Saturday 6 April 2024

Book Review – Back to Nature, By Chris Packham and Megan McCubbin


This book was written by Chris Packham and Megan McCubbin during lockdown. It is a book describing how Chris and Meghan feel about nature through some personal stories and it is interspersed with scientific information about wildlife.

It contains lots of interesting facts about Roundup and pesticides which I think, as a group, we can use for reference. He also discusses how Monsanto (the company that owns Roundup, now Bayer) lobby politicians and other officials to make sure they approve its use. How annoying!

Chris discusses National Parks and how they are not national and governed by local landowners so often work to benefit themselves and their estates – not particularly working for the good of the environment and nature. He relays information about shooting regulations on some big estates in the parks and how inadequate they are in our country – not being as regulated as in other countries which of course leads to a bit of a ‘free for all’ and a lot of abuse by landowners. The other annoying bit of information I learnt here was how we subsidise the medicals for gun licences as the people applying for the licences don’t need to pay!  Goodness knows why not when most of these people applying are from the richer portion of our society.

In the book Chris explains how he became an environmentalist – the route that led him to where he is today. He rants a lot in the novel at the establishment but he does say he feels that people are waking up to climate change and becoming more aware of its problems.

Finally, Chris explains in the book how during lockdown he couldn’t travel. He said how in the past he had ‘travelled to the plains of Africa and the jungles of South America or the frozen north or south of the planet.’ He continues how lockdown made him realise that to access the ‘purest exultation that the natural world had to offer’ he just needed to sit in his garden ‘for an hour with a handful of dirt and a dandelion.’

I think there is a lesson here for all of us on how we need to get ‘Back to Nature’ to save the planet and in effect save ourselves.

A very thought provoking read.

Thursday 4 April 2024

Ask your MP to vote for Ten Minute Rule Motion on peat ban - Tuesday 16th April

The government promised to ban the sale of peat by the end of 2024 but they are dragging their feet and show no signs of introducing legislation. Theresa Villiers is introducing a Ten Minute Rule Motion on Tuesday 16th April that would force them to take action if enough MPs support it. Please contact your MP and ask them to vote for the Motion!

If you don't have your MP's contact details, you can look them up on the Write to Them website. We've written a template email below. Do add a personal comment if you can, as that will make it more powerful. Are you a gardener who uses peat-free compost? Have you ever visited a peat bog and been awed by the biodiversity? 


Dear [MP's name],

I am writing to ask you to vote to support a Ten Minute Rule Motion secured by Theresa Villiers on Tuesday 16th April, calling for the end of peat use by the public. 

The government promised to end the sale of peat in 2024 by introducing legislation. They have told organisations like Friends of the Earth that they will introduce measures when parliamentary time permits. However, time is running out and no measures were mentioned in the King's speech. The Ten Minute Rule Motion provides a crucial opportunity to get the issue debated and voted on in Parliament. If it is voted through to a second reading, Defra would have to draw up a legal framework for a Bill and the government would have to fulfil its promise.

Over the last 10,000 years, UK peatlands have sequestered 5.5 billion tonnes of carbon - nearly 40 times the amount of carbon stored in our woodlands. Peatlands contain about half of the UK's stored carbon. Globally, peatlands store about half a trillion tonnes of carbon, trapping organic matter underwater. Digging up the peat enables oxygen to get to it, so the organic matter starts to decay, releasing carbon dioxide into the atmosphere. The environmental damage caused by extracting peat for compost is immense. It releases huge amounts of carbon into the atmosphere, contributing to climate change. Peat bogs are also excellent areas of biodiversity, so peat extraction contributes to habitat and species loss. You can read more about the importance of peatlands for biodiversity on the Wildlife Trusts' website.

Using peat in horticulture is completely unnecessary. There are more sustainable alternatives to use in bagged compost. Gardeners including Monty Don and the organisation Garden Organic advocate growing without using peat and provide information for gardeners on how to do that. We shouldn't be destroying a valuable habitat and an important carbon sink for our gardens.

