Norfolk Wildlife Trust is embarking on an ambitious new project to restore the "fabric of the countryside" in South Norfolk - and the call to play a part is now underway!
NWT is working with Norfolk County Council, and supported by People's Trust for Endangered Species, Norfolk FWAG and RSPB, to kick start major nature recovery networks in three hubs located south of Norwich, north-west of Bungay and around Diss.
The Claylands Wilder Connections project will bring together conservation experts, local communities and landowners to develop much needed new areas for wildlife in the South Norfolk Claylands.
As well as raising awareness of the importance of creating and connecting wildlife habitats in the area, the project will be using state-of-the-art wildlife habitat 'heat mapping' to help communities work together to support wildlife in priority locations.
Eliot Lyne, NWT Chief Executive, explained: "This landscape is home to some of the most important ancient woodlands in the county as well as areas of grassland, hedgerows, ponds, greens, commons and river valleys. Historically, many of these areas were connected, but encroaching development for housing and a move towards larger-scale farming has left many wildlife habitats isolated.
"The area contains some of the last refuges for declining meadow wildflowers and butterflies and supports a number of species of bats, as well as a healthy population of barn owls and important populations of great crested newt."
Communities are invited to find out how they can get involved and bring ideas forward for supporting their local wildlife through six 'Making the Connection' events taking place this winter. The events will be hosted in community venues and wild spaces within each hub and include talks, drop-in information events and wildlife walks.
In November, NWT will launch the project's first online species survey and will ask South Norfolk communities to share their winter owl sightings through an interactive digital map.
Matt Jones, NWT Living Landscape Officer, said: "We're inviting our communities, including landowners, to play a key role in supporting wildlife across the iconic Norfolk countryside. At the heart of this project is the need to create and connect important places for wildlife by bringing data, mapping and people together. It's exciting to be trialing innovative ways of working and showcasing new approaches to delivering nature conservation at a landscape scale."
Gemma Walker, NWT Senior Community Engagement Officer, added: "There will be a variety of opportunities for communities to get involved, from learning about nature recovery networks, helping with wildlife surveys, mapping key species, and carrying out habitat management.
"By taking part in our online surveys and joining our winter 'Making the Connection' events, people can play a role in gathering vital information about important places for wildlife in their area, identifying opportunities to join existing wildlife hotspots together and planning new spaces for wildlife in the best locations."
Helen Baczkowska, NWT Acting Conservation Manager, explained: "The Claylands of Norfolk are perfect for this project pilot. Despite the many changes of our landscape in the past five hundred years, the elements of this ancient, unplanned countryside are right here. Turn off the main road and you find yourself among tall old hedges with pollards of hornbeam or oak, or ponds formed from clay pits, once used for building materials. All of these are wonderful for wildlife and evidence of how, for thousands of years, the human and natural histories of this landscape have been closely linked.
"This project will help us restore and expand the connections between these habitat fragments and provide vital help to wildlife as a result."
The Claylands Wilder Connections project is being funded through the Green Recovery Challenge Fund, financed by Defra and administered by the National Lottery Heritage Fund.
Ros Kerslake, Chief Executive, National Lottery Heritage Fund, said: "It is vital that we value, protect and rebuild our natural heritage and this Norfolk Wildlife Trust project, which aims to restore the "fabric of the countryside" in South Norfolk, will help do that through the creation of three innovative nature recovery networks. Thanks to the Government's Green Recovery Challenge Fund, the project will not only carry out direct conservation which is essential in protecting our biodiversity, but by working closely with local communities, will also increase awareness of how and why we need to change our behaviours in order to protect our future."
To find out more about the project, please visit our Claylands - Wilder Connections project page