Friday, 27 December 2019


I started off the decade as a local eco-monk dedicated to serving my local community and wildlife and ended it as a revolutionary nomad being chased across the planet with my partner and child by the dark forces of capitalism. Elsewhere in the world an orange Capitalist lord and former game show host took power of the planet and a time travelling teenage girl from Sweden descended to earth to announce the end of times and the overthrowing of the Capitalist empire. Who knows what surprises the next decade holds? We intend to be at the forefront of the transition to sustainable business in our local area and in helping out in the empowerment of local community and over coming the challenges presented by corrupt corporations and council. I'll probably be writing the 2020-2029 decade review from a cave !

So here's my top ten highlights of this turbulent decade.


Beddington Farmlands still exists but unfortunately our Tree Sparrows have been all but wiped out 

Within this decade Viridor/Pennon group, successfully wiped out our local Tree Sparrows and 80% of our species targeted for conservation, built an incinerator three times the size of Buckingham Palace within the reserve that emits 300,000 tonnes of CO2 a year and worst of all, in and act of distilled psychosis rejected a community fund bid for local wildlife gardening for poor people submitted by the Hackbridge and Beddington Corner Neighbourhood Development Group. Furthermore the local authority got their boots in too by de-designating 10 acres of the reserve and sold it to warehouse developers and also building a school within the reserve while waving through anything Viridor wanted to do. Throughout this decade Beddington lost 99.9% of its Tree Sparrows, 80% of its target species, 5% of the reserve was built on (a rate that will mean in 20 years it will be completely gone) and 50% of the land is currently threatened through decommissioning by Thames Water. 

Luckily through the improvement of technology, digital photography and the observation effort increasing in line with unemployment and obsolescence we were still able to find rare birds at the farmlands  . Here's some of the highlights:

Juvenile Long-tailed Skua in 2012. 
Pacific Golden Plover in 2010 
Adult Sabine's Gull in 2018 
Red-rumped Swallow in 2013
Serin in 2015
Stone Curlew in 2015

Despite all the problems Beddington Farmlands still exists and the battle to save it is escalating. In this decade there has been a judicial review in the high court, a local government ombudsman investigation, a mass petition, the declaration of a climate and ecological emergency in the borough, demonstrations and protests, council committee reviews and a constant immense effort by local naturalists to record and monitor the unfolding local extinction event and eventually, hopefully, the recovery.   Of course nothing but people power over throwing malevolent minority rule will eventually save it- something to look forward to in the next decade. Good times ahead! 

Small successes include the development of a new entrance from Hackbridge and the production of a high quality annual report by the bird group/local community groups (which was nominated in the BTO Marsh Awards for Local Ornithology) . Also the first signs of the recovery of Beddington Farmlands were witnessed in 2019 with the restoration taking a step forward following an 8 year delay. 

The beginnings of the new Wetland Grassland habitat- the first sign of the recovery of Beddington Farmlands which hopefully will be the theme of the next decade


Luckily no global tree and gardening corporation has appeared yet to put out local nature friendly business out of business - yet. Our biggest threat is that our customers will run out of money to spend on their gardens as inequality escalates. Costs are rising, customers are getting poorer and profits are sliding. At current trajectory we have five more years of viability (but we are diversifying in other areas of business in response) as demand is also falling while many gardens are being astro-turfed, paved over or reduced into lawn mono-cultures and low diversity environments.

In order to overcome the challenges of the next decade we will need to pull out all the stops. Very exciting and challenging times ahead for us. 


Every now and then something amazing happens that throws you out your routine that you just have to go and see. My favourites of this decade was the Hawfinch invasion of 2017/2018 and the Beluga in the Thames in 2018. 

Hawfinches (above) and Beluga (below) 


I worked in Ghana in 1997 and returned in 2013 and several times subsequently with the aim to set up a small rain forest project in the area where I used to work. Planning on returning again this year for further progress. 

