Learning the Secrets of the Solent

It was a pleasure to meet up with Emily Stroud  (picture right, above)recently from the Secrets of the Solent Project as we visited a number of coastal sites around West Wight.

Secrets of the Solent is a Heritage Lottery funded project, run by the Hants and Isle of Wight Trust aimed at raising the profile, understanding of the marine environment in the Solent. The project area is large covering the north coast of the Isle of Wight and a long stretch of mainland coast and estuaries including Portsmouth and Southampton.

Emily explained that the Solent is a wildlife gem, with hidden seagrass meadows and chalk reefs below the surface. However, in spite of it being a well populated area with heavy industry in places, it is also rich in wildlife and is an inspiring landscape. The project is funded for just 4 years and there is plenty to do in terms of getting volunteers involved and helping to collect wildlife data to help better protect marine life and habitats.

Isle of Wight coastline

Exploring the Secrets of the Solent, Fort Victoria Country Park

Over the life of the initiative the team will engage with communities through art and citizen science, groups, local businesses connected with the Solent to better appreciate what we have but also to encourage personal action to protect the natural heritage.

Without question the team’s task is ambitious but to my mind the project could not come at a better time than now. As we leave the EU, we must ensure that the EU nature designations are replaced with new protection measures that are robust – to do that we all need to appreciate learn what our natural environment has to offer – no more so than the marine environment as it is so hidden from pubic view. If Secrets of the Solent can help communicate and help us better understand the Solent environment then it is a job well done.

 

For more information visit Secrets of the Solent

Photos: Pete Johnstone

White tailed Eagle reintroduction to the Isle of Wight?

White tailed Eagle reintroduction to the Isle of Wight?

A personal reflection.

I was pleased to be able to get to one of the consultation meetings over the proposed reintroduction of the White-tailed Eagle onto the Isle of Wight in 2019. The project is certainly ambitious and one that might be expected of wild remote coasts rather than a lowland Island off the busy English south coast.

Fourth largest Eagle in the world.

The White-tailed Eagle or Sea Eagle as they are often called is undoubtedly an impressive bird. The adult has a 2.5 metre wingspan with a white head and tail. Their current range covers northern and eastern Europe and was largely lost as a breeding species in England by the end of the 18th c. It was in the mid-1970s that Sea Eagles were successfully introduced into Scotland on the Isle of Rum. And as it happens, I was working on Rum at the time and among my other duties, I helped build the cages to keep the young in before they were fledged and released into the wild.

Courtship display

Some years later whilst still on Rum, I had the fortune to watch their courtship display when high up in the sky, the birds locked talons in mid-air and cartwheeled down earthwards before releasing themselves only to fly up skywards again.  This courtship display was quite a few decades ago now, but I still clearly remember it – it was spectacular!

The potential reintroduction of the Sea Eagle to the Isle of Wight is being proposed by the Forestry Commission and the Roy Dennis Wildlife Foundation. Both organisations have a good reputation for wildlife management and for species introductions and more can be found about the plans, along with an online questionnaire at www.roydennis.org/isleofwight .

Display panel

One of the consultation display panels on reintroducing the White tailed Eagle to the Isle of Wight.

Top species predator

So, do we really want a top species predator to be introduced to the Isle of Wight and the Solent? Is the UK conservation movement (or even the Island conservation movement) at one in wanting this reintroduction? Well, I would say probably not – there are reservations, some would argue that we need to ensure existing species and habitats are in good order first before reintroducing species that were here hundreds of years ago.

Others will argue that we need a full time Forestry Commission Wildlife Ranger on the Island instead or that scarce environment funds should go towards maintaining our AONB, country parks and nature reserves.

Yet, notwithstanding the careful preparation work to be completed before any permission is given for reintroduction, this initiative might just be that special thing that highlights the Island’s natural beauty, encourages visitor spend in the local economy, links in with the new Coast Path to be established around the island and balances the current proposal to establish the Island as a Biosphere Reserve.  And if the Sea Eagles are allowed to fly? Then perhaps I might once again see the remarkable courtship display above my head – this time on the Isle of Wight.

