Now we are in late July and some of the ponies have started their annual, limited period of eating small amounts of the fronds of bracken. Though poisonous it is something that Exmoor ponies tend to do at this time of year.
Thankfully they usually avoid this plant for most of the year. Bracken is toxic because it contains large amounts of thiaminase, which breaks down thiamine which is an important B vitamin. That said, a pony has to consume pretty large amounts of bracken before poisoning will occur. It has to consume 3-5% of its body weight for at least a month to induce symptoms. Bracken is also considered carcinogenic.
Concerns raised yesterday (Saturday) afternoon by looker Carly, when the ponies at RSPB’s Broadwater Warren reserve were agitated and two were unaccounted for. At the time, we put it down to them being skittish possibly due to a thundery weather front moving in.
Today, after having looked extensively for the missing two ponies, Carly reported two ponies had been seen yesterday near the A26 trunk road. An hour later, Alan of the RSPB found them behind a high bank screening the car park! Assisted by Carly, her mother and some visitors, they managed to drive the ponies back through a nearby gate. Phew! The incident was almost certainly due to contractors leaving a gate open.
Following campaigning by WWF and others, education secretary Michael Gove announced today that climate change will be reinstated in the geography national curriculum at Key Stage 3 (age 11-14) in schools in England. But even though Michael Gove has listened to the headline demands on climate change, he has weakened the overall school curriculum when it comes to sustainable development. This government once pledged to be the greenest yet (something of a joke now!), but that message doesn’t seem to have reached the education department.
Of particular concern is the lack of coverage of sustainability and climate change in the primary curriculum. Even at a young age, children have a right to the skills, understanding and knowledge they need for a sustainable future. At secondary level, students will only be required to learn the facts about how people are causing climate change. Missing is the broader understanding and debate about sustainable interaction with the environment on which we all depend. There is no longer any reference to sustainable development in any part or stage of the curriculum.
This contrasts with the previous curriculum, which included as an overall aim to ‘develop their [pupilsí] awareness and understanding of, and respect for, the environments in which they live, and secure their commitment to sustainable development at a personal, national and global level.’ If government won’t show leadership around the sustainability agenda in schools, it will be up to schools themselves to take up the challenge. Fortunately, there are schools out there doing just that, using the greater flexibility offered by the slimmed-down core curriculum.
(From WWF, July 8 2013).