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

Water Vole habitat restoration

Active during the day, water voles are most likely to be seen swimming or running around river banks busily collecting grasses, sedges, and reeds to fill their underground larders. The water vole’s natural habitat is being eroded by development and climate change, fragmented by uninformed recreational use of the waterways and their surroundings, and further destroyed by pollution.

This human influence has lead to the dramatic decline in the water vole population. Urgent work is now required to restore the relevant habitat and link these to encourage the preservation and spread of the species. The water vole has defenses against its natural predators such as foxes and herons from whom the vole can normally escape by swimming or burrowing. However, a serious threat to its survival, the American Mink, has been introduced by man. The Mink swims better than the Vole and the female is small enough to follow the vole into its burrow.

Working with Trentham Estate and the Derek Gow consultancy over 200 water voles were released at Trentham in the summer of 2022.

Restore Our Planet is helping the Staffordshire Wildlife Trust both to restore and protect the voles natural habitat, and liaise with landowners and more generally raise people`s awareness as to the issues.

Ash Moor habitat restoration

This 40 hectare site has a troubled past. In 2002 it was chosen as a burial site for cattle infected during the foot and mouth crisis. Fortunately the site was never used and the reserve has been transformed into a wonderful network of meadows, ponds and wetlands.

Paths are cut each year through the meadow and around the pond, making great butterfly and insect highways.The site is grazed with cattle (mixed including rubys, south devon and
longhorn cows) with the occasional Exmoor pony grazing too – who will eat some of the scrub that the cows aren’t that keen on. Recently the stream had broken its bank so a channel was put back in, to ensure continued flow. A woodland copse had been planted, which will help to create a diverse structure with more varied habitat. Some aftercare was recently needed including the removal of tubes and stakes, which have now done the job of protecting the young plants through their early stages of growth.

All of the ongoing work DWT do at this reserve ensures we are enriching the habitat and allowing wildlife to thrive. Some of the species found here include a wide range of dragonflies and damselflies, an odd sighting of a marsh fritillary butterfly a UK BAP priority species, that mainly feeds on devil’s-bit scabious. Management of the site is increasing the amount of devil’s-bit scabious, so we hope we may get more marsh fritillaries in the years to come. Of special note are also some bird species such as hobbies and tree pipits this year. A barn owl has also been seen hunting for food in this area and both jack and common snipe have been visiting in winter, and we hope to see some of these again in 2021.

Restore were happy to provide funding at the beginning of this programme of restoration.

 

 

 

Dunsdon Nature Reserve

Devon Wildlife Trust purchased Dunsdon Farm in 2000, shortly after which it was declared a National Nature Reserve (one of only 4 in Devon).

This 63 hectare Reserve, near Holsworthy  site of Culm Grassland also enjoying SAC status under the EU Habitats Directive – the highest form of environmental designation. This internationally rare wet grassland is a very diverse wildlife habitat extremely rich in wild flowers and supporting an immense range of other wildlife. It was named Devon`s Coronation Meadow in 2012 to commemorate the Diamond Jubilee of HRH The Queen.

With such wonderful wildflower areas, this has also become a seed donor site – each year we harvest some of its wildflower seed to create new wildflower meadows nearby. Such an important legacy and ensuring that we can have more areas with such diversity for insects
and other animals that rely on them.

The site is vitally important for its colony of Marsh Fritillary butterflys (one of the ten most threatened spicies in Europe). Restore Our Planet have helped fund the Devonshire Wildlife Trust in its activities to regenerate the biodiversity of the area through scrub clearance and by re-establishing light grazing by cattle and swaling (controlled burning).

An example of some of the work carried out since 2015 as follows.

Grazing
The internal stock fencing and some internal boundaries have been removed to allow cattle access to the site in three large grazing blocks including woodland and scrub areas.
This has resulted in more natural grazing behaviour where the cattle will favour some areas and avoid other parts of the grassland.

Marsh fritillary butterflies appear to be thriving in this new regime. Other grassland species are also doing well, with plants such as petty whin, three lobed crowfoot and devil’s-bit scabious being recorded in new areas. Work carried out to reduce scrub in some of the grassland areas has enabled the spread of lesser butterfly orchid, a nationally
important population.

In the woodlands, where no cattle have had access for 50 years or more, the ground flora is developing and becoming more diverse, as the layer of low bramble which covered much
of the woodland floor is becoming more broken through the actions of browsing cattle. The cattle themselves are also more calm as they are able to avoid excessive wind, rain and sun by grazing in the woodland areas.

Scrub clearance
The ongoing work to remove some larger areas of scrub and also create areas of succession
along the scrubby boundaries of some fields is progressing well. Most of these areas will now be left to develop naturally and will respond to the ongoing management regime of grazing and swaling.

Andrews Wood Reserve

Andrew’s Wood Reserve, near Loddiswell is a 45 hectare site of important UK biodiversity full of wildlife and wonderful views.

