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Waiting for the ghost bus
gardens by Luisa Ferrari
WILDLIFE IN THE CITY
The typical green chain formed by many small gardens linked together and connected with larger open spaces, such as the park and cemetery, has played an important role in the urbanisation process undergone by wildlife in recent years.
Even Stoke Newington is now home to foxes and squirrels, previously limited to the wider green areas of Hackney marshes and Stamford Hill and now becoming regular sightings in our streets and gardens.
However romantic the notion of offering sanctuary to wild species, particularly those still at risk of barbaric slaughter in the countryside, we should remember that the crossover of habitats is not necessarily a good thing for either party. Due to their size and habits foxes can be problematic in crowded urban conditions such as ours. Their need to roam a large area undetected means they will try to climb trellis and fences or dig long underground tunnels to use as thoroughfares and breeding chambers, and generally damage planting.
Conversely the amount of unnatural risks they face puts a high price on an apparently easy life. They generally live an average of 3 or 4 years in the country and 10 -12 years in captivity, but an official research by the National Fox Welfare Society (NFWS) has concluded that in spite of public encouragement and the tolerance of local authorities, urban foxes have only a 50 per cent chance of surviving beyond eighteen months. Cars alone kill about 100,000 foxes a year.
Foxes have enjoyed the recent rubbish disposal problems in our borough, as it provided many succulent snacks. But the free meal comes with broken glass, tins with razor- sharp edges and a variety of generally hazardous waste, such as garden netting and half cut plastic bottles which can suffocate the animal. Although so far immune from rabies, foxes are vulnerable to scabies epidemics, which cause loss of hair, starting with the tail and progressing to the head. The animal goes blind when the parasite invades the eyes and death follows severe debilitation.
A recent initiative of the NFWS in co-operation with Fox Project have established that an homeopathic cure, distributed free of charge by volunteers, produces the best chances of a successful recovery. Instead of feeding them scraps, it could be more useful to keep an eye on the state of their coat.
Squirrels may be cute, but they are real pests, and not only in gardening terms. It should be remembered that the big grey squirrel is an American and not a British native. Its introduction has in fact brought about the near extinction of the original native, the much smaller red squirrel, now surviving only in a few northern regions. In the countryside the greys are severely undermining the survival of wild hazel and are recognised as a pest by Kentish cobnuts growers. In the garden they dig to bury and hunt for food and they eat nuts, bulbs, vegetables, fruit, flower buds, bird food and tree bark. They also raid bird feeders and nests.
It is practically impossible to discourage them from visiting the garden, as proved by the Carling Black Label ad. If you have a serious problem you may decide to leave the task to a professional trapper who uses live capture traps, although it is likely that another will soon take its place.
Luisa Ferrari is a garden designer and consultant. She is the London correspondent of the Italian gardening magazine Giardini and can be contacted on 020 7249 6762.
VORTEX PULLS PLUG ON OCEAN
Church Streets popular jazz bar will not be moving to the Ocean venue in Mare Street. This news surprised many of us who had been shedding a tear or two at its departure. It will please many local people and the jazz musicians who love the atmosphere and the acoustics. On the other hand, it could have provided a venue that generated larger audiences and more money for music that is woefully under-funded in the UK. Vortex owner David Mossman says, The proposed arrangements for the club at Ocean fall short of my initial expectations. Contrary to my understanding, the Vortex would not now have its own permanent space at Ocean. Consequently, the clubs identity would have been compromised. The April gigs already arranged at Ocean will go ahead. The long term future of the club remains unresolved. The lease runs out in March 2002 and the club will close unless money can be raised to buy the freehold and carry out renovation. About £1 million would be needed. Surely some of the money sloshing around in the Lottery Fund could be used to save this excellent club. Opera and theatre do well out of the national gamble, why not jazz?
Meanwhile, lets give Vortex the support it deserves by making sure its fully booked.