I’ve learned through teaching and writing for children and young adults that we ‘grown-ups’ underestimate the young at our peril. Many of them are more clued up, more engaged and more inclined to mobilise than many an adult. Anya Haywood is a great example. She’s eight and fighting to save a stretch of countryside that she loves… and loves fiercely. She lives in Poole, not far from Highmoor Farm and Talbot Heath, a species-rich habitat that naturalist Nick Dobbs has written about for us, twice; most recently highlighting some ‘greenwashing’.
Talbot Heath is an SSSI heathland nature reserve, whilst Highmoor Farm is the last remaining urban farm in Poole. There are proposals afoot to sell the farm land and have a private hospital and carparks built on it and the whole thing has a rather ‘off’ smell about it, as Nick has explained.
Such a development will, of course, adversely affect the heathland and its delicate biodiversity which provides habitats to endangered species. It will also greatly affect the viability of the remaining heathland to continue to support these creatures.
There is a campaign running locally to try and stop the developers from destroying the farm land and a petition with over 3000 signatures.
Kirsten Haywood contacted us about her daughter, Anya, who had written to local MP Conor Burns and six of the local ward councillors to try and generate more support to stop this precious green land from being destroyed. Kirsten attached her letter, adding:
“All her own words. She is 8 years old and is so passionate about saving the farm and the heathland. I was hoping that the plight of the farm and heathland could be highlighted in your publication to help spread awareness and generate more support”.
Well, we are only too happy to help, so we are publishing Anya’s letter and an interview I carried out over the phone.
Dear Mr Burns,
My name is Anya Haywood. I am eight years old. I live on Winston Avenue right next to Talbot Heath and I go to Bishop Aldhelm’s Primary School. I am the Eco Councillor in my class.I am writing to you because I need help with stopping people from digging up High Moor farm and turning this precious piece of land into a private hospital and car parks.
The reason I am protesting against this idea is because endangered species of birds nest there and if it gets dug up then they will have no safe habitat to live in and they will not be able to reproduce. Another great reason is because it is the last urban farm in Poole and we should be proud to keep it. We need to keep this area of outdoor space because our future generations will therefore be able to enjoy watching animals roam around and listen to birds singing in a safe area.
I have been on many walks on the heath and I always enjoy looking out for the horses and cows.
If a hospital is built on this wonderful farm then hundreds of people including me and my mum will feel absolutely devastated. We find these walks on the heath a magnificent thing to do and most of the beauty there will be destroyed. Instead ,loads more cars and other vehicles will be used due to a private hospital.
Nature is the main key to my life and it is one of the main things that everyone survives on. If there is no farm and in replacement a hospital,the heath will become a much less popular place to be. No nature, no us.
My few questions are: Is there absolutely anyway to put a change to this idea? Can you please help out on protesting against this? Is there a way you can help stop the developers from destroying nature?
As a big community we can do this.
Can you find a way to help build a hospital somewhere else? e.g An unused building. (It could get knocked down and made into a private hospital instead of using an animal’s habitat.)
Anya Haywood(age 8)
What had motivated her to write letters and to get stuck into the campaign to save the farm and heath?
“My school is next to the heath so we go on walks there and I also go on cross country runs with my running club. It’s an important habitat for lots of animals and birds, like smooth snakes, sand lizards and nightjars. I can hear owls hooting at night from my bedroom. And I love the highland cattle. There’s a big herd of them and you can see them with their calves and listen to them mooing and grazing. And there are horses, too. Sometimes they come over to say hello.
“I cannot bear to think of the land all covered in buildings. Why should these animals lose their homes? Anyway, I decided to write letters and I have actually got a reply from Conor Burns and he wants me to meet him on the heath on Friday 25 February”
Needless to say, we have asked Anya to give us a full report of her meeting with Mr Burns who, we hope, will not just regard this as a photo opportunity.
“I am bit nervous about meeting him” Anya admits.
“He’s the one that should be worried” I tell her. “He’s got you to contend with!”
Have you thought about trying to find an alternative site yourself? Sometimes it is easier to change minds if you have a solution to the problem.
“Yes. I think we should. There are lots of empty buildngs which could be used. That’s what we should do next. We’ve told them why what they want to do is wrong. Now we could give them some different ideas.”
Your mum told us that you are your class Eco Councillor. We were keen to hear more!
“I am on the school Eco council and I won an eco award for organising a team to come up with ideas for making the school greener. We made and sold bookmarks and with the money raised we are buying stickers so that we can award them to the most eco-friendly lunchboxes. People using reusable tubs, food wraps, no plastic. “
What do you want to be when you grow up?
“I’d like to be an environmental scientist. Well, actually, I’d really like to be David Attenborough!”
Don’t we all!
“I’m writing to him, too. And Chris Packham. I hope they can help.”
And what would you say to Boris Johnson if you had him in front of you right now?
“I’d say ‘Are you going to help with saving the animals and the natural habitat or not?”
Try wriggling out of that one, Prime Minister!
On Sunday 27 February, Nick Dobbs will be heading a ‘Save Talbot Heath and Highmoor Farm’ guided walk to talk people through the importance of this rich habitat. More than 100 people are expected to join him and Anya will give us a report and send us some photos. For more information and ways to help, visit the campaign group’s Facebook page. You can find the event information here.