The text of the Motion as it appears in the House of Commons order paper is as follows:

Theresa Villiers
That leave be given to bring in a Bill to provide for the prohibition of the sale in England of horticultural peat by the end of 2024; to provide for certain exemptions from that prohibition; and for connected purposes.
Notes: The Member moving and a Member opposing this Motion may each speak for up to 10 minutes.

I hope you will be able to support this. I look forward to hearing from you.

Yours sincerely,

[Your name & address]

Survey reveals love of parks in Leicester

We have spent the last few months analysing the data we collected in our park users survey last summer and the results are clear: people in Leicester love their parks.

We questioned 157 people using seven medium-sized parks in Leicester: Appleton, Willowbrook, Stokeswood, Evington, Hamilton, Humberstone and Spinney Hill Park (the same parks we were assessing for our nature-friendly park award). The majority visited their local park at least once a week, with many people visiting every day. The people interviewed were broadly representative of Leicester’s population, with 49% female and 46% male, a range of ages from 16-75+ and 52% of Asian heritage. 

People were asked to name the four things they liked best about their park and aspects of nature were mentioned most often - greenery, trees, water sources and wildlife. 

The parks provide people with access to nature and greenery, in contrast to their urban surroundings. We know that having access to nature is important for people’s physical and mental health. People felt that the parks are open, friendly, peaceful places. They are drawn to them for exercise but also to watch wildlife and relax. 

The City Council use chemical pesticides as part of their management of the parks, to control vegetation. We asked people how they felt about that and over two thirds (68%) were opposed to it. They were opposed to the use of pesticides in principle and felt they damage the environment and cause harm to wildlife and people. A majority of interviewees (85%) supported the Council using more natural methods. 

We’d like to see the Council listen to people’s views and stop using these harmful chemicals in Leicester’s parks and green spaces. People go to their parks to connect with nature. More wild plants mean more insects, more birds and more life! 

The survey also revealed that people want the Council to develop the parks with more information provision and more support for wildlife, with things like bird and bat boxes. 

The full report and the appendices are both available to download. 

Tuesday 5 March 2024

Tree planted in Evington Park for nature-friendly park award

Yesterday, we planted a tree in Evington Park in recognition of the park winning our nature-friendly park award. (See all our posts about this project here.) 

There is some excellent work happening in Leicester’s parks to encourage wildlife and we wanted to celebrate that. The UK is one of the most nature-depleted countries in the world, with more than one in seven of our native species facing extinction. It is therefore more important than ever that we make space for nature in our cities. All of us involved in this project have really enjoyed visiting all the parks and we were amazed at the range of wild plants and animals we found. We are so lucky to have these green oases in our neighbourhoods. 

We donated a native Crab Apple tree to celebrate the award, which will provide blossom for pollinating insects and fruit for the birds. We brought it to the park by bike trailer, along with a plaque which they presented to park officers. The event was attended by Evington councillors, Deepak Bajaj, Jenny Joannou and Zuffar Haq, the Police and Crime Commissioner Rupert Matthews, who was visiting the area that day, a representative of Leicestershire and Rutland Wildlife Trust, local residents and some children from a Leicestershire school who wanted to learn how to plant a tree! 

Deputy city mayor Cllr Elly Cutkelvin, who’s responsible for the city’s parks, was not able to attend but sent the following message: 

“We work hard to ensure that our parks and open spaces are a haven for both people and wildlife, so it’s great that our efforts have been recognised by Leicester Friends of the Earth.

“The trees, ponds and planting in our parks provide a wide range of habitats for insects, birds and small mammals, helping to create space for nature in the heart of the city.

“I’m delighted that Leicester Friends of the Earth will be planting a tree in Evington Park to acknowledge its designation as a nature-friendly park, and I hope that people will enjoy visiting their local park to discover the wildlife on their doorstep.”

Sunday 25 February 2024

Announcing the winner of the Nature-Friendly Park Award

We have some exciting news today, which we know everyone has been waiting for. We can now announce that the winner of our Nature-Friendly Park award is... [drum roll]

Evington Park!