Plants such as ragged robin, wild angelica, lesser spearwort,devils-bit scabious, watermint, sneezewort and many other plants have become really abundant especially where areas have cleared  of bramble and gorse that were threatening to smother the whole site.

A new pond was put in 2019 and this now has tadpoles, and many dragonflies/damselflies using it including broad-bodied chasers, common blue damselflies and Emperor dragonflies.

In 2015 some reptile hibernaculum were built  and  about 250 slowworms were `rehomed” onto the field  as part of a mitigation program from a nearby housing development.

Grass snakes have been seen occasionally here and common lizards are often seen basking on some of the big quartzite rocks.

Two Dartmoor ponies – Trigger and Shy graze Cuckoo field throughout the year and do a great job of helping to control the grasses and where their hooves create areas of bare ground, this allows the spread and germination of many  uncommon plants all of which are important for insects and other animals.

Barn owls have occasionally been seen in the winter feeding over this area. Rough grassland and grass strips alongside the edge of woods are important hunting habitat for barn owls, and without these within a certain distance of their roosting and nesting sites, the owls would not thrive.

Greater horseshoe bats are often seen feeding over Cuckoo field in the summer. They rely on these meadows packed with wildflowers because they are well stocked with their favourite insect food – cockchafers, moths and craneflies. These rare bats also feast on beetles attracted to the meadows by horse dung.

Native bees and moths are important pollinators of wild and agricultural plants too, and these meadows provide the copious nectar that they need for their very existence. The diverse array of plants here also attract many butterflies – clouded yellows, brimstones, speckled woods, large skippers, common blue and holly blue are just some of the species found here.

Harvest mice nests have also been found on this reserve in the brambles and long grasses. They feed on grass seeds, fruit, berries, grain and sometimes insects in the winter. The
ideal habitat is brambles, long grass and hedgerows, all of which can be found at Andrews Wood. This is a nationally rare species, in part due to suitable habitat decline making reserves like this extremely important.

Restore were pleased to provide funding for this important reserve..

Curlew Action

The aims of Curlew Action are to inspire and enable the conservation of curlews, Europe`s largest wading bird, alongside other farmland and wetland wildlife across Britain, whilst advocating for curlews and the landscapes that support them.

It also aims through education, from primary through to degree level, to increase the connection between people and nature encouraging appreciation and protection.

The curlew is a symbol of the wild and is much loved across the UK. By supporting work at a local level, but based on a national network of knowledge, the conservation of curlews can be ensured throughout Britain. As curlews are a bioindicator species this work will also help a whole suite of farmland and wetland wildlife.

Local people know their land best but often need advice and support on the ground and most landowners are committed to not only keeping curlews on their land but ideally increasing their numbers. Curlew Action will support the work that needs to be done.

Fieldwork requires training of volunteers, especially in the breeding season, building relationships between landowners and conservationists and provision of hardware eg. electric fences, nest cameras, data loggers etc.
Regional conferences and meetings will provide networking and information sharing.

A free-to-all website will provide a focus for knowledge sharing, conservation advice, scientific research and training videos. It will act as a national hub to encourage those in the field and for the collection and sharing of data.

From an education perspective there is a disconnect between people and the natural world with children and adults alike knowing little about the plants and animals that surround us. We lack an understanding of migratory and invasive species, seasonal change and the losses that have occurred over the last few decades. A GCSE in Natural History is the first step to put this right encouraging a fascination with nature throughout secondary school and beyond. The aim would be to extend the programme to A Level, then to university degree level.

Curlew Action will be involved in the production of textbooks and other educational material to back up these courses.

The Trust will also build and operate crowd-funding software which allows individuals to buy land that supports curlews for the Curlew Trust, which would in turn manage that land for the benefit of the curlew and for education.

Restore Our Planet has provided funding which has resulted in the creation of Curlew Action.

In 2022 Curlew Action started a scheme in Lancashire for junior schools under the Junior School Network project. Schools will be taken, fully supervised and accompanied by an expert, to the nearby moors to learn about the birds in the breeding season and at Morecambe Bay in the winter. The children will learn to identify curlew,understand their ecology and appreciate their importance as a bioinficator.

Restore are pleased to help with the supply of suitable binoculars.

Old Sulehay habitat protection

Old Sulehay, on the Northamptonshire/Peterborough border is a very special area of ancient woodland and limestone grassland full of flowers insects and animals, both common and scarce.

The Oolitic limestone in north Northamptonshire and Peterborough lies on the Lincolnshire limestone. With considerable ancient woodland remaining on the boulder clay areas, it is a landscape with a high concentration of sites that are already important for wildlife and is one of the few areas where a diverse mosaic of wildlife rich habitats occur next to each other. The Trust’s ultimate vision is to link 18 SSSI/NNR/CWS sites totalling 400 hectares of which this is one.

To this end Restore Our Planet’s donation was used specifically for the purchase of 3 adjoining areas: Ring Haw, Nassington Gullet and associated arable farmland in all totalling 39 hectares.