Bread making on Mental Health Day

Mental Health Day 7th October 2018

The Isle of Wight Festival of Mind, organised by AspireRyde, was held as part of Mental Health Day and there was a range of activities on offer to help people relax and enjoy life a little more.

I took part in the bread making course run by Vectis Housing. It was an excellent course and was enjoyed by all of us who took part. The end result was tasty too!

Just out of the oven!

The Festival of Mind was held at their community buildings, formerly Holy Trinity Church. Within the grounds of the old church was community growing project called Growing Great Things aimed at improving the health and wellbeing and reducing isolation of local people. I met up with Alice the organiser who told me the project was really well attended  with activities happening three days a week. Numbers of people attending were high with the limiting factor being time and money.

Tomatoes from the Growing Great Things project

Growing Great Things is just one of several green centered activities to be found on the Island aimed at connecting people with the outdoors and the natural environment.  It seems to me that perhaps more could be done to promote these excellent activities to both the wider public and to the health and care profession so that they can be better accessed by more people and better funded.

 

 

 

Photos by Pete Johnstone

More photos of Mental health day can be seen here

It was great to see my portrait of cabinet maker Gary Mowle being featured at the Freshwater Coffee House on the Isle of Wight today. Gary was one of my portraits in my recent West Wight People and Place exhibition held at the Dimbola Museum and Galleries earlier this year. 

The exhibition illustrated local people and their connection to heritage and local community. Gary was one of 16 other portraits of West Wight people. 

Gary Mowle, an image from West Wight People and Place

Stefan Powell the owner (pictured right above) of the Freshwater Coffee House has featured the photograph of Gary as the first in a line of portraits, in the coming months, to illustrate the diversity of people living in this corner of the Island.

 

Photographing the Greensand Country

Greensand Country Landscape Partnership

It was particularly pleasing to secure a photography commission from the Greensand Country Landscape Partnership as previously, some years back, I had played a part in helping to devise the Audience Development Plan for the project.

My current role is to help build up a library of photographs that feature the distinctive qualities of the Greensand Country. The two days recently spent in the area were to focus on taking photographs of the first Greensand Country Festival (26th May – 3rd June 2018) with the photos helping to monitor progress and for use in future Festival guides and publicity.

In all I attended 6 Festival events ranging from a ramblers walk, a very well attended Walk4health walk through the lovely and recently restored Ampthill Great Park (again HLF Funded) a Forest School activity through to a singing event on Woburn Sands Station!

I thoroughly enjoyed the two days which was really helped by people happily allowing me to take their photographs.  While taking the photos I must have spoken to several dozen people and it is surprising how few have heard of the HLF funded Landscape Partnership schemes.

These Landscape Partnerships have helped restore many local landscapes up and around the country and one that has engaged many thousands of people in the process. Just one of life’s hidden gems, I guess.

Background: Greensand Country is an island of distinctive, beautiful and loved countryside in the heart of Bedfordshire. The area contains all of Bedfordshire’s remaining heathland, more than half of its woodland and more historic parkland per hectare than anywhere else in the country. It is a landscape rich in wildlife and cultural heritage, with its own special qualities and sense of place.

More info: http://greensandcountry.com/

Photographs. Taken by Pete Johnstone, published courtesy of Greensand Country ©. All images have parental permissions where required.

 

 

West Wight People and Place

My aim over 2017 with West Wight People and Place was to try and capture a sense of place of the area, through photographing people in the rural community of West Wight – and through them their activities and connections to heritage, land, sea and community.

Whether I have achieved my ambition or not is open to question, but personally I have certainly learnt a lot about this part of the Isle of Wight such as the social issues around living in coastal towns and the management of landscape of the Wight AONB and Heritage Coast.

