Natural Networks project benefits wildlife

Goodleigh Hill CL wildflower meadow by Jasmine Walters

A partnership project to create more than 44 hectares of habitat for wildlife across Worcestershire is celebrating two years of achievements.

Natural Networks, a partnership between Worcestershire Wildlife Trust and Worcestershire County Council, has already created and improved 30 hectares of habitat and work is planned on another 100 hectares.

The project team works with landowners across the county to restore habitats for wildlife – from watercourse and woodland restoration to wildflower meadow and pollinator patch creation.

Colin Raven, Director of Worcestershire Wildlife Trust, said “It’s great to be involved in partnership projects to benefit wildlife across our beautiful county.

“Working in local communities and with a range of partners is the best way to build a network for nature’s recovery.  It’s fantastic to be able to celebrate our success so far – we’re looking forward to creating more publicly accessible wild spaces over the next two years.”

St James the Great churchyard by Jasmine Walters

St James the Great churchyard by Jasmine Walters

From projects like Burlish Meadows near Kidderminster, the Duck Brook in Worcester, the Churchill Brook and Westall Park near Redditch and Rectory Wood in Bransford, Natural Networks is working for wildlife right across the county.

At St James the Great church in Norton Juxta Kempsey, Severnside Parishes have created a wildlife area that is accessible to the local community.  In order to create corridors with the village gardens and local countryside, the Natural Networks team advised on enhancements such as the sowing and management of wildflowers and the planting of woodland shrubs as well as the creation of a small pond and installation of homes for amphibians.

Reverend Mark Badger commented “The support, advice and guidance we have received from Natural Networks has been invaluable in our efforts to enhance the biodiversity of the graveyard at St James.  The funding we received enables us to carry out works that would otherwise have been impossible and continued input from Natural Networks has seen a flourishing of native meadow plants, birds and animal.”

Goodleigh Hill CL wildflower meadow (Natural Networks project) by Jasmine Walters

Goodleigh Hill CL wildflower meadow by Jasmine Walters

The Natural Networks team have created habitat for wildlife at a small tourism business in Pensham, near Pershore.

Family-run Goodleigh Hill CL is a Caravan and Motorhome Club Certified Location for touring vehicles. The family have been keen to create an attractive destination for wildlife as well as people.

Their visitors can now enjoy a wildflower meadow, which provides a wonderful setting for the caravans and is alive with the hum of buzzing insects.  Funding also created an orchard stocked with Worcestershire varieties of fruit trees such as Lord Hindlip apples and Pershore plums.  This provides blossom for pollinators in the spring and fruit for birds in the autumn.  

Emily Horton of Goodleigh Hill CL said “We are very grateful for the opportunity provided by Natural Networks to enhance and learn about the biodiversity of our small patch of Worcestershire. It is a project close to our hearts in wanting to leave a lasting legacy for our land, which incorporates a small five pitch caravan site just a mile out of the riverside town of Pershore.

“Our caravan and motorhome guests frequently comment what a pleasure it is to look out onto the blooming flowers throughout spring and summer. 

“It is a great learning process for us as we endeavour to maintain the wildflowers and orchard and ensure their success. We look forward to welcoming many more guests and the local community to enjoy for themselves the glorious sight of when the wildflowers are in bloom.”

Installing a bird box by Colin Bates

Installing a bird box by Colin Bates

Astwood Bank Community Group manage Overdale Park, which sits at the heart of Astwood Bank and is a popular place with locals.  The park was created in 2009 and, along with neighbouring allotments, it offers an important piece of wildlife habitat within the village.

Natural Networks helped the group to add several traditional fruit trees to the park’s orchard, plant a range of native trees, shrubs, herbs and wildflowers, and install bat boxes, bird boxes and a hedgehog house. Most of the work was carried out by local volunteers, who have also created habitat piles and restored and expanded the park’s pond area.

Colin Bates from the Astwood Bank Community Group said "Discovering the Natural Networks programme gave our project a real focus as it not only provided much needed finance but, more importantly, gave us direct access to conservation specialists who could guide us on specific actions we could take, as well as recommending specialist suppliers.

“The report from Natural Networks means we have both a short term and longer-term management plan for the park, supported by Redditch Borough Council.

“This approach has enabled us to pull our local community together to provide the workforce to clear up our park and develop it in an environmentally supportive way. There is increased awareness of our local park with more people benefiting from this amenity.”

Natural Networks builds on years of partnership working between the Trust, communities, local authorities and Government agencies.

Councillor Tony Miller, Cabinet Member for the Environment, said “The progress that the Natural Networks project has made over the past two years is something we can be really proud of as a county.

“It is a credit to our officers in securing EU monies and working with the Environment Agency for the benefit of our residents and district colleagues in obtaining the funding to deliver substantial grants to regenerate our neglected open space and woodland areas back into a living, breathing environment.”

Biodiversity and making our county’s wonderful landscape available to all creatures great and small is one of our top priorities.  
Councillor Tony Miller

Natural Networks provides free biodiversity enhancement reports from experts at Worcestershire Wildlife Trust and offers match-funded grants to undertake the recommendations. 

Small and medium businesses as well as public and third sector organisations are eligible for funding of between £2,000 and £200,000 for projects such as tree planting, creation of wildflower meadows and increasing biodiversity along water courses. 

The project, funded by a grant from the European Regional Development Fund, has recently been extended until the end of 2022.

For more information about the project, eligibility and how to apply visit our Natural Networks pages. 

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