Five decades and counting – Wildlife Trust's unswerving commitment to protecting the wildlife in North Nottinghamshire
By Erin McDaid, Head of Communications & Marketing
This year marks the 30th anniversary of Nottinghamshire Wildlife Trust first creating a nature reserve in the Idle Valley. However, the charity's commitment to helping protect, restore and reconnect wildlife in the area stretches back much, much further.
The fact that the formation of Nottinghamshire Wildlife Trust was directly linked to the fight to save the wildlife of what is now the Attenborough Nature Reserve in the 1960s, might suggest that the charity was originally heavily focussed on the south of the county, but a look at the Trust's archives and a map of its nature reserves tells a very different story. In 1969 the Trust's first Local Members' Group was formed in Retford, in 1971 the Clarborough Tunnel Nature Reserve was created - followed swiftly by the purchase of Treswell Wood in 1972. It was around the same time that volunteers from the charity turned their efforts towards safeguarding wildlife in the Idle Valley and in 1989, after almost 20 years of surveying, lobbying and negotiations, the Trust secured a lease from aggregates producer Tarmac to create the Chainbridge Nature Reserve for the princely sum of £1.
In the intervening years the Wildlife Trust had conducted a survey to identify the best wildlife sites in the county to help inform local planning decisions and established a series of other nature reserves across the north of the county including Eaton and Gamston Wood, Ashton's Meadow and West Burton Meadow, all near Retford; Kirton Wood west of Ollerton and Dyscarr Wood north of Worksop. However, the charity's ambitions didn't end there, plans for the long term future of wildlife in the Idle Valley really began to take shape. Working with a range of sand and gravel companies including Tarmac and Hanson Aggregates, the landscape was restored as extraction ceased, recreating habitats lost elsewhere in the county and giving wildlife a chance to recover.
By 2002 much of the area known as the Sutton and Lound Gravel Pits was designated as a Site of Special Scientific Interest for its wildlife value, particularly for overwintering wildfowl. Over the next decade further parcels of land surrounding the small reserve off Chainbridge Lane were transferred to the Trust by the extraction companies and others were purchased with the backing of a range of funders, not least The Heritage Lottery Fund.
Today Idle Valley Nature Reserve is one of the largest and most important wildlife areas in the region and as many readers will know, it is now home to a welcoming centre operated in partnership with North Notts College. The centre houses the Trust's café and shop and hosts a range of events including a popular talks programme run by the Wildlife Trust's North Notts Local Members Group.
Sites such as Ashton's Meadow and West Burton Meadow remain havens for wild flowers including cowslips and orchids and the Trust's woodlands across the North of the county provide wonderful opportunities for walks, especially in spring when species such as wood anemone and bluebell flourish.
Five decades on, Nottinghamshire Wildlife Trust is still standing up for wildlife. The Trust provides expert advice to local authority planners to prevent the destruction of fragile wildlife by poorly designed and located development and we encourage other landowners make room for wildlife.
The Trust is currently fighting to ensure that drilling linked to fracking close to Misson Carr Nature Reserve doesn't impact on sensitive breeding birds and alongside sister Wildlife Trusts and other charities the Trust is lobbying for a tough new Environment Act to help ensure wildlife has the space to recover. As well as protecting wildlife, the Trust works with schools, families and young people, ensuring they have opportunities to see and learn about nature on their doorstep and to inspire them to take action to help wildlife. The Trust also supports hundreds of volunteers who are doing just that.
Why not get out to visit one of Nottinghamshire Wildlife Trust's wonderful nature reserves on your patch this spring? In March and April the Trust has a range of events at Idle Valley Nature Reserve to help you discover more about wildlife including walks, Wildlife Watch sessions for children and fascinating talks. For those interested in enhancing their wildlife watching there will also be special demos of binoculars and spotting scopes with expert advice available. The reserve also hosts regular volunteer sessions and on April 13th and 14th the centre will host an exhibition of paintings by renowned wildlife artist Michael Warren.
Details of Wildlife Trust nature reserves, events and volunteering opportunities can be found at www.nottinghamshirewildlife.org