An Interview with John Clarkson
28th September 2007
John Clarkson is the author of Birds of Louth
, a detailed guide to the birds found in and around this
town. A born Ludensian, he leads local bird walks and is also a keen martial artist.
Birds of Louth
is available at Wright's bookshop in Little Eastgate, and at the Louth Museum.
In this interview John discusses the environment, local issues, and his love of birds.
What first inspired you to get involved with bird watching?
I can’t remember exactly but I’ve been fascinated by birds since I was a boy of 4 or 5 years.
"The future looks bleak
for all life on Earth."
Why did you decide to cover such a small geographical area with this book?
I saw the range of local publications in Wright’s bookshop about 4 years ago and realized that there was
nothing on the natural history of Louth.
What is the main threat to local birds?
Destruction of habitat, cats, pesticides.
What’s your view on the effect of climate change on our wildlife?
I imagine that it will get much worse; not just for wildlife. The future looks bleak for all life on Earth.
Are you concerned about bird flu?
No. All known outbreaks have been found to be associated with the poultry industry and few wild birds have
Do we need to restrict the numbers of domestic cats, and if so how would you go about reducing
Yes. There are over 7,000,000 cats in this country – most in urban environments. Many people complain
about the lack of breeding birds in our gardens and parks but fail to put these two things together. I suppose
culling is out of the question? Cats can wear bells.
What are your views on over-intensive farming in the local area and its effect on wildlife?
Is it over-intensive? Some local farmers are very sensitive to wildlife issues and maintain a high bio-diversity
on their land.
Some people think pigeons are a pest. Do you think the council should do more to prevent them from
nesting in the town centre? What would be your approach?
I don’t see them as a problem in Louth. It’s hardly on the same scale as Trafalgar Square.
Do you welcome the recent regeneration works at Hubbards Hills?
Yes but much more needs to be done to preserve the hillsides and develop bio-diverse habitats.
Is there enough green space in town for birds to thrive?
The few remaining green/wild spaces are rapidly being filled in, mainly for housing development, pushing the
wildlife ever further from the centre.
Are the town’s green spaces over-maintained and too pretty? Do we need more spaces with long grass
and heaps of dead wood, for instance?
Yes. Hubbard’s Hills is a case in point. The borders of the meadow could be mown less often to encourage
wild flowers and associated butterflies. Gardeners who are sensitive to wildlife leave ‘wild’ areas. Town
planners should adopt the same practice.
Leading on from the discussion about green spaces, what's your view on the proposed new
leisure centre at Wood Lane? As a Tai Chi instructor do you feel that there are enough good
facilities in this town for sports and leisure already, or are you finding the existing sports halls and
meeting places overbooked and undersized?
I believe Louth needs a good leisure centre. I have no strong opinions
about Wood Lane but I'd have preferred to use the extensive area at Park Ave
if it is no longer to be used by the local football team rather than see it
being developed as yet another housing estate. There are not enough good
sports facilities in existence as anyone who tries to rent one will tell
you. There's a huge demand for martial arts, yoga and other health related
exercise groups and Louth can't meet the demand.
Brian Damms has been very vocal in his campaign to preserve the pitches,
but are they worth saving?
Of course the open spaces are worth saving. I'm afraid they won't be valued until they've gone.