Habitat heroes help create hedgerow havens, ponds and meadows in Aylesbury Vale
Funding from local housing development has been used to improve habitats for wildlife at sites across the region
A Hedgerow Havens project in Buckinghamshire has created and restored more than 5km of hedgerows and other vital habitats for wildlife .
The project has seen 4.2-hectare wildflower meadow created on the banks of the River Ray in Quainton, plus 12 new wildlife ponds, and has helped improve eight hectares of land in and around Aylesbury for mammals such as badgers, insects including butterflies and farmland birds including kestrels, bunting and linnets.
Hedgerow Havens was launched in 2018 by the Berks, Bucks and Oxon Wildlife Trust (BBOWT) and what was then Aylesbury Vale District Council – now Buckinghamshire Council – with the aim of enhancing wildlife habitats in the rural farmed environment.
The project worked with more than 100 volunteers and supporters from 11 different parishes, helped set up six new wildlife groups and worked with 19 landowners, including farmers, homeowners, charities and estates.
Marcus Militello, BBOWT's Hedgerow Havens officer, said: "We are so immensely proud of everything we have accomplished with this project over three and a half years.
"It’s not just about hedgerows - the huge amount of valuable wildlife habitat that we have created, restored and enhanced will provide homes and hunting grounds for so many struggling species that we want to protect.
"Each of these areas forms part of the jigsaw of connected spaces for wildlife that BBOWT wants to create across our whole area, to make sure our region can really sustain wildlife populations in the long term.
"We’re so delighted that more than 100 people from all over Buckinghamshire are now truly invested in projects that are really helping local wildlife - and they now have skills and knowledge which mean they can carry on helping local wildlife for years to come."
The Hedgerow Havens project was funded through a Section 106 agreement between the council and Taylor Wimpey, with regard to its Berryfields development in Aylesbury. The funding has been used to run hundreds of events, ecological surveys and practical work parties.
In the village of Weedon, the team recruited the parish council and residents to the project. They have since transformed a plot of land for wildlife by creating a meadow area, two ponds, 260m of new hedgerow and a hectare of scrubby area important for farmland birds, badgers, brown hare and barn owl.
The villagers have also this year created their own Wild Weedon conservation and wildlife group, putting on walks and talks and running practical conservation events.
Buckinghamshire Council ecology officer, Paul Holton, said: “The Hedgerow Havens project has been a fantastic example of how development can contribute towards community-based wildlife enhancement projects.
"The funds secured through the planning process have enabled real conservation gains to be established on the ground.
"This would not have been achievable without the council's Ecology Department securing the funds in the first instance and, more importantly, without the time, effort and energy of the BBOWT project lead finding the projects to establish the enhancements.
"New links with landowners, community groups and local residents have been established and longlasting ecological enhancements have been established, leaving a legacy for the communities they serve and the wildlife that will thrive in them.
"With Biodiversity Net Gain principles to be enshrined in the pending Environment Bill, this project has shown how developer funds can be used in a way to enrich communities and wildlife.”
Hedgerow Havens has also formed an important part of BBOWT's mission to see 30 per cent of land well-managed for nature by 2030. Working beyond its own nature reserves, the trust is working in partnership with landowners, farmers, local communities and local authorities on projects to help restore nature across the region.
To find out more about how you can help wildlife in your area, visit www.bbowt.org.uk/get-involved