoneaster Snowberry  
Pipistrelle bat Sorbus    

Main issues

Fungal infections and loss of old trees are a threat to urban trees and parklands, and new planting and management is required on an ongoing basis.

With increasing budgetary constraints, park and public garden management is becoming less well resourced. However, leaving some grass areas long and uncut and hedges untrimmed will benefit biodiversity, and there may be a need for awareness raising amongst local people as to the benefits of such management.

Current biodiversity projects

Ranger-led walks and events

Opportunities for action

Conduct a survey of town trees in areas such as Wick and Thurso, and involve local people in new
  planting and management.

Conduct a Rookery Survey over the breeding season with a town school such as Miller Academy,
  possibly involving a video camera link to a nest.

6.2 Roadside verges

Habitats & species

Hedges and species-rich verges have also been identified as a locally important habitat in Caithness, retaining once abundant farmland plants such as orchids, ragged robin, meadowsweet and water avens for local communities and visitors to admire.

Habitat: (N: National priority, L: Local priority) Present in Caithness:
Roadside verges (L) Yes

Key species dependant on roadside verges:
Tree sparrow Goldfinch    
Yellowhammer      

Main issues

If verge vegetation is cut before the wild flowers have time to set seeds, they will gradually be lost in favour of rank grasses.

Using mowers that tear hedge plants weakens their structure and allows disease to set in, and annual cutting of hedges removes a source of food and shelter for wintering birds. Many hedges could be left uncut either in alternate years or on alternate sides each year, to allow hedge plants to flower and set seed, and if hedges must be cut for safety reasons it should be done late in winter / early spring.

Current biodiversity projects

?

Opportunities for action

A roadside maintenance specification that takes account of biodiversity could be agreed and used
  as a basis for future maintenance contracts.

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