Natural History Section, Leicester Literary & Philosophical Society
The Natural History Section exists to further the study of natural history and the recording of local wildlife in Leicestershire and the surrounding counties. Members of the Section have a wide variety of interests and expertise in various areas of natural history, but you don't have to be an expert on natural history to join. We meet in person at New Walk Museum Leicester. Members receive a programme of forthcoming events, and regular copies of the Newsletter which reports on Society activities and contains other items about natural history. You are very welcome to come along to an indoor meeting as a guest.
Indoor Meetings (all welcome) are usually held on Wednesday evenings once a month from October to March. Meetings consist of a talk on some aspect of natural history by a knowledgeable speaker, either an invited expert or a member. All talks are aimed at the amateur naturalist, since even those members of the Section who are experts in one area may know very little about another.
Outdoor Meetings (members only) are usually held on Saturdays or Sundays. Meetings usually start at 10 am for a morning or all-day visit, and at 2 pm for an afternoon visit. Distances covered on foot vary, but 1-2 miles for a half-day meeting and 2-3 miles for a full day meeting would be typical, and shorter alternative routes are often available for those who prefer this. All outdoor meetings are by private car within reasonable driving distance of Leicester. Lifts can easily be arranged for those without their own transport.
Our Winter 2022/2023 Indoor Programme will be a mixture of online (Zoom) and in-person talks at Leicester Museum. Full programme details and booking links will be made updated as soon as they are available, but you can put these dates in your diary now.
5th October 2022
“More than Meets the Eye – the Wildlife of Grace Dieu”
Steve Woodward will give a summary of a Loughborough Naturalists’ Club recording project, during which a compact area near Thringstone, Leicestershire, including the ruined priory of Grace Dieu was explored. Very long lists of flowering plants and fungi were accumulated. The coverage was consciously broadened to embrace the less popular groups of plants and animals: algae, wasps, millipedes, woodlice, thrips and soil mites.
Steve has been a section member since 1982. His first interest in Natural History was moths followed by an interest in landscape history, particularly its influence on wildlife. This led to his first two books, on Groby Parish and Swithland Wood. Natural history interests broadened to include mosses, liverworts, bees, wasps and lacewings. He has paid most attention to flowering plants (encouraged by section member, Edith Hesselgreaves), and has participated in the last three national atlas projects sponsored by the Botanical Society of Britain and Ireland (BSBI). In 2018 the BSBI appointed him as Joint Recorder for Leics & Rutland.
2nd November 2022
Henry Stanier, Great Fen Monitoring and Research Officer, Bedfordshire, Cambridgeshire & Northamptonshire Wildlife Trust
“Stonechat research at the Great Fen”
Bird ringing is a tried and tested method of gathering important data about our bird populations. At the Great Fen, Henry and his team work to see how they can generate, as well as use, scientific knowledge, about wildlife, and apply it to habitat management, and so enhance the conservation work they are doing. This is the story of how a colour ringing project for Stonechats was conceived and developed, including the latest about the bird and the exciting development at the Great Fen.
Dragonfly expert and bird ringer, Henry has responsibility to design, deliver and refine a full programme of monitoring at the Fen, including training volunteers in ecological survey skills. Henry set up the Ecology Groups, and for the past six years has been focused on the Great Fen.
7th December 2022
Ben Devine, Senior Nature Conservation Officer, Leicester City Council / Samantha Woods, Project Manager
“Saving the Saffron Brook River Restoration Scheme”
A major project to protect and restore a major tributary of the River Soar in Leicester, this Project hopes to improve the heavily-degraded river ecosystems along the whole course of the Saffron/Wash Brook which runs through the south of the city from neighbouring Oadby and Wigston. A programme of conservation, restoration and repair works along with community engagement designed to get local people involved is planned. The Saffron Brook and surrounding catchment area act as a key wildlife corridor in the region linking the centre of Leicester to rural Leicestershire and beyond.