Following the purchase, two arable fields were restored to limestone grasslandusing green hay from nearby species-rich grassland. This has been incredibly succesful and the fields are now managed by grazing using the Wildlife Trust’s own Highland cattle.

The site is regularly visited by botanists both local and further afield.

Nassington Gullet supports a range of plants associated with more open, disturbed habitats. It is managed partly mechanically, cut with a tractor, and by sheep and cattle grazing.

The Ring Haw site includes an old quarry office used by the Wildlife Trust for delivering a range of training events, from general ecological skills through to invertebrate identification.

In 2021 BCN have focussed on improving the infrastructure for grazing by repairing and extending fencing and installing a water trough. The southern end of the reserve has never looked so good as species-rich grassland develops under better grazing management.

Attention is now turning to a different area. Approaching the former quarry office much wildlife benefit has been lost as trees and scrub have encroached over the track side and shaded out the plants and wildflowers that flourished there.

With the help of a further grant from Restore this vegetation can be cut back along around 300m of the track allowing more light in again, creating a more varied structure to help plants and invertebrates.

Monitoring work in the nearby areas similarly restored over the last few years recorded 86 flowering plants, including Greater butterfly orchid, Hairy St. John`s wort and Nettle-leaved bellflower.

It is expected that butterflies including the Silver-washed fritillary and other diverse species will benefit from these environmental improvements.

 

Wilder UK – Stewardship of Nature

Globally and nationally natural systems face collapse and wildlife numbers continue to plummet. Across the UK alone, 56% of species are in decline, 165 are critically endangered and some, that were once so synonymous with the British countryside, have all but disappeared: hedgehog numbers have halved since the turn of the century and 96% of Turtle doves have been lost in the last 20 years.

Despite decades of work by dedicated and skilled environmental conservation organisations across the globe, our natural systems continue to decline. Traditional intensive human-led conservation management (which has focused on preserving a narrow selection of protected sites and key species) is no longer enough to arrest the devastating loss of nature.

But all is not lost.

Wilding offers a fresh, non-invasive approach that can revitalise and transform ecosystems. Focusing on the stewardship, rather than management, of the natural world, it effectively puts nature ‘back in the driving seat’. By moving away from and limiting human intervention, the natural world is given the space and time to recover, and the introduction of missing keystone species, such as large grazing animals, drives the return of natural processes that promote thriving ecosystems and bio-abundance. The key to this is people, resolving any perceived or real conflicts between wildlife and nature and ensuring that they trust nature to work for them.
Wilding represents a massive step change for conservation organisations. It requires new ways of thinking and changing entrenched ways of working. For this reason, Restore Our Planet are keen to help establish a Stewardship of Nature through Wilding Facilitation Fund, critically, to engage the public in these programmes, to help people understand the natural world and the natural processes that can seem so distant to us in our modern lives; to reconnect people with wild nature.

Restore Our Planet have an existing relationship with Kent Wildlife Trust (KWT) and Wildwood Trust (WT). KWT is one of the Wildlife Trusts pioneering these new approaches in the UK, recognising that Kent offers the perfect starting point from which to drive forward Wilding and public engagement with it: if it can work here (which we know it can!) it can work anywhere.

Restore Our Planet will work with KWT and WT as our key delivery partners, providing access to the wider network of individual Wildlife Trusts across the UK. Wildwood Trust have access to other native animals and to other NGOs, local landowners and communities approaching this work.

We will include programmes returning missing species, such as pine marten, beaver and chough and the localised reinforcement of threatened species, such as turtle dove and a range of butterfly species. Collectively we will establish the community of practice to develop a framework for engagement and build capacity for other organisations to kickstart their own wilding projects across the country.

More Trees BANES-Grow Yourself-Community Tree Nursery Project

More Trees Banes is a not-for-profit community group that works hard to protect and plant trees around Bath and North-East Somerset

Grow Yourself is a Community Interest Company which offers offers a range of volunteering, training and work placement opportunities to adults in the Bath and North East Somerset area.

Set up in 2008, run entirely by volunteers More Trees have so far planted 8,000 trees and are currently significantly scaling up their work.

During the winter the bulk of the tree planting takes place and the rest of the year the young trees require weeding, mulching, restaking etc. Volunteers also help with fundraising, planning projects, social media and finance management.

Inspiring households, schools, community groups and businesses is also a key aspiration.

Restore Our Planet are pleased to support Grow Yourself who are partnering with More Trees to create a network of at least 10 new tree nurseries centered around local schools.

Although there are some excellent commercial nurseries in the UK keeping up with an increasing demand they often have to import saplings from abroad. The initial target is to grow at least 5,000 trees from locally collected seed each year.

Grow Yourself will offer professional advice and practical support in the set up and maintenance of these nurseries ensuring appropriate design and tree quality.

Grow Yourself also engages with schools, the young unemployed and people with mental health issues