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Helping nature’s recovery: Cambridge Nature Network, Cambridge Nature Festival and 30 Days Wild

Caroline Fitton, of the Wildlife Trust in Cambridgeshire, discusses work to expand the region’s green spaces.

The Cambridge Nature Network was launched in May 2021 and has since made a productive start towards a vision of expanding significant areas of downland, fens, meadows, woodlands and waterways providing increased natural spaces where people can experience the countryside and nature on their doorstep.

Initial funding for the Cambridge Nature Network is being provided from the government’s Green Recovery Challenge and Natural England - this backing has enabled the network to take forward 24 projects which will create or improve 90 acres of natural green space by early 2023.

Tree planting at Coton with Cambridge PPF. Picture: Wildlife Trust
Tree planting at Coton with Cambridge PPF. Picture: Wildlife Trust

These projects are being undertaken by a variety of organisations working together to create more natural habitats which are larger and more connected across the landscape and through the city.

Several projects have recently been completed including the planting of a new woodland near Coton, with more than 2,000 trees planted by volunteers, the restoration of 58 beautiful veteran willow trees on Sheep’s Green in Cambridge, and the creation of 20 acres of important chalk grassland habitat at Wandlebury Country Park - chalk grassland supports important rare specialist species from plants to bees, beetles and butterflies. It’s hoped that this demonstration of tangible success will be a springboard for further nature recovery, nature-friendly farming and wildlife-rich suburbs and villages.

The Wildlife Trust’s conservation manager Martin Baker says: “The network has secured major funding this year via Natural England’s Nature Recovery Programme enabling us to start delivering some of the habitat creation opportunities set out in our strategy report. Each project will create new or better habitats for nature, ranging from conversion of acres of intensive arable farmland, expansion of country parks and nature reserves, to small projects on school grounds in the city.”

Tree planting at Coton with Cambridge PPF. Picture: Wildlife Trust
Tree planting at Coton with Cambridge PPF. Picture: Wildlife Trust

James Littlewood, CEO of Cambridge Past, Present and Future, says: “In the face of global problems such as the loss of nature, our actions can sometimes seem meaningless unless they are part of a collective effort. The Cambridge Nature Network gives us a long-term vision that we can all work towards in our own ways at our own pace. We can already see a difference after the completion of some great projects this year. If we all do our bit, then collectively we will make a difference.”

Looking ahead there are projects creating 150 acres of new meadows and woodland in the Gog Magog Hills, improving habitat on the Bin Brook and ditches, and working with five schools to improve their grounds for nature.

John Torlesse, Natural England manager for West Anglia, says: “I’m really pleased that Natural England is able to support the Cambridge Nature Network.

“The natural environment in Cambridgeshire has become greatly depleted - it is crucial that we work together to put back wildlife into our lives, and to create more places where those who live and work in and around Cambridge can experience nature and all that it offers us. This excellent project is doing just that by creating more nature on a really ambitious scale.”

The network is based on a research report published last year in response to the rapid growth of Cambridge and the twin threats of the biodiversity and climate emergencies: this report identifies the best opportunities for the creation of new habitats that will help to deliver the aspirations of increasing natural spaces by 50 per cent in Cambridgeshire by 2050.

This spatial plan for nature is already helping to inform planning and policy making, such as the Greater Cambridge Local Plan and Cambridge Biodiversity Strategy.

Cambridge Nature Festival
Cambridge Nature Festival

The aim is also to celebrate nature on our doorstep, as well as the people and organisations that work tirelessly for the natural world - to this end a new Cambridge Nature Festival has been organised running from May 27 to June 30, 2022.

Fun and informative events will be held in and around Cambridge including hands-on activities, nature walks, live music, art exhibitions and more. Most events will be free or affordable provided by a range of organisations including Cambridge Past, Present & Future, Wildlife Trust BCN, Milton Country Park, National Trust, Cambridge University Botanic Garden, RSPB and more.

The partnership of organisations supporting the Cambridge Nature Network, all sharing an interest in nature and public access to it, has established strong bonds, and discussions are now also under way with other landowners ranging from institutions such as the Cambridge University colleges and the county council to large farming businesses and smaller family farms.

For further details visit www.cambridgenaturenetwork.org and http://cambridgenaturenetwork.org/current-projects/.

30 Days Wild

30 Days Wild 2022. Picture: Wildlife Trust
30 Days Wild 2022. Picture: Wildlife Trust

It's that time again – when wallcharts get sprinkled, flecked, freckled and peppered with ideas, wild notions occur and daily small interactions with nature take seed then grow roots . . . 30 Days Wild is The Wildlife Trusts' annual nature challenge to do one 'wild' thing a day every day throughout June.

30 Days Wild 2022. Picture: Wildlife Trust
30 Days Wild 2022. Picture: Wildlife Trust

Daily Random Acts of Wildness can be anything from litter-picking, birdwatching, planting seeds, puddle-splashing, you name it! Taking part in 30 Days Wild is scientifically proven to make you feel happier, healthier and more connected to nature. Sign up opens soon, from 4 May to take part, with a month to plan and prepare. Visit www.wildlifebcn.org/30DaysWild.

For more on the Wildlife Trust in Cambridgeshire, how to support wildlife in your area and to become a member, please visit www.wildlifebcn.org/support-us.

Read more from Caroline Fitton and the Wildlife Trust BCN

The butterflies of Cambridgeshire: past, present and future

Wildlife Trust surveys Cambridgeshire’s protected roadside verges

50 surveyors, 300 sites - but how many otters are in Cambridgeshire?

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