4th January 2023
Elliott Kean, Engagement Officer with Nottinghamshire Wildlife Trust
“Beavers at Idle Valley NR: The Story So Far”
What’s all this fuss about beavers!? Beavers are quite a novel animal to most people, so what makes them so special? Why are they known as a keystone species and ecosystem engineers? Is it true what people say about them eating fish and causing flooding!? Idle Valley Nature Reserve is home to Nottinghamshire’s only beavers and the largest enclosed trial reintroduction in the UK.
Join Elliott Kean to learn about beavers, why they have been reintroduced to Idle Valley NR and what they’ve been up to so far. We’ll also talk about what the future holds for beavers in the UK and why they are so relevant in the 21st century, key allies mitigating issues such as climate change, flood risk, biodiversity collapse and water pollution.
1st February 2023 (This talk will be by Zoom)
“The North Coast of Sutherland: a botanical odyssey”
Ian will give us an account of the botanical recording he has carried out with friends along the north coast of Scotland (from Cape Wrath in the west to the Caithness border in the east), and inland from it, since 2015, for the next BSBI Atlas, with excursions into other natural history topics. Ian is the current BSBI Recorder for West Sutherland (VC.108), but his interests are much wider than higher plants, and he and his friends are also now concentrating their efforts on the wildlife of the parish of Tongue, in the middle of that stretch of coast. Ian is an active member of the Assynt Field Club, especially associated with the Wildlife Project).
Ian is still a member of the Natural History Section and follows the news and Newsletters of the LLPS.NHS with great interest, since he was the first editor of the latter and persuaded the Museum Designer, Ray Lee to design the badger logo. He was an officer of the Section (Hon. Sec., Chairman and President) between 1960 and 1991, when he and his wife Pat emigrated to Sutherland. Professionally, he was Keeper of Biology, Assistant Director (Natural Sciences) and County Ecologist, with the Leicester and later Leicestershire Museums Service for the whole of his working career, Chairman of the Leicestershire Flora Committee and Scientific Officer for the LRWT.
1st March 2023 (Joint Meeting with Leicestershire Entomological Society – to be confirmed)
“Wasps - much more interesting than boring old bees”
Fear and fascination set wasps apart from other insects. Despite their iconic form and distinctive colours, they are surrounded by myth and misunderstanding. Often portrayed in cartoon-like stereotypes bordering on sad parody, wasps have an unwelcome and undeserved reputation for aggressiveness bordering on vindictive spite. This mistrust is deep-seated in a human history that has awarded commercial and spiritual value to other insects, such as bees, but has failed to recognize any worth in wasps. It's time to put this straight.
Richard Jones is a nationally acclaimed entomologist, a fellow of the Royal Entomological Society, fellow of the Linnean Society, and past president of the British Entomological and Natural History Society. He has been fascinated by wildlife since a childhood exploring the South Downs and Sussex Weald in search of plants and insects. He now writes about insects, nature and the environment for BBC Wildlife, Gardeners’ World, Countryfile, The Sunday Times, New Scientist and the Guardian and has regular television and radio appearances. Richard has written several books on science and wildlife including Nano Nature, Extreme Insects, The Little Book of Nits, House Guests: House Pests, Call of Nature: The Secret Life of Dung, Ants: The Ultimate Social Insects and the Beetles volume in the New Naturalist series.
20th March 2023 Joint Lecture with the Main Lit & Phil Society
Dr Felicity Crotty
“Understanding the importance of soil health”
This talk will aim to provide listeners with an overview of the fascinating life found within the soil, how soil management changes the structure, chemistry and biology of the soil, and overall what this means in regards to “soil health”. This talk will also include how changing land use and climate change will have an impact on healthy soils, maintaining food security and improving biodiversity within the soil habitat.
Dr Felicity Crotty is a Senior Lecturer in Soil Science and Ecology at the Royal Agricultural University. She has been researching soil biology and soil health for the last twelve years focusing on understanding the linkage between sustainable agriculture and soil health. Utilising her expertise within soil biology (earthworms, springtails, mites and nematodes), and how agriculture has an impact on this in relation to soil quality, physics and chemistry, within both livestock and arable sectors.
5th April 2023
AGM & Members Evening
Members are invited to share their Natural History experiences with other Members of the Section.