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.

Hazel Dormice

Wildwood Trust is a unique centre of excellence for the conservation of British Wildlife. Set in 37 acres of ancient woodland and a Site of Special Scientific Interest. The charitable aims of the Trust are, the promotion of conservation; the protection and improvement of the physical and natural environment; the advancement of education in conservation, ecology, biodiversity, sustainable development and British flora and fauna.

Wildwood came into existence in a direct response to the need to safeguard populations of endangered species in the UK and to raise awareness about wildlife conservation. Hazel Dormice live in isolated pockets of habitat, and numbers are declining. They are a Biodiversity Action Plan species, endangered, and need help from captive breeding facilities and release schemes to boost population numbers. Wildwood are the studbook holders for the Hazel Dormouse Captive Breeders Group in the UK and provide healthy adult dormice to the reintroduction programmes helping to restore the former range of dormice in the UK. Wildwood provides training in habitat and nest box monitoring for volunteers and the releases are managed through the People`s Trust for Endangered Species.

Restore has provided funds to assist in a number of areas such as; improving food quality for breeding pairs; costs related to the hand-rearing of orphaned dormice; staff and vets costs relating to habitat monitoring and issues which ensure the optimum health of released dormice.

In 2018 a further grant was agreed to facilitate the construction of five new dormice breeding enclosures, ten nest boxes and heating and over-wintering costs for rescued dormice juveniles.This will help to increase the numbers of dormice Wildwood can provide for release sites in collaboration with Wildlife Trusts around the UK.

Click here to see a video of one of our orphaned dormouse babies being fed by hand.

Lydden and Temple Ewell Hedgerow

Lydden and Temple Ewell as a reserve has received a number of classifications including National Nature Reserve, the highest classification granted by the UK government. It is also a SSSI, a Site of nature conservation interest (SNCI) and a special area of conservation (SAC).

The reserve is made up of chalk grassland and woodland with a wide tange of flora and fauna including a notable display of orchids, also dyer’s greenweed, cowslip and yellow-wort. The area is excellent at attracting insects and butterflies such as the chalk hill blues and the silver spotted skipper.

There is also a well established colony of wart-biter bush crickets. Restore Our Planet has funded the establishment of a hedgerow on the site as well as feature trees hedging plants and other restorative work. This will incorporate over 2000 hedging trees, including hazel, hawthorn, blackthorn and dog-rows, which will provide an ideal habitat for fieldmice, voles and hedgehogs.

Ham Fen habitat restoration

Ham Fen between Sandwich and Dover, is the last remaing fen land in South East England. Currently only 30 hectares of this fenland remain at the site which has been designated as an SSSI. Much of the original fenland has reverted to scrubland through neglect.

Restore helped support the Kent Wildlife Trust in their project to restore this scarce fen habitat. This required clearing land, excavating to the level of the summer water table and introducing sluices in order to regulate the level required to maintain a healthy fenland habitat. Soil barriers were also needed to prevent flooding into the surrounding areas.

Environmental benefits of this restoration are significant with species benefitting including spoonbill, balck tail godwit corn crake, southern marsh orchid, marsh frittillary butterfly and water vole.