Rewilding North Somerset

Rewilding North Somerset

©Les Binns

The ongoing decline in biodiversity across the UK is without doubt one of the biggest challenges we face – both globally and here in the UK. Happily, some local authorities are responding to the ecological emergency, and North Somerset Council is one of them. A quarter of the parks and open spaces under their management are set to be transformed into wildlife havens, as the council commits to new ways of looking after them.

It’s all part of a partnership project with Avon Wildlife Trust, which aims to boost biodiversity and benefit local people. The vision is turn public spaces across the area into vibrant, buzzing habitats. The hope is that this will be a grassroots project in more ways than one, with communities getting involved and ultimately driving the work.

The plan is simple. By moving from regular mowing to just one or two cuts annually, these areas will offer habitats for a host of animals in decline – including Britain’s favourite mammal, the hedgehog. Not only is taller grass beneficial to many species, mowing less often allows plants to flower which otherwise wouldn’t have had the chance, providing a much-needed source of nectar for our struggling pollinators like bees and butterflies.

With a third of all food produced in the UK dependent on pollination by insects like these, any help for these species is great news for all of us. Studies have shown insect species have suffered declines of up to 75%, with many at risk of extinction. These worrying trends have been driven largely by changes in land management. Whilst intensive farming practices have been a major factor, in urban areas an overenthusiasm for neatness has led to further destruction and fragmentation of habitats.

Whilst many spaces will still be mown regularly, by eliminating unnecessary cutting where they can, the council hopes to provide a boost for biodiversity whilst showcasing how habitats can run right through the heart of our towns and cities.

However, grassland is only part of the story for this ambitious project. The ability of trees to absorb carbon dioxide makes them one of our key defences against the impacts of climate change - but that’s not all. They also provide vital habitats for many species, and volunteers are aiming to plant a staggering 50,000 trees across the area during the next two years.

Perhaps the most exciting part of the plans comes down to one word – people. With Avon Wildlife Trust on board, providing training and practical skills, this is a chance for those living nearby to take part in surveys and help with the monitoring of species, including bees and butterflies. And it’s not just about passing on skills, it’s also about experiences. People with nature on their doorstep are more active, mentally resilient and have better all-round health. Daily contact with nature is linked to reduced levels of chronic stress, reductions in obesity and improved concentration. The hope is that locals will be able to engage -and even fall back in love - with the spaces on their doorsteps.

If you’re local to North Somerset and would like to get involved with the project, drop us an email. To find out more about how you can do more to help improve the habitats on your doorsteps, check out our website