You can download the full report on our habitats assessment visits last summer here if you'd like to read that. (And for anyone new to blog, you can read more about our nature-friendly parks project here.) In recognition of the award, we will be planting a Crab Apple tree in Evington Park and presenting a plaque on Monday 4th March at 1:30 pm, in the fruit garden area just behind the park house ( Park officers and the Evington councillors will be attending. You are very welcome to come too. 

Monday 19 February 2024

Artificial Turf – what is the true cost?


Have you been for a nice walk lately and seen what is beginning to appear on front gardens?

Artificial turf – better known as plastic grass – and if you will excuse the pun it is sprouting up everywhere – and that is of course just what it isn’t doing because it is plastic and it doesn’t grow!

It’s tempting, isn’t it?  No more mowing.  A perfect looking lawn. A surface the children can play on all year round and without mud being walked into the house afterwards.

There are downsides though….  It needs to be cleaned as there is nowhere for leaves and other debris to go. It can get too hot in the summer to play on and given the way our climate is changing this is likely to become more of an issue. It can also set on fire – there have been incidents of it burning when the sun hits glass or a mirror and shines directly onto the ‘grass’ it scorches it and can cause a fire. I’m fairly sure this is something the manufacturers never mention in their advertising.

From a wildlife perspective there is no life underneath artificial turf.  There is no soil, so no worms for birds to feed on, no worms to pull the dead leaves down into the soil and nowhere for leaves to rot down. Whilst your children might enjoy playing on it wildlife certainly does not.  Our gardens form some of the last refuges for wildlife due to the way intensive farming has reduced wildlife in our countryside.  Surely, we need to nurture our gardens and develop them into oases for wildlife.

Then what about the environmental impact?  Artificial turf is made from a mix of plastics, typically polyethylene and polypropylene, that give off harmful fumes as they degrade, as all plastics do.  As they break up, they release plastic pieces into the environment, some of them so small they can barely be seen, but can end up in our water courses and ultimately in us.  A recent study of the plastic pollution in the sea off Barcelona found that 15% of the plastic particles above 5mm long came from artificial turf.  Plastic particles released into our soil are virtually impossible to remove. There is a high carbon cost in its manufacture and when it comes to end of life and recycling that’s virtually impossible due to the number of containments embedded in it. 

Looking at the advantages and disadvantages, can we really afford it?

Sunday 10 December 2023

Now We Rise - COP28 March

On Saturday 9th December, we stood with XR Leicester, Leicester Animal Rights, Green Guardians Leicester and Climate Action Leicester for a march through the streets of Leicester to mark the International Day of Action for Climate Justice.

Speeches were made at Leicester’s Clock Tower and then we marched to the Town Hall Square where an aerial picture was taken. People were dressed in black to represent an oil slick as they asked world leaders meeting at COP28 in Dubai to stop drilling for new oil: ‘Rosebank Oil Wells’ has recently been approved. We don’t need to drill for new oil we have enough for our needs already.

Thousands of people across the world rose up on Saturday; people from 4 continents, 50 countries, 300 locations – standing together to raise awareness of the need for action to stop global temperatures increasing more than 1.5 C.

Melanie Wakley from FoE said “We want promises that mean something. Promises that stand for a reality of things we can achieve to save our planet from environmental disaster and promises that are made and are kept, not watered down once everyone goes home from Dubai.”

The march ended with the chant from XR Leicester “We want action! Action for the Climate! Action for Nature! We want Climate Justice! The people have spoken – Now We Rise!”

Melanie Wakley


The Mind of a Bee written by Lars Chiltka and reviewed by the Green Book Group

This is a fascinating book delving into the mind of a bee supported by hours/years of scientific research.

The book begins with the introduction of ‘What’s it like to be a Bee’ discussing a bees first journey after it leaves its nest – describing how they have to immediately remember their route home and also how they can make choices – so everything in their world is not decided by innate priorities. They can choose their own predispositions. It is this first bit of information that makes you immediately realise how clever bees are especially when the author describes how they also communicate in the hive in the dark – sorting out who does what job – just by using their pheromones.