Me in 1997 and in 2017 on the Kakum Canopy Walkway (below) 

Western Fantasia- one of the best aspects of Ghana in addition to the great birding is the incredible lepidoptera 


This decade has been the decade of protest and we've been in the thick of it. Things have been escalating through the last decade, culminating in mass school strikes, extinction rebellion shutting down London and other cities and the call for a Global Green New Deal. It really is the end days of Capitalism and the beginning of Sustainable Societies but there is a very very long way to go yet.  It's impossible to imagine what will happen in the next decade but it's also impossible for humanity and nature to carry on it's current trajectory; we are approaching the limits to physical growth, biodiversity is going through a Sixth Extinction,  Climate chaos is increasing and Capitalist Liberal Democracies need to evolve if global conflict and ecological and societal breakdown is to be averted. Collapse and simultaneous emergence will probable be the theme of the next decade. Whatever happens we are planning to be right in the middle of it all kicking off! 

Jacob and I blocking Marble Arch in Spring 2019 
Anti-Viridor Incinerator campaigners
Extinction Rebellion Sutton 
Extinction Rebellion in London (above and below)  
We even did a song and video for Viridor HERE
Our local Extinction Rebellion Group (XR Sutton) timeline for 2019 

Sue, Andrew and I meeting Green Party leaders Sian Berry and Caroline Lucas 


Had some fantastic trips in the last decade (see TRIP REPORTS). What with responsible travel becoming an increasing issue we will need to think carefully about how to maintain supporting the global ecological community network while mitigating any ecological and environmental costs that generates. 

Aboard the Plancius in the 'North Pole' 
Great Grey Owl in Finland 
Eastern Gorilla in Uganda 
One of our main shifts in travel has been to purchase a camper van and do more camping on organic farms and eco-projects

As the situation locally at Beddington and the UK overall became increasingly hopeless it was apparent to respond by looking for areas which were not so much in the grip of Capitalist devastation. Eastern Europe has remained relatively unscathed so far and will probably emerge in the future as the 'Green frontier of Europe' with the West going into relative decline. My brother Paul spotted that opportunity about 15 years ago and we've been getting increasingly involved in supporting and building on that effort. The environment and ecology in the region is absolutely incredible. More here: BALKAN ECOLOGY PROJECT

Balkep HQ in Shipka
Pied Wheatear and Dahl's Whip Snake (Two local specialities) 

The Azores Nature project keeps ticking along nicely (Website currently under re-construction). Here's a few highlights. 
Golden-winged Warbler
Lincoln's Sparrow
Rose-breasted Grosbeaks 
Eastern Wood Pewee
Hooded Merganser 
Zino's Petrel (Harro Muller) One of the highlights of our annual birders pelagic 
Corvo birders 
Since 2013 we have produced an annual rare bird report 


Through a combination of better identification tools and technology and also birds becoming extinct  the opportunities for birders to get into other groups in natural history has been one of the most epic developments of the last decade. I've had a go at a few groups and pan-species listing but moths and butterflies are one of the most rewarding groups I found. 

Clifden Nonpariel in Steve Gale's Garden
Forester at Bernwood Meadows, Bucks 
Narrow-bordered Bee Hawkmoth in Slovenia 
Purple Shaded Gem in Slovenia 


Despite humanity overall savaging this beautiful planet, often blind-fully, inadvertently and hopelessly,  humanity at it's best is nature's finest beast.  As we move into escalating global conflict there will be nothing more important to fight for than for the future of the children, loved ones, friends and family- the highlight of any human life (unless you're a capitalist?). 


Steve Gale said...

As I was scrolling down your list, I was thinking to myself “If only for his safety I hope Peter has put Jacob and Holly at number one”. And you did. A wonderful, if at times sobering trawl through the last decade Peter. Happy 2020 when it comes...

Peter Alfrey said...

Thanks Steve! A belated Happy New Year to you too!