Dorset County Council has recently started work on a stretch of new cycleway between Bridport and West Bay. The Council had put on an exhibition about the proposed route for a week last July, outside Bridport, and felt that this ticked the procedural boxes.
It did not occur to anyone to seek out the views of biologist Professor Tom Brereton, a Bridport resident and keen cyclist, who became aware of the proposal only when yellow road-signs warning of traffic-delays went up.
Five species of wild orchid are present on the threatened site. There is an alternative route which would inflict no damage at all. A concrete path already exists directly opposite, quite adequate for pedestrian use and easily widened to accommodate cyclists.
The council responded to Brereton’s inquiries by saying that it was now too late to alter the route and that there would, in any case, be mitigation.
Scrub running along the site could be cleared to create more orchid habitat.But the scrub is home to nesting chiffchaffs and, in some years, lesser whitethroats.
An online petition attracted almost 800 signatures in a few days.
You need to be familiar with a place to know which orchids are present because they don’t appear every year, especially not when the council keeps cutting them down. We all want cycleways but to get them right we need also to seek out and respect the fine-grain knowledge of people who have stuck around.
Spring of a sort is here. Or, rather, the hottest winter’s day ever has just been recorded. Ninety-seven percent of the country’s wildflower meadows have been lost since 1945; Bridport has recently hosted an Extinction Rebellion event: the line running through all of this also runs through that patch of grassland on the edge of town.
Horatio Morpurgo is a journalist and campaigner.