Corston Community Orchard

Orchards are part of English heritage and until the 1950s were a dominant feature of our landscape. Since then they have declined by more than 60% because of changes in agricultural practice and pressures from development.

Corston itself was blanketed by orchards in the 1930s but as elsewhere in England, only small patches remain in people`s private gardens.

Community orchards can be excellent spaces for wildlife because of the diverse habitats they create with elements of woodland, hedgerows, meadow grassland and ponds. A wide range of wildlife including bees, birds, bats, invertebrates, fungi and mammals can thrive as long as orchards are managed sensitevely.

Many villages, towns and cities are rediscovering the benefits these habitats can bring, particularly in light of the COVID-19 pandemic.

People need spaces to meet and build community resilience for the benefit of all. interactions with nature and other people improve physical health and mental wellbeing with GPs now commonly prescribing activities such as gardenig and volunteering with community groups.

The Corston Community Orchard site covers 1.4 acres of grassland that was previously used to graze horses. It is surrounded by hedges, trees and fences.

The field will be divided into zones, each with a different focus and purpose This will allow staged development over the coming years.

It is hoped that with sufficient funding key habitats can be established. These will include a hedgerow boundary of native plants, a copse of native trees, a nuttery and apple, cherry and pear areas.

Ultimately it is hoped to include a wildlife pond, a willow walk tunnel, raised community vegetable beds and a wild meadow and picnic area.

Restore Our Planet is pleased to support this excellent project.

Naturally Native-Water Vole Restoration

Naturally Native is partnership between Durham Wildlife trust, Tees Valley Wildlife Trust and Northumberland Wildlife Trust delivering essential conservation work to halt the decline and aid recovery of native water voles (Amphibia arvicola). Working with landowners and local communities to ensure native wildlife, like the water voles, have a place in our future, Naturally Native is a people project as much as wildlife project.

Water voles suffered a drastic decline across the 20th century and populations- particularly within the lowlands of the North East- are at significant risk of local extinction. Naturally Native will tackle the two main causes of decline: predation by introduced American mink (Neovison vison) and the loss and fragmentation of habitat.

Since the start of 2021, 4km of habitat have been improved for water voles to encourage, where possible, the natural expansion of remaining fragmented populations. This work has included the removal and control of invasive species such as Japanese knotweed, Himalayan balsam and snow berry – which reduce the diversity of bankside vegetation needed for food and shelter and can impact bank stability and soil run-off into the water. The addition of refuge ponds provides valuable shelter during time of flooding and heavy water fall while also creating a more complex habitat, which can protect water vole populations from invading American mink.

Monitoring for American mink is occurring at over 90 locations to date with additional sites being established in new areas to create a network along the River Tyne, River Wear and River Tees catchments. To date over 160 American mink have been removed from the project area. The project is starting to collect DNA samples from mink to develop a greater understanding of the population size and movement of mink within the region. It is anticipated this data will also provide a greater understanding of how mink enter the region and highlight key areas vulnerable to mink invasion.

Over 90 volunteers are supporting the project through monitoring equipment, carrying out water vole surveys and managing data. The project is also working with 60 landowners to ensure work is delivered at a true landscape-scale. A secondary education program has been delivered to 600 students and an additional 600 individuals have taken part in water vole walks, talks and family friendly events.

Restore Our Planet are pleased to be supporting this excellent project.

The Park, Tidenham, Gloucestershire

The ambition at Gloucestershire Wildlife Trust ( GWT ) is to preserve, recreate and reconnect Gloucestershire`s wild places.

GWT believes that everyone in the county should value and enjoy wildlife not only in its own right but also for the huge benefits it brings to the people.

Conservation grazing is a big contributor to the success of heathland habitats. GWT are at a point where The Park is at risk of declining but currently is the best heathland habitat in GWT`s care.

New fencing is required so grazing can be introduced utilising the in-house livestock including Highland cattle, Exmoor ponies, Hebridean and Herdwick sheep.

Also areas of birch have been restored with the support of volunteers.

More visitors will be encouraged to visit The Park nature reserve with improved access for all and interpretation panels to engage visitors and explain the benefits of conservation grazing in restoring natural processes.

Restore Our Planet are pleased to be supporting GWT`s important work at this reserve and also wish to acknowledge funding from HDH Wills Charitable Trust