BBOWT’s Estelle Bailey welcomes plans to recover nature across 30% of land & sea

NATURE has suffered serious declines for decades with 26 per cent of the UK’s mammals in danger of disappearing for good. Just 10 per cent of UK land is protected and much of this is in poor condition. Nature is at a tipping point, but we can bring it back.

That’s why the wildlife trusts have set an ambitious goal – to raise £30m and begin the process of securing at least 30 per cent of land and sea in nature’s recovery by 2030. The trusts will buy land across the UK to expand and join-up our nature reserves, and we’ll work with others to show how to bring wildlife back to their land.

The wildlife trusts recently called on government to introduce a new landscape designation for England called ‘Wildbelt.’ This would be for the purpose of putting land into nature’s recovery, such as through the creation of wildlife corridors, natural regeneration of woodland, restoration of wetlands, and rewilding.

Since 1959 The Berks, Bucks and Oxon Wildlife Trust (BBOWT) worked tirelessly for nature’s recovery in Oxfordshire.

Cothill Fen, near Abingdon – the largest remaining alkaline fen in central England – is an internationally important wetland site supporting many sensitive freshwater plants and animals.

Since receiving a grant from SITA in 2010, BBOWT has been able to restore and better manage the suite of nature reserves at Cothill, including Lashford Lane which was transformed by the removal of encroaching trees and scrub from the fen. New pools have been created at Parsonage Moor for dragonflies and damselflies, creating valuable open water habitats.

At Wells Farm in Little Milton BBOWT is striking a balance between farming wheat and barley and creating a thriving habitat for wildlife. The open fields are edged by six-metre wide grass margins that are a haven for insects, small mammals and breeding birds. We have planted over 2.5km of hedgerows allowing continual connections and corridors for wildlife.

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In West Oxfordshire the Upper Thames Living Landscape stretches from Lechlade to Northmoor. Internationally important plant communities still thrive here, together with rare wading birds that find a haven among the meadows. Chimney Meadows National Nature Reserve (NNR) is at its heart. BBOWT has managed it since 1999 and, in 2003, we bought the neighbouring Chimney farm to create our Chimney Meadows nature reserve next to the NNR.

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We have transformed the landscape of Chimney Meadows farm from intensively-managed arable cultivation to beautiful wildflower meadows surrounded by wildlife-rich hedgerows, with new scrapes and ponds for amphibians and wading birds.

A new Water Environment Grant (WEG) will fund a Wetland Restoration Project at Chimney and Duxford which will restore precious habitats, create more space for nature, prevent flooding, and improve water quality.

The first stages of work have just begun and, when complete, the project will make it easier for fish to migrate and spawn. The River Thames and Wadley Stream will be reconnected to their natural floodplains, and native river and bankside flora and fauna will be restored.

BBOWT works in partnership with Oxford City Council and local community groups as part of the Wild Oxford project which creates a more resilient network of wildlife habitats across the city which improves people’s access to nature. You can discover Oxford’s hidden gems such as Chilswell Valley, which has a wonderful array of orchids and intriguing wild liquorice, or Lye Valley which boasts more than 300 plant species, including 20 that are on the Rare Plants of Oxfordshire register. Our Wild Banbury initiative has created a mosaic of habitats and wildlife-spotting opportunities in Spiceball Park in the heart of Banbury.

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The Oxfordshire Wildlife Sites Project has been surveying and assessing sites of biological importance for over 20 years, working with landowners of Local Wildlife Sites (LWS) to help improve the condition of the habitats found within by providing free conservation management advice and information about grants. There are currently 386 designated LWS in Oxfordshire which include important and rare habitats and species.

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BBOWT is involved in many river catchment partnerships across the county, and hosts these for the Windrush, Cherwell and Ray. Catchment partnerships pool knowledge, experience and networks of partner organisations and community representatives and help find solutions to problems. This includes restoring river channels to more naturalised forms, wetland creation, removing barriers to fish passage and reducing pollution inputs from many sources. Work with farmer clusters is supported, such as the Happy Valley farmer group which focused on working together to improve habitat and water quality along the Deddington Brook, feeding into the Cherwell.

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Funds raised by the wildlife trusts’ new 30 by 30 appeal will go towards nature recovery projects such as these that will put new land aside for nature as well as repair and link-up existing, fragmented, wild areas to enable wildlife to move around.

When we succeed in reaching 30 by 30 we’ll have wilder landscapes that store carbon and provide on-your-doorstep nature for people too.

There’s more to do in securing a better future for nature, this is something we can all get involved in. Nature can and should thrive again everywhere. Its future is in our hands.

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