Last Friday some of the Wildlife Media crew met with Dave Pearson, a green space officer for Carlisle City Council. We learnt all about St James’ Park in Carlisle, and what Dave’s position entails there.
A combination of communal space and formal shrub areas, St James’ Park is an urban park, dating back to the Victorian/Edwardian boundary. During this time parks were developed by entrepreneurs, to allow people to get away from the work place. Dave told us it was for “enjoying the opportunity to get out into nature and wildlife.” However, society has changed drastically since then. Nowadays, people visit parks to walk their dogs, let their children play on the slides and swings, and play sports such as football or ride their bikes over the BMX track that has been installed. There is currently no protection on the site. However, by being classed as green space, no building can take place there.
Dave’s job is to “balance the needs of the community with the urban wildlife reservoir” that is clearly present at St James’ Park. Being a freelance ecologist, he is well informed of the wildlife that inhabits the site, and how it should be conserved. “The park acts as a corridor” he told us, “wildlife travels from one area to another. When there are pockets of wildlife that aren’t interconnected, how will they recover if subjected to environmental pressure?” In the middle of a main city, it’s vital that wildlife in St James’ Park can move from one area to another without getting trapped. The park extends across a main road, but aside from this hazard the wildlife has plenty of access to trees for nesting and open spaces for gathering food.
Dave is involved in several different aspects of management. He carries out site safety inspections and is also involved in allotments. The bushes in the shrub areas are not allowed to grow out of control, but carefully maintained to provide a suitable habitat for nesting and foraging birds. “Wildlife always thrives when it’s allowed to live without disturbance,” Dave told us. There are a wide variety of trees in the park, including silver birch, elm, ash, goat willow, weeping willow and mature poplars on the banks.
A lot of Dave’s work involves raising awareness. It’s about providing the context to educate the public on necessary wildlife issues. Dave told us about the importance of stinging nettles for species such as Peacock butterflies. However, in a public park where children come to play, it is understandable that many parents wouldn’t want patches of nettles nearby. It’s difficult to provide a suitable environment for both wildlife and people, when their separate needs vary.
It was really interesting hearing the challenges Dave faces when trying to maintain and manage St James’ Park. While it currently provides ample opportunities for families and young people, he also needs to consider the welfare of the animals, birds and plants that inhabit the site. So far, he seems to be finding the balance; when I was there on Friday I could hear and see a wide range of species. I hope this park and others across the country will continue to allow people and wildlife to coexist happily!