North Somerset project gets underway
A quarter of North Somerset’s parks and green spaces are set to be transformed into wildflower meadows in a project that gets under way this month. The groundbreaking rewilding partnership aims to bring wildflowers, vibrant habitats and buzzing biodiversity into the very heart of the district’s residential areas. The hope is that this will be a grassroots project in more ways than one, with communities getting involved and ultimately driving the work.
Organisers say it’s great example of how partnerships should work: North Somerset Council have provided the land and committed to managing it with wildlife in mind, while Avon Wildlife Trust are monitoring the results and training local people in the skills to take part.
The bold new plans have been triggered by growing concern at the collapsing of our ecosystems and the ongoing decline in biodiversity, largely driven by habitat loss and fragmentation – and the change couldn’t be easier. Simply by reducing grass cutting from a monthly mow to one or two cuts annually, the council hopes to provide more habitat for wildlife in decline, including Britain’s favourite mammal, the hedgehog. Not only is taller grass beneficial to many species, mowing less often also allows wildflowers to emerge – and that means more nectar for our struggling pollinators like bees and butterflies. With a third of all food produced in the UK dependent on pollination by insects like these, that’s great news for all of us.
However, grassland is only part of the story for this ambitious project. The ability of trees to absorb carbon dioxide makes them one of our key defences against the impacts of climate change – but that’s not all. They also provide vital habitats for many species, and volunteers are aiming to plant a staggering 50,000 trees across the area during the next two years.
Perhaps the most exciting part of the plans comes down to one word – people. The project aims to help locals to engage -and even fall back in love – with the spaces on their doorsteps. This is a chance for people to gain new skills that will allow them to take part in surveys and help with the monitoring of species, including bees and butterflies. Training will be provided by Avon Wildlife Trust, and the hope is that some participants will even go on to pursue a career in conservation..
Training and surveying will take place over a range of evening and weekend events. You can find out more by heading to North Somerset Council’s website and searching for Rewilding North Somerset. If you would like to get involved with volunteering, get in touch at NSRewilding@avonwildlifetrust.org.uk.
Join us for our first event!
We’re pleased to announce that we’ll soon be holding our first ever event, with a talk from Rewilding Britain’s network lead and Somerset’s very own Sara King.
Sara will be talking to us all about how the national rewilding network is helping to upscale rewilding in the UK, and what that might look like here in Somerset.
It’s free! Just register here.
Earth Day 2021
Since its promising beginnings back in 1970 when 20 million people took part in demonstrations across the US, Earth Day has become an annual celebration of our wonderful planet and a chance to highlight the threats it faces. With events held every year on the 22nd April, the campaign has made real progress in raising awareness of the plight of our planet, from the problem of pollution and the importance of recycling, to the threat of global climate change and the loss of biodiversity.
Now in its 51st year, we are really pleased to see Earth Day 2021 focusing on restoring nature. Though this is far from the first time that the campaign has encouraged ecological restoration – in 2010 the target was set to plant 1 billion trees, which was completed in just two years – there is a growing recognition of the need not only to halt the degradation of our ecosystems but to active accommodate their return. Rewilding, as we know, is a key element of that nature restoration.
So what’s happening this year?
As with so many events this year, much of the Earth Day celebration will be taking place online – with some already underway! Head over to the Earth Day website to find out more and tune into their live stream of talks and discussions from experts and advocates across the globe – even the Pope.
Blog: Rewilding Somerset’s Wetlands
I was keen to reconnect with nature following another lockdown – to breathe fresh air, sit and listen to the birds, and just stop for a second is good for the soul! I decided to visit one of the gems of the Somerset Levels – RPSB Ham Wall. These wetlands provide a rare opportunity to see how many areas of the Somerset Levels once looked – marshy habitat with reedbeds, bittern, water voles and otters. Set in the shadow of Glastonbury Tor, the wetlands are an amazing place to visit. If you are lucky, you can also see the stunning starling murmuration.
But, as I was exploring the incredible wetlands of the Avalon Marshes, I couldn’t help the feeling that there was something missing. This ecosystem is incomplete. Although it is an incredible site for birds, it is a habitat that is being managed by people to remain in that state. We are missing the dynamic habitats that should be created by absent herbivores – beavers should be foraging the reeds and creating lodges, wild horses and cattle could be creating clearings in the reedbeds, creating open areas and diversity for other species, maybe even Elk wallowing in the waters munching on aquatic plants! There are even missing species amongst the bird life – white tailed eagles foraging over the wetlands looking for wildfowl, white storks and cranes foraging in the grasslands and reedbeds, and even larger birds such a pelicans majestically flying over the wetlands.
I’ve been lucky enough to visit the Biebrza Marshes in Eastern Poland. It is one of Europe’s largest stretches of marshland and stretches as far as you can see. A maze of channels, pools, reedbeds and wet meadows have been created by natural processes. We saw Elk moving through the landscape, foraging on reedbeds and associated habitats, beavers creating channels and open areas through their foraging activities, wild boar wallowing on the edges. The air thrummed with dragonflies, otters were foraging in the rich waters, and a white tailed eagle flew overhead. It was truly breath taking. It is also inspiration for how the Somerset levels could look. Britain is a built up country, but we can and should be asking for more from our landscapes!
I have a dream that one day this can be created on the Somerset levels, not only supporting a rich, dynamic and exciting ecosystem for nature recovery, but also for people. New enterprises such as tourism, visitor centres, and other businesses could be supported by the new wetlands, creating resilient communities for people to live and work in. It won’t be easy and it will take time, but its never been more urgent to rethink our landscapes. We have a duty to think bigger, better, more joined up, and to reverse the declines in wildlife. We can be the generation to act now and restore nature before it’s too late!
Sir David Attenborough ‘We must rewild the world. Rewilding the world is easier than you think. A century from now our planet could be a wild place again. ‘We have to do what nature has always done. It worked out the secret of life long ago. ‘A species can only survive when everything around is surviving.’
Sara King is Rewilding Network Lead at Rewilding Britain, and is lucky enough to be based right here in Somerset.
World Rewilding Day a real success
The first ever World Rewilding Day was celebrated on the 20th March this year. Though there seems to be an awareness day for almost everything nowadays (National Pancake Day, International Axe Throwing Day and World Emoji Day to name a few), to see rewilding recognised in this way is just fantastic, and a great way to kick off the UN Decade on Ecosystem Restoration.
Among a selection of events held to celebrate rewilding, Rewilding Britain and Heal Rewilding came together to host an excellent webinar featuring the exciting progress being made. Sara King, Rewilding Network Lead at Rewilding Britain, was very pleased with how well it went:
“This year marked the first World Rewilding Day. This signifies how things are changing – we are starting to rethink our relationship with nature, and understand how important nature recovery is for us. If nature thrives, we thrive. If nature is pushed to the brink, we suffer as a result. There were so many positive messages and beacons of hope from around the world of how we can restore nature and rewild our landscapes again.
Rewilding Britain and Heal Rewilding marked the occasion with a joint event showcasing community engagement in rewilding. We had over 700 attendees and many more watching the recording. We have seen a kaleidoscope of rewilding projects, and marvelled in the impact that they are having on wildlife and people. The momentum is changing, and I am excited to see the impact of rewilding the world in the years to come!’
We couldn’t agree more.