Louth Eye
 A guide to Louth in Lincolnshire since 2004

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 canít remember exactly but Iíve 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 Wrightís 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.
Whatís 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 been affected.
Do we need to restrict the numbers of domestic cats, and if so how would you go about reducing their numbers?
Yes. There are over 7,000,000 cats in this country Ė 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 donít see them as a problem in Louth. Itís 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.
John Clarkson
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 townís green spaces over-maintained and too pretty? Do we need more spaces with long grass and heaps of dead wood, for instance?
Yes. Hubbardís 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 Ďwildí 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.

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