As a charity dedicated to protecting the county’s nature, people often assume our focus is on wild plants and animals. In reality, much of our work relates to people.
From the people that signed our founding documents just over sixty years ago, to the people who support us in their thousands today as members, donors, volunteers and likeminded folk who care passionately about wildlife, people are the lifeblood of our charity. Without people, there would be no Nottinghamshire Wildlife Trust.
Put simply, people need nature and nature needs people. We all rely on a clean, healthy and nature-rich environment for our health, happiness and wellbeing and people will be the key to nature’s recovery.
At a time when awareness of environmental issues is at an all-time high and the perils facing nature also at a peak, our level of collective action does not yet match the scale of the threat. To help square this circle, we are working to build a people powered nature recovery and create a network of likeminded folk who want to take action for nature.
Our flagship sites such as Idle Valley Nature Reserve, near Retford, provide us with a platform to encourage appreciation of nature and to inspire positive action. With hundreds of hectares of wildlife habitat to care for there is always work to be done. Volunteers have long provided the backbone of our practical conservation work such as clearing willow to provide space for ground nesting birds, but at Idle Valley we do not just want to inspire people to act for nature on site - we want to inspire them to take action for nature at home and in their local communities.
We want to inspire people through exposure to nature and a better understanding of what is at stake. We want Idle Valley to become a springboard for action, a place where people can see, experience and connect with nature at close quarters, but also gain a greater appreciation of the threats nature faces. Such sites also have a role to play in increasing people’s understanding of global issues such as climate change and the need to embrace natural solutions to environmental problems such as river pollution and flooding.
Nature is a source of inspiration, but simply providing people with opportunities to experience wildlife is no longer enough to trigger action. We must also explain the impacts of environmental issues at a local level and illustrate their impact on wildlife at Idle Valley Nature Reserve. We must also provide encouragement and guidance on how people can take action. Simple steps such as making your garden, if you are lucky enough to have one, more wildlife friendly are no-brainers, but given the scale of threat to nature we must also highlight options such as lifestyle changes to help limit the climate change which is driving much of wildlife’s decline.
As a charity, we need support, but our focus is not purely on getting people to help us help nature – we want to encourage and support people to help nature wherever it is and wherever they live. We want to mobilise more people than ever before and we are undergoing something of a culture change to make this possible.
Whilst wildlife is at the core of our work, we cannot just be naturalists who celebrate the arrival of a new species of bird such as little egret, the closest examples of which were once only found in the Mediterranean. We must also be environmentalist who question why it has arrived and then dial up our inner activist to help bring about the change necessary to slow and mitigate the impacts of climate change on our cherished wildlife.
To put nature into recovery by 2030 we need to ensure that at least 30% of our land and sea is connected and protected. This ambition cannot be achieved by creating nature reserves alone – we must influence how other land is managed, especially farmland. Sites such as Idle Valley Nature Reserve, in the heart of a farmed landscape, have a role to play in demonstrating a way forward. Across the reserve, we are demonstrating how natural process such as grazing with traditional breeds of sheep and cattle can benefit nature and we are now demonstrating how beavers can help create diverse habitats for other species. We are also piloting approaches to help boost the fortunes of the UK’s fastest declining bird species – the turtle dove.
Looking to the future
Our ambition is to create a wildlife-rich landscape for the future. As we seek to restore nature at scale, we cannot be inward looking. We must consider the bigger picture and be willing to do things differently. A great example of this approach is our investment, supported by Severn Trent and other partners, in bringing beavers back to our county. Some have questioned our motives, wondering if it was done to raise profile, but our focus was pragmatic. Whilst the prospect of bringing beavers back was exciting, our project is rooted in our understanding of, and desire to highlight, beavers’ capacity as wetland engineers - their ability to help transform areas of habitat.
Beavers had been working their magic in the Idle Valley for millennia before Dutch engineers such as Vermuyden, diverted the River Idle in the 17th Century on the orders of King Charles I to create valuable pastureland by draining Hatfield Chase. Whilst the beaver enclosure at Idle Valley Nature Reserve is not connected to the river, meaning the beavers don’t need to deploy their dam building skills, they still have a vast area over which they can strip bark to eat and fell trees to create underwater lodges. They are transforming the habitat faster than we had hoped and recent surveys discovered that they have been working their way through an old aspen plantation - letting in light for different plants to thrive and creating nesting opportunities for ground nesting birds. Camera trap images also suggests that the single male and female released alongside our established beaver family paired sooner than expected and already have kits. This exciting news means our beaver crew can do even more to help other species in the future.
Alongside investment in habitat management, we are investing in new facilities for volunteers. We are also recruiting volunteers to help people get more from their visits and to provide inspiration and advice to people wanting to do more for nature. Our team of farm advisers based at the reserve are working with local farmers and landowners to create wildlife habitats, reduce water pollution and to restore rare and precious peatland habitats across the wider Idle Valley, helping ensure that the impact of our work ripples out far beyond the boundaries the reserve itself.
Could you provide a Wilder Welcome?
To find out more about our vision for the Idle Valley, volunteer opportunities or how you can act for nature at home visit nottinghamshirewildlife.org
To find out how you can play your part visit:
Nottinghamshire Wildlife Trust