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Nature recovery projects to boost wildlife and access to nature

Curlews, short-snouted seahorses and natterjack toads set to be benefit as six nature recovery projects are launched.

An area bigger than the size of Hertfordshire is to be dedicated to fast tracking nature recovery as six new landscape-scale nature recovery projects are launched by Natural England and the government.

The multi-partnership collaborative projects covering 176,000 hectares of land across England – from the Tees Estuary to the South Downs – will create improved and better-connected habitats for wildlife and improve public access to nature. The projects will strengthen the national Nature Recovery Network and showcase delivering nature recovery at scale.

The projects, announced yesterday (20 July), will help to manage flooding and wildfire risks, improve carbon stores and build diverse habitats for wildlife such as the endangered wart biter cricket and the elusive twite.

The nature recovery projects, supported by £7.4 million funding from Defra and Natural England, are:

  • East of Eden, Cumbria – Based in the upland regions of Cumbria, this project stretches over 100,000ha from fertile farmland of the eastern Eden Valley to the western slopes of the North Pennines and the moorlands above. The project will support land managers to create habitats for species such as the curlew, black grouse and the Teesdale Violet. Natural flood management techniques will reduce flood risk and improve the absorption of carbon by rewetting peat.
  • The Lost Wetlands, Cheshire to Lancashire – Extending over 5,000ha the project will reclaim, restore and rewet a mosaic of wetland habitats in South Greater Manchester and North Cheshire, previously lost to historic industrialisation, urbanisation and agricultural intensification of the landscape. A network of wetland habitats will be restored to improve connectivity for wildlife, creating habitats where dragonflies, great crested newts and water voles can thrive. The project will also engage young people and communities, providing greater connection to the wetlands on their doorstep and opportunities to celebrate the natural heritage of the area. This work will help support the government’s commitment to bring people closer to nature, with everyone living no more than 15 minutes from a green space.
  • Tees Estuary Recovering Nature, Northumbria – Covering over 11,000ha, the TERN Project will work with partners to improve, create and restore coastal, estuarine and land-based habitats. Steeped in industrial history, this area is home to a well-loved colony of common seals and assemblages of roosting waders and wildfowl including the little tern, wintering knot, ringed plover and redshank. Action will create bigger and better connected habitats that increase climate resilience and offer a sustainable future for these cherished species. New footpath links will also bring the community closer to nature, strengthening Teesside’s vision as a place for people and nature.
  • Heathlands Connections, Surrey – The project is working with partners to restore, enhance and connect rare lowland heathland habitat within the western section of the Surrey Hills AONB. It will connect the designated sites of Thursley, Hankley and Frensham Commons Special Protected Area with surrounding heathlands, covering an area of 16,000ha and creating a mosaic landscape that is rich in habitats for wildlife. The project will find collaborative solutions to challenges such as wildfire risk, habitat degradation and disturbance to ground nesting birds including the nightjar and Dartford warbler. Sustainable travel options for visitors are being developed, such as walking trails with train, bus and cycle connections to Frensham ponds, enabling local people to get closer to nature.
  • Bradford and South Pennines, Yorkshire and North Lincolnshire – Spanning 30,000ha, this partnership will restore and enhance the condition of the upland peat landscapes in the South Pennines, restoring habitats for moorland birds such as the endangered twite. Natural Flood Management techniques will benefit communities at risk of flooding in the Calder Valley with the creation of intertwining mosaics of wetland habitats. Green corridors will also be created, linking upland sites to the urban environment and industrial heartlands and allowing wildlife to move freely. The project will work closely with community groups and the NHS, providing opportunities to connect the people of Bradford and West Yorkshire with nature on their doorstep. Working with Bradford City of Culture 2025, the project will encourage sustainable access to nature and highlight the environmental links between the industrial heartlands of West Yorkshire and the moors which define them.
  • Seaford to Eastbourne, Sussex and Kent – Traversing 12,000 ha of the iconic land and seascape of the South Downs, the project builds on key partnerships with South East Water, local authorities, farmers and fishers. The project will build on research into chalk aquifers in the area which confirms the importance of using healthy chalk grass and chalk heath habitats to deliver clean and plentiful water. The work to integrate habitat and natural flood management schemes will create clean water supplies for nearby towns and benefit species, such as the rare wart-biter cricket. Ambitions further extend out to sea where the project partners will seek to boost short-snouted seahorse populations found near Beachy Head. The project is also researching how NHS staff who work in complex mental health can be trained in nature-based interventions, supporting the communities within Seaford to Eastbourne

Tony Juniper, Chair of Natural England, said:

These nature recovery projects will enrich our landscapes for wildlife, develop resilience to climate change, catch carbon and help to clean up air and water. They will help restore entire ecosystems, allowing many species of wild animals and plants to spread and thrive. They will also enhance the opportunities people have to make the most of the wellbeing benefits that come with connecting to the natural world.

To fight the challenges posed by Nature loss and climate change it will be essential to build broad and trusted partnerships. I am pleased that the projects announced signal a commitment to bold and collaborative action at landscape scale to create a Nature Recovery Network which is essential to firmly put nature on the road to recovery.

Environment Minister Trudy Harrison said:

We want to create accessible, nature-rich places closer to where people live, and encourage communities to learn more about the wild landscapes on their doorsteps so they can play their part in helping to protect them.

These partnerships will restore the natural world, from cities to the sea, and will deliver on our targets set out in the Environmental Improvement Plan to create a lasting legacy for people and nature.

The nature recovery projects will make a major contribution to the Nature Recovery Network and help deliver on the commitments set out in the government’s Environmental Improvement Plan to halt the decline in nature and support thriving plants and wildlife.

This announcement builds on the G7 legacy project in Cornwall and the five nature recovery projects launched in 2022 which are improving and connecting wildlife-rich sites and restoring degraded areas for nature across the West Midlands, the Peak District, Somerset, Norfolk and Cambridge. The new projects extend this landmark commitment across the country to include uplands, coastal and marine areas, and will demonstrate how blended public and private finance can support the Nature Recovery Network. The funding will support the 12 projects across the three-year period of the comprehensive spending review.

Improving and connecting existing strongholds for wildlife, creating new habitats and investing in collaborative action for nature at scale will help achieve our pledge to protect 30% of our land and sea for nature by 2030, and create a sustainable future for people and the planet.

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