Section 40 of the Natural Environment and Rural Communities Act 2006 places the following biodiversity duty on all public bodies:

“Every public authority must, in exercising its functions, have regard, so far as is consistent with the proper exercise of those functions, to the purpose of conserving biodiversity”

The duty applies to all local authorities, including parish and town councils. Its purpose is to raise the profile of biodiversity and make it a natural and integral part of policy and decision making.

Cheveley Parish Biodiversity Group

In 2014 the Parish Council committed to producing a Parish Biodiversity Audit and Plan. A Cheveley Parish Biodiversity Group (volunteers) was established in 2015 and has worked on the audit. The Biodiversity Audit has been completed and was presented to the Parish Council in November 2016:

The Cheveley Parish Biodiversity Group is now working with the Parish Council and the Cambridgeshire & Peterborough Biodiversity Partnership to agree on continuing work to improve knowledge of Parish Biodiversity and further improve records for the Parish. At present we are considering a number of potential activities:

If you are interested in local ecology, biodiversity and the environment and would be willing to participate in the working group or give your time, knowledge, skills and enthusiasm to become involved in what will essentially be a citizen science project – please contact me directly or through The Parish Council if you prefer.

Advice and suggestions will be welcome.

David Cudby
Telephone: 01638 669964

Biodiversity blog

David produces a biodiversity blog ‘The Ecologist in the Park‘.

“The services that this website and associated blog will provide are unique.  My ongoing wildlife observations and records will be available to the local community and, more widely, as a case study for those with an interest in their own local small spaces – perhaps inspiring others to make their own observations and records (for posterity).  Using my local observations to illustrate situations that can arise in small-scale land management and conservation, a light might be shone on situations that arise elsewhere. In this way, a dialogue can be encouraged, experiences shared and knowledge increased”.

David Cudby, January 2018

Spotted Flycatchers in Cheveley Park

Cambridge Bird Club is running a project to monitor the migration of Spotted Flycatchers between our County and South Africa. It is working with the British Trust for Ornithology (BTO) and has involved some ringing and micro-chipping of a number of birds including a pair that last year bred in a local back garden. Some of the birds have since been recovered and there appears to be 4 pairs currently established in a little area of Cheveley Park. It is clearly a perfect habitat for them to start the next generation of spotted fly catchers!

Any sightings can be reported to David Cudby in the hope that the group will be able to further establish the extent to which these little birds have made our parish their summer home! Many thanks.

Duchess Park – History and Natural History

This book is dedicated to all residents and visitors to Duchess Park, present and future, who have an interest in local history, or who are, or might be persuaded to become interested in understanding, loving and conserving the site and its flora and fauna.

Shifting Baseline Syndrome

I would like to share something with you. A concept and area of study that I have come
across and seen described in books that I have been reading about wilding or re-wilding the
environment. Proposals to re-wild large areas, usually formerly farmed land, grazed or
arable, is controversial as are discussions about what species should be encouraged or
reintroduced. There are many programmes of re-wilding around the world. Several have
been implemented and are the subject of much interest and ongoing study. Others, such as
The Great Fen project in Cambridgeshire are in their early stages.
My particular purpose here is not to argue about the merits of such programmes although I
certainly have views on the subject. No, my purpose is more limited but nonetheless of
interest, I hope.
Shifting Baseline Syndrome (SBS) is not a new issue. It has almost certainly existed as part of
human experience throughout the whole of human existence. Not formerly called SBS but
more an informal experiential feature of all human life.
Definition: A shifting baseline (also known as sliding baseline) is a type of change to how a
system is measured, usually against previous reference points (baselines), which themselves
may represent significant changes from an even earlier state of the system.
Ecologists and environmentalists have been ‘aware’ and debating SBS in a formal academic
way since at least 1969 in the context of landscape architecture and design. It then gained
prominence in the science related to fish stocks in the oceans. Now it is more widely
debated and has led to the movement for re-wilding mentioned above.
So, expressing SBS in plain language makes me realise that I have been aware of it although I
would not have called it SBS, since my early childhood, as no doubt have all those reading
My earliest years were in the village of Corbets Tey, just outside Upminster in Essex. My
grandfather was the horse man at a local farm. So, I can recall the farm being worked by
horses. Horses were on the way out and for most of my life my Baseline regarding farming is
all about tractors, increasingly large, powerful and sophisticated. So even my Baseline
contains within it changes to farming practices – not a single point in time. My father grew
up with his whole childhood Baseline reflecting horse powered farming although he did tell
me stories of steam powered traction engine ploughing technologies being brought to local
farms as a contract service. He went on to become a foreman at a tractor plant in Basildon.
I was very young when my grandfather passed away so never had an opportunity to talk to
him about his farming Baseline, but I can guess that horses and contract steam powered
ploughing may have formed the whole of his Baseline. The varieties of crops grown
doubtless changed during his lifetime.
One of my father’s brothers, Uncle Mark, who passed away in late 2019 lived in
Northamptonshire for the past 70 years. He talked to me about Nightingales in a wooded
area adjacent to the Corbets Tey farm during his early years. I reckon he mentioned it to me
and asked me if the wooded area still exists on every occasion that we met in the last
decade of his life. Clearly the wood and Nightingales were a significant element of his
Baseline. I confess I have only ever heard recordings of Nightingales, never seen or heard
one in the flesh. Such a different Baseline in just one generation. I never had the heart to tell
Uncle Mark that the wood with Nightingales had been cleared around 1950 to release land
for sand and gravel extraction. His own father, my grandfather had driven the horse and cart
that helped take away the felled timber.
I could give many examples of elements of my Baseline that have gone and will never be
part of the Baseline of my children. For example, lanes in south Essex in the 1950s with
ditches containing pools of water sufficient for frogs and verges full of wildflowers and fields
in Norfolk in the 1970s with dozens of lapwings and many skylarks.
My purpose here is not to sentimentalise but to caution against assuming that our Baseline
is a fair picture of what the countryside would be but for human intervention. I have only
touched on four generations of my family. Imagine what the personal Baseline would have
been for ancestors forty generations back. And what would they have reflected upon
regarding their forty generation antecedents.
Let’s be mindful of Shifting Baseline Syndrome whenever we think and talk about our local
environment and ecology. Let’s think about how, but for man and his constant revision of
the norm due to SBS, the countryside, the environment and its ecology and biodiversity
‘would be, could be, should be’.
Taking slight liberties with the words of Abraham Lincoln, “Right here and right now, WE
have the power and the responsibility”.
Postscript: Can I say anything positive about Shifting Baselines? Well yes, what about things
understood now but not known to our grandparents. For example, mycorrhizal fungi, the
complexity of bird, insect, land and ocean mammal and fish migration. The fossil record,
knowledge of the solar system.

DB Cudby , May 2021