The people in the photographs are undertaking a whole range of activities to be found on this western tip of the island and include cattle farming at Alum Bay, next to the world famous Needles to willow weaving an arbor on the wildlife rich Yar estuary, just a few minutes walk from Yarmouth.

James Osman, Warren Farm, Alum Bay

Each picture in the exhibition has some accompanying text about the person in the photograph to explain who they are and there connection to the West Wight area. Other people featured include a shepherd, artist, historian, community activist, cabinet maker and more.

Kingsley Hollis, Shepherd, Newtown National Nature Reserve

An image from West Wight people and Place

Joanna English, Artist, Headon Warren

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

The exhibition is being held at the Dimbola Museum and Galleries in Freshwater Bay from the 26th January until the 13th May.

Further details to be found Here 

West Wight People and Place (Isle of Wight)

Final (frantic?) touches are going into the exhibition which launches next week at the Dimbola Museum and Galleries, in Freshwater Bay on the Isle of Wight.

I am really looking forward to the exhibition opening and show casing the many fascinating people I have photographed in West Wight over the past year.

West Wight People and Place seeks to capture the contribution that people are making to this diverse rural community, be it around the sea, landscape, heritage or the community itself.

Also great to be co-hosted with Jan Ramscar.

Pete Johnstone

 

 

 

West Wight People and Place

The West Wight People and Place project is taking shape. A few more portraits to take and then final preparation for the exhibition early next year.

Remember those old grainy black and white photographs of farm workers starring at the camera, their names, now long forgotten?

Well, the idea behind West Wight People and Place is to try and capture a more modern version of the community in the West Wight area. People who are, in some way, connected with the land, sea, community or heritage of this wind-swept corner of the Isle of Wight.

Its a moment in time.

Photography: Pete Johnstone

 

Red Squirrels: A Future in the Forest, a Crowdfunding project from Scotland

Here is an opportunity to contribute to a crowdfunding project in Scotland combining Red Squirrels, a life time passion and some stunning  photography.

Today  sees  the  launch  of  a  crowd  funding  campaign  to  raise  funds  for  The  Red  Squirrel:  A  Future  in   the  Forest  -­‐  an  exciting  new  photo  book  from  wildlife  photographer  Neil McIntyre,  with  words  from   celebrated  author  Polly  Pullar.

The  book  will  be  packed  with  Neil’s  jaw-­‐dropping  images  and   evocatively  portrays  not  only  the  lives  of  his local  squirrels,  but  the  forest  home  they  depend  on.

The   crowd  funding  campaign  runs  throughout  November  and  is  all  or  nothing.  Any  support  you’re  able  to   provide  is  hugely appreciated,  whether  it’s  spreading  the  word  or snapping  up  an  exclusive  reward.

UPDATE: Project raised in excess of £25,000 through crowdfunding – well done to the team! It certainly shows that with a good idea, excellent networking and a good team, environmental crowdfunding can really bring success. 

Visit the campiagn on Kickstarter here

Photo and video credits: Neil McIntyre

A Great Place

October has been spent meeting some interesting people – perhaps you may know some of them from my mosaic – and in visiting places around the island to get to know my new home.  I am learning a lot of what the Island has got to offer and what it has not.

Finding the funds to do valuable work is a common theme when talking to people be it on church or parish projects, landscape improvements or those working on regeneration projects such as the Pluto Project in Sandown, mentioned in my last blog.  It is good to know that crowdfunding is being talked about with enthusiasm and hopefully my crowdfunding video – tips for success will be of help to those who have yet to venture into this form of fundraising.

I was really chuffed that On the Wight chose one of my photos, Abstract Sands to be their photo of the week – particularly pleasing for me as most of my photography tends to be of people rather of landscapes.

The two best venues I have been to this month are the Piano Cafe in Freshwater which serves excellent coffee and the Neil Williams Gallery in Ventnor whose landscape photography is truly stunning. The Island is certainly a great place and I look forward to seeing more of it and meeting new people in the months to come.