The book itself – although fascinating – does contain a lot of scientific knowledge though and assumes that everyone has that knowledge. I wonder if some of this technical detail could have been simplified slightly to make it more accessible to all readers.

The last chapter in the book about why we need to conserve bees is definitely well worth reading. The last paragraph of the ‘Afterword’ leaves you with thoughts to ponder on…..

‘The ancient bees honey might well have provided the necessary carbohydrates for our ancestors’ costly brain enlargement, and might thus have fuelled the evolution of the human mind.

We owe bees. Act accordingly.

A very thought provoking read about the value of such a small insect to humankind.

By Melanie Wakley

Wednesday 6 December 2023

Climate Emergency Action Plan consultation - respond now!

Leicester City Council are currently consulting on their new Climate Emergency Action Plan, which will cover the next five years until 2028. The consultation is open until Sunday 28th January 2024 and you can read the consultation documents here. We are writing a detailed response from Leicester Friends of the Earth but it will have more impact if as many people and organisations as possible respond to the consultation. You can complete a survey at the link above or simply send an email to with your thoughts.

Here are our suggestions for the key points to include:


Although there are many good actions included in the new plan, there are also too many points without any defined targets, so that there is no way of measuring whether the Council is making progress towards reaching net zero by 2030. There are also too many ‘actions’ listed which are in fact only plans to make plans. These are not actions and should not be listed as such.

The Council

The Council recognises that the most impactful actions they could take to reduce the carbon emissions of their own buildings are to retrofit insulation, install heat pumps and connect more buildings to the district heating networks. However, insulation and connections to district heating are not mentioned in the actions listed in this section. There is only a plan to make a plan! Why not start trying to fund those projects immediately, while creating the roadmap? When we are facing a climate emergency, we haven’t got two years to waste in only writing the plan.


The ongoing programme of insulating council homes is good but nowhere near ambitious enough. There needs to be a target to retrofit all council owned and managed homes, as well as a target to get all homes in the private rented sector up to standard. We would also like to understand what more will be done to encourage privately owned homes to retrofit, as they make up a significant proportion of the city’s housing stock.   

Business, public services and community

The tree planting and Tiny Forests projects happening on school grounds are excellent but they could be more ambitious; aiming to plant five more Tiny Forests by 2028 is only one per year! Could the Council aim to plant a Tiny Forest at every school that has sufficient green space within the next 5 years? That would be a significant number of trees and ensure that most children in Leicester had access to a Tiny Forest.


To make active travel more attractive we need to find ways of reducing traffic levels, so that it is safer to walk and cycle. One of the key factors driving increases in road traffic is light goods vehicles, driven by online shopping.  This is recognised in government statistics but not addressed in this plan (apart from with a plan to make a plan!). More urgent action is needed. For example, the Council could work with online retailers to install more parcel lockers around the city so that deliveries could be dropped at one point for people to collect.

Land and infrastructure

The glyphosate reduction trials in city parks are welcome but we would like to see this expanded. It is possible to manage parks and green spaces without using any chemical pesticides (herbicides, insecticides etc). Other local authorities are also managing their streets without using chemical pesticides and we would like to see the Council follow this best practice and phase out the use of all pesticides in the next five years.

Consumption and waste

The Council state that food waste is being separated from other household waste. How is this done? And is it as effective as a separate food waste collection would be? We are concerned that this is not the most effective way to manage household waste.

It is good to see that the Council intends to increase the choice of meals in schools, to address the climate impact of food. This should apply to all institutional settings, including hospitals, care homes and prisons, not only schools. Vegan options of similar nutritional value to other meal options should be made available for every meal.

Thursday 28 September 2023

Warm Homes Coalition

We have joined the WarmHomesLeics coalition, led by Climate Action Leicester and Leicestershire, along with other groups including The Race Equality Centre, Loughborough Climate Vigil and Muslim Green Guardians. This is part of a national campaign calling on the government to do the following:

  • Roll out a street-by-street insulation programme
  • Provide targeted financial help for people in fuel poverty
  • Act to switch the UK to cheap, home-grown renewable energy
  • Stop providing support for the fossil fuel industry
Find out more about how you can get involved here