Natural Networks celebrates wildlife milestone

Work taking place on Church Hill Brook for Natural Networks by Katie Ainsworth

New watercourses and woodland corridors for butterflies are just two of the achievements so far of an important project to help wildlife in Worcestershire.

Since its launch, Natural Networks has helped to fund the creation or improvement of habitat for wildlife on over 35 hectares of land and water across the county.

50 community groups, businesses and organisations across Worcestershire have so far received recommendations on how to help wildlife on their land with 15 projects so far receiving funding to put the advice into practice.

Councillor Tony Miller, cabinet member with Responsibility for the Environment said: “The Natural Networks project has seen some real success stories in the last year, that we as a county can really be proud of.

“We’ve managed to make real improvements for biodiversity and the funding has seen some projects created which will help local residents, businesses and visitors to all corners of Worcestershire for years to come.

“We’d encourage other projects to come on board and help us build on that success.”

Sean Webber, Natural Networks Officer at Worcestershire Wildlife Trust, said: “It’s been fantastic to see such a great response from landowners who want to help wildlife in the county.

“It’s been great to see work get underway on the projects that have so far received funding and we’re keen to get even more projects started so that we can really give Worcestershire’s wildlife the boost it needs.”

We’ve assessed 50 locations covering 200 hectares and even where projects haven’t received direct funding, the owners have been acting on the advice we’ve given to make a difference.
Sean Webber
Natural Networks Officer

At Church Hill Brook in Redditch the project has funded improvements to the water course, which is helping wildlife and reducing the risk of flooding to local properties.  

The course of the brook was diverted to create a new meandering channel and two new ponds were created, which provides more places for fish and other amphibians to seek refuge from high water flows and to live in during prolonged dry periods.

Wide ride in Shatterford Wood by Katie Ainsworth

Shatterford Wood by Katie Ainsworth

In the Wyre Forest, West Midlands Butterfly Conservation have used the grant funding to widen and create a series of rides running through conifer plantations in Shatterford Wood.

This will create corridors of woodland edge habitat that will help to connect different areas of the wood.  

The first 10m of a woodland edge can be home to more species of wildlife than in the rest of the woodland so this work will be beneficial for a range of species including butterflies and other pollinators.

The ongoing project to help wildlife at the Stour Gateway in Kidderminster is also helping to create a natural space for locals and visitors to spend time in. Local primary schools have helped to plant 1800 native trees. Invasive plant species such as Japanese knotweed are also being removed.

Scattering wildflower seeds on a road verge by Katie Ainsworth

Scatting wildflower seeds on a road verge by Katie Ainsworth

Road verges in Little Malvern, Malvern Wells and Welland will be blooming thanks to project funding for a project run by the Malvern Hills Area of Outstanding Beauty (AONB).

A series of verges have been sown with native wildflower seed, some of which should flower this year and provide corridors of nectar and pollen for bees, hoverflies and other pollinators.

At Kemerton Lake in the south of the county, funding is helping the Kemerton Conservation Trust to clear scrub in order to restore grassland and create suitable habitat for nesting solitary bees.

The area around Kemerton has a more chalky soil than most of Worcestershire so is able to support different plants, such as yellow-wort and clustered bellflower.  The site is important for mining bees that like the soft nature of the soil.

Natural Networks runs until summer 2021 and provides free biodiversity enhancement reports from experts at Worcestershire Wildlife Trust and match-funded grants to undertake the recommendations on land owned by small and medium businesses as well as public and third sector organisations. The project has been part-funded by the European Regional Development Fund and is delivered in partnership between Worcestershire County Council and Worcestershire Wildlife Trust.

Organisations can apply for grants of between £2,000 and £200,000 for projects such as native tree planting, creation of native wildflower meadows and increasing biodiversity along water courses. Grants cover  up to 45% of projects costs.

To be eligible for the grant, the sites must have free and ongoing public access.