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.

Blacka Moor Woodland Restoration

Sheffield & Rotherham Wildlife Trust is an independent local charity dedicated to conserving and enhancing their natural environment and are one of only a few Wildlife Trusts in the UK to be centred in an urban environment.

Blacka Moor is the largest reserve in their care consisting of 455 acres of woodland and heath bequeathed to the people of Sheffield by local philanthropist J G Graves in the 1930s.

It is a haven for wildlife and is home to a number of bird species on the IUCN ‘red list' of threatened species including spotted flycatcher, wood warbler, pied flycatcher, lesser redpoll and bullfinch.

The most common cause of the decline of wildlife is the loss of the specific habitat it needs to survive and quite small changes can render a landscape inimical to wildlife, but conversely, if caught in time there is improvement and restoration which can be done to reverse the decline.

At Blacka Moor the main part of this work involves thinning and scalloping the woodland to allow more light to the ground. A series of warm, dry spring seasons has resulted in the woods donning a thicker canopy earlier in the year which has adversely affected the ground flora, undergrowth and even tree regeneration. This in turn reduces the amount of insect life in the woods, a vital food source for many of these threatened birds and pollinators.

Restore Our Planet has agreed to provide funds to create a number of shallow woodland ponds to boost the number of insects within Blacka Woods.

We have also funded an important Woodland bird survey and the installation of approximately 40 nest boxes.

As at autumn 2022 the ponds are providing an ideal habitat for insects to develop.

They also provided an essential source of water during the summer heatwave for the conservation cattle that help maintain the heathland and woodland mosaic of the reserve.

The bird box monitoring has also proved a huge success becoming an annual nesting site for blue tits, great tits and the wonderful pied flycatcher, a species with a UK conservation staus amber risk.

Woods on your doorstep

‘Woods on your Doorstep’ – the Woodland Trust’s millennium project – enabled 250 local communities across the UK to design and plant new, local and accessible woods that now provide much loved amenities for local people and are benefiting the landscape and wildlife.

Restore Our Planet stepped in to provide crucial funding to help three local communities in Devon, Greater Manchester and Sheffield, which were struggling to raise the funding they needed: Tramlines Wood, Okehampton, Devon – The small size of the planting at Tramlines Wood belies its importance. Just one acre of wet meadowland, an increasingly rare habitat, has been planted with scattered willows, leaving plenty of open space to encourage the widest possible range of wild flowers to colonise and thrive.

This new plantation lies between and now protects and links a range of distinctive habitats along the river valley, including ancient woodland. Local people are intrigued and pleased by the number of plant and animal species now colonising the site, including increasing numbers of bats which hunt along the river and meadow. A new footbridge has been erected to provide easy access to local playing fields and to the local college and youth hostel, which is encouraging young people to visit the site and explore along the river. Springfield Copse, Greater Manchester Local people have planted 700 native trees, including oak, ash, birch, hazel, rowan and crab apple, on just over half this site. They are thriving and a rich mosaic of habitats is developing around the trees and along the streams and wet flushes which are a feature of the site.

Springfield Copse is situated close to Stockport and its growing population. Local people describe the site as a wonderful tranquil oasis and particularly value the experience of being part of such an interesting restoration project. Wantley Dragon Wood was designed and planted as a 16 acre extension to Bitholmes Wood, an ancient woodland in Sheffield that was already owned by the Woodland Trust.

Adjoining Firth Wood has since been added to the landholding, making Wantley Dragon Wood a vital part of a site that now covers about 100 acres in total. Natural regeneration from Bitholmes Wood has been supplemented by local people planting oak, ash, birch, cherry, rowan and field maple. The new plantation has quickly become established and is now blending well with the pr-existing woodland.

The size of the entire site is a great incentive to people to visit it and local people are proud of the part they continue to play in the protection of the area.

Bee Buddies

Groundwork Sheffield`s Bee Buddies project responds to the national crisis of Honeybee population decline and the lack of awareness surrounding the plight of the Honeybee. 33% of Honeybee colonies were lost in 2009. The British Bee Keeping Association ( BBKA ) has stated that if action is not taken Honeybees will disappear from Britain by 2018.

Honeybees are vital to our survival. They allow 70% of flowering plants to reproduce, accounting for over 30% of the foods and beverages we consume. Without the pollination they provide we will face higher food costs and potential food shortages.

Restore Our Planet is funding the installation of 5 Honeybee hives on the roof of Weston Park Museum in central Sheffield. The museum serves as a prime location to engage the public about the Honeybee`s plight and demonstrate that bees can thrive in cities. Overall the project will see the introduction of 35 hives and the creation of 20,000m2 of Honeybee habitat.

The bee buddies project aims to restore Honeybee populations by installing domestic hives on underused urban spaces such as balconies and green roofs. This will improve local biodiversity and pollination rates. The hives will be used to train a new generation of bee keepers and educate local schools on local food production and bee keeping.

Crag House Farm nature conservation

Crag House Farm is the centre for a conservation project for the benefit of disadvantaged and disabled people in the Leeds area.

Having already established a coppice with ash, hazel, osier and lime, extensive hedging, three ponds and a wetland area we are now funding the planting of a wildflower meadow, and further restoration of the natural flora of the local woodland.