A wilder Derbyshire

In September 2020, the UK Government announced a commitment to 30% of land for nature by 2030.  Sadly, the UK’s National Parks and Areas of Natural Beauty are severely depleted of wildlife through overgrazing, poor management or intensive agricultural practices.  Half of the Sites of Special Scientific Interest where nature is supposedly protected are in a poor state and suffering wildlife declines.  The UK Wildlife Trusts seek to make a difference in the rewilding of our landscapes, and I discovered more about their activities when chatting with two Derbyshire Wildlife Trust (DWT) team members on the podcast.

Team Wilder, Wildlife Trusts

Team Wilder

Team Wilder is a movement across the UK Wildlife Trusts, aiming to engage 1 in 4 people to take action and create more space for nature.  Research shows that if 25% of people take on a cause, it tips others into changing their minds and behaviours – making space for nature thus becomes the norm.  Team Wilder is community focussed; activities are super accessible and need not be expensive.  It highlights the often small actions that cumulatively can make a big difference.

These include:

  1. Go Potty – use a pot or container of your choosing and add peat-free compost and seeds/bulbs or plants to provide food and shelter to insects and pollinators.  Place the pot outside, on your window ledge or patio.  Water and wait for the wildlife to find it.
  2. Pond in a Pot – a pond will attract and support a range of wildlife.  Find a water-tight pot with a wide neck, add gravel/rocks, rainwater and plants, and place it in a spot where it gets some sun. 
  1. Grow Don’t Mow – leave a patch or your entire lawn to grow wild; you could also plant wildflowers, creating your own little meadow, providing a haven for pollinators and other wildlife. 
  2. Curb Your Carbon – reducing carbon emissions will limit global warming, a significant threat to nature.  Suggested actions include finding ways to use less energy at home (also reduces bills), reusing stuff (saves money), cutting food waste (also saves money) and engaging in more active travel/public transport (good for your health).
  3. Shine the Right Light – light can disorientate wildlife at night, so turn off outdoor lights (where possible) and, if needed, use low-intensity lighting directed towards the ground.  Also consider installing motion sensors. 
  4. Bring Birds Back – put a bird box (bought or homemade) in the garden, ideally in a north-easterly position, supply bird feed and fresh water and await the influx of feathered friends.

Wild Peak 

Wild Peak is an ambitious rewilding initiative based in the Derbyshire Peak District.  Members of the DWT work in close partnership with land managers, local communities and project leaders to inspire and implement a landscape-scale, nature-led approach to recovering nature.  Currently, they are coordinating a network of 44 land managers who have pledged 1150 hectares of land, using nature-based solutions and rewilding principles wherever possible.  DWT is supporting them with advice on land management, public and private funding options, nature-based tourism ideas and signposting them to advice and resources available through neighbouring organisations. 

Wild Peak, Wildlife Trusts

A range of stakeholders are making pledges to manage their land for nature through various actions, such as: 

  1. Owners of a golf course are rewilding their roughs and changing their managing mechanisms to promote wildflowers, woodland and scrub.  
  2. One farmer is looking at agri-environment schemes and changing whole fields to encourage nature to return.  
  3. A community group bought a plantation woodland with little diversity and is regenerating it to create an enticing habitat for wildlife.

The DWT undertook much work at the outset of the Wild Peak project through opportunity mapping, determining the location of where grasslands, wetlands, and woodlands should naturally be.  Through seeing the big picture, these maps help advise landowners on managing their land for nature.  The DWT facilitates networking amongst the group (such as a regular monthly network meeting), enabling resource sharing and collaborative working.  It promotes connection across land borders and consequently delivers corridors for wildlife to move through.  For example: three woodland owners bordering Whaley bridge, suffering from a proliferation of invasive rhododendron and ash dieback, were able to work on these issues together. 

Success Stories

Although it is early days into the Wild Peak initiative, there is real hope for success, and stories on existing and emerging projects are encouraging.  They include:

  1. Haddon Hall – 20 years ago, the estate started rewilding when they began river works.  It has grown massively, now covering 450 acres of land.  Actions comprise: constructing leaky dams; opening up hedgerows; sustainable fisheries; and reducing cattle density. 
  2. A farmer in Edale, George, is developing an eco-glamping business.  He is installing three pods at the bottom of his field and using the income to rewild 60% of his land – a great example of nature-based tourism. 

Towards a wilder Derbyshire

The DWT is on a mission to create a wilder Derbyshire and encourages everyone to get involved.  They help to create more spaces for wildlife, whether you are a person with a windowsill or a large landowner.  It is truly inspiring, and as Hollie on the podcast highlighted, nature-based activities are good for our wellbeing.  Where will you get started?