Action to engage farmers, golf clubs and other landholders in wildlife conservation was the featured theme at the HNHS Autumn Meeting and AGM on Saturday 1 October.

More than 40 members attended the Society's first 'face-to-face' conference since Covid restrictions were lifted held at the offices of Affinity Water in Hatfield.

They heard Edward Darling, who is Chief Executive of the Redlist Revival campaign, explain how his own efforts to encourage biodiversity and protect rare species at his farm in North Hertfordshire led to work encouraging other landowners to take action and measure their impact using comparison data derived from biological recording. Most recently he has been developing 'The Life Map' which is designed to communicate environmental protection data related to the United Nations' goals for sustainable development

He argued that this approach was not only valuable at national level, but also in local planning and in schools and colleges. "We have got to get it right and we need to find better ways to communicate with policy managers and throughout the eduction system. " he said.

Featured picture: Edward Darling speaking to the conference (© Tim Hill)

Two other keynote presenters, Howard Craft, Manager of Berkhamsted Golf Club, and Tim Hill, Conservation Manager at the Herts and Middlesex Widlife Trust, reported on collaborative efforts to demonstrate that golf courses can be successfully managed for both golfers and wildlife.

Tim noted that golf courses cover around 3,500 hectares or 2.15 per cent of land in Hertfordshire compared with just 624 hectares or 0.38 per cent managed by the Trust as designated nature reserves. They potentially have a significant part to play in achieving the goal, following-on from the 2020 Hertfordshire State of Nature report. of having at least 30 per cent of county land and water connected and protected for wildlife recovery by 2030.

Howard described efforts to restore heathland at the Berkhamsted club which is responsible for a large area of common land, in addition to the golf course. Aims included a better balance between grassland, scrub and trees and improved management of an area of ancient beech woodland. Removing fallen leaves, scarifying turf and other steps to manage nitrogen levels had assisted a resurgence of heather as well as Harebells and bedstraws.

Howard Craft at the Autumn Meeting (© Tim Hill)

Grass Snakes and Common Lizards were often seen while Barbastelles were among the bat species using the beech woods.

There were already a number of ponds around the site, but Howard said the club was working to further secure its own supply of water without relying on the mains. A decision had been taken during the recent drought not to irrigate the golfing fairways. These had now 'greened up' again after being scorched  during the summer.

The conference was also given an update on progress during the first year of the new dragonfly atlas survey for Hertfordshire. County recorder Roy Woodward said more than 2,500 dragonfly and damselfly records had already been received from 70 different observers. These covered 30 species or which 29 had possibly bred. This was already more species than recorded during the previous Herts dragonfly survey, between 2000 and 2005, which  found only 22 species, of which 19 probably bred.

The highlight of the recording season had been the discovery of Scarce Blue-tailed Damselfly at King's Mead in late August, a species not recorded in Hertfordshire since 1948. Up to five individuals had been seen, including an egg-laying female. Keeled Skimmer had been found for only the third time in Herts and there had been records of the previously rare Lesser Emperor from at least six sites.

Scarce Blue-tailed Dragonfly (atypical male) at Kings Mead (© Simon West)

Another rarity for the county, Common Demoiselle, appeared to be spreading along the River Ver.

Roy said records in the first year were clustered towards the Southeast of the county, including the Lea Valley, but he hoped more would be submitted in future years from the North and West. He emphasised that records of all species, no matter how common, were welcome via the HNHS website or using iRecord. Observers who were uncertain about a particular dragonfly's identity should still submit the record, especially if they could provide a photograph.

The winners of this year's HNHS  awards were announced during the meeting. The Trevor James Award for an outstanding Hertfordshire naturalist was presented to Dr Jenny Jones who has made an important contribution to the study of bats, Badgers, Water Voles and other mammals as well as wildlife recording generally.

Jenny Jones receiving her award from HNHS Chair Peter Tallantire (© David Utting)

Sadly, Dr Brenda Harold, winner of the 1875 Award for an outstanding contribution to natural history in Hertfordshire was unable to attend the conference having tested positive for Covid. Brenda  is a flora expert who has trained hundreds of enthusiasts to become 'serious botanists'. She devised the Identiplant training programme which has been adopted nationally. We wish her a speedy recovery.


The citations for Jenny and Brenda can be found on our Annual Awards website page.

  We are most grateful to Alister Leggatt and Affinity Water for hosting the conference.