Wildlife trust has a busy year with big projects and big ambitions
- Credit: John Ferguson
Suffolk Wildlife Trust is thinking big. Bigger than ever before.
That is the message that leaps out of the pages of the charity’s new annual review which is currently being distributed to its 28,500 members.
The document reports on the varied work of the trust - the management of its 53 free-to-visit nature reserves, its championing of wildlife through targeted efforts for species and habitats in co-operation with landowners and community groups, and the unstinting practical support of its willing army of volunteers.
Understandably, the highest-profile element of the trust’s work in the period under review - April 2016 to March 2017 - has been its ambitious plan to create a 1,000-acre wetland on the edge of Lowestoft in the Broads National Park. The trust is aiming to raise £1million towards the purchase of land that will extend its existing 627-acre Carlton Marshes nature reserve, with the appeal recently having passed the £713,000 mark.
The trust’s £200,000 public appeal for funds to help it buy 77 acres as an extension to its Lackford Lakes reserve was launched last week and so is outside the remit of the review - but having two major concurrent appeals illustrates the charity’s “think big” policy. Trust chairman Ian Brown refers to the charity’s visionary outlook in his members’ message in the review.
“This year has seen Suffolk Wildlife Trust thinking bigger than ever before, with our plans taking shape for a spectacular Living Landscape within the Broads National Park,” he says.
The trust was able to have ambition on this scale “because of the year-on-year commitment of our members” whose “enthusiastic support provides confidence to our strategic planning and financial management, enabling the Trust to seize opportunities at a time when other sources of funding remain uncertain.”
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Launched last October, the £1m Broads appeal is the largest project the trust has ever attempted. The review says: “As a first step in realising this vision for Suffolk’s stretch of the Broads National Park, we spent over £1.2m buying the 185-acre block of land known as Share Marsh. We are grateful to the Esmée Fairbairn Foundation, which stepped in to secure the additional 209 acres of Peto’s Marsh to give us time to raise the necessary funds to buy this land from them in 2018.
“This is the most significant support for land purchases that the Esmée Fairbairn Foundation has ever given and reflects the national significance of this opportunity for nature conservation.
“Thanks to a Development Grant from the Heritage Lottery Fund we commissioned a range of surveys to help us develop detailed plans to transform the arable landscape of Peto’s and Share Marsh into a wonderful mosaic of marshes, pools, open water, reedbed and fen.
“Alongside this, we have developed exciting plans for a new visitor centre to enable more people to enjoy this special landscape and its wildlife. We expect our detailed application to be considered by the Heritage Lottery Fund’s national Board of Trustees in early 2018.”
On the trust’s nature reserves, which cover a total of almost 8,000 acres, habitat restoration and taking action for species was “now bearing fruit,” the review says.
It cites numerous wildlife successes, from an anti-predator fence at Trimley Marshes helping to achieve increased numbers of breeding waders, to island creation at the December 2013 North Sea surge-hit Hazlewood Marshes, near Aldeburgh, helping similar species and also becoming an important fish nursery, and from increasing dormouse numbers at Bradfield Woods, to reserve surveys revealing the presence of the rare Pashford pot beetle, which had been thought to be extinct in the UK after it was lost from Suffolk in the 1990s.
In a section entitled “Inspiring others”, the review outlines work the trust carries out beyond its nature reserves. It includes two new community initiatives launched in the review period - Save Our Suffolk Swifts, which is carried out in partnership with the Suffolk Ornithologists’ Group, and the Ipswich Hedgehog Project. Supported by the Heritage Lottery Fund and the British Hedgehog Preservation Society, the hedgehog project is headed by Ipswich hedgehog officer Ali North and aims to make Ipswich the most hedgehog-friendly town in the UK.
In the review period the document says the trust had “screened” 1,028 planning applications and made formal responses to 345. “We commented on major residential developments along the A14 corridor; Ipswich Northern Fringe (1,900 new dwellings); Haverhill (2,500 dwellings); and Sudbury (1,100 dwellings), to ensure that opportunities for greenspace were maximised and conflicts with protected species and important habitats were avoided.
“We were consulted 21 times on Local Plans and Neighbourhood Plans as well as national infrastructure projects such as the East Anglia Three Offshore Windfarm. Our comprehensive response to the Sizewell C Stage 2 Consultation set out our detailed biodiversity concerns over this proposed development,” the review says.
The trust’s commitment to learning in nature is “unparalleled in Suffolk,” the document says. The charity’s Wild Learning officers were dedicated to finding new ways to “enthuse children and young people and nurture their interest in the natural world.”
Over the year, 19,155 children and nearly 7,000 adults were directly involved in learning inspired by nature, including 11,200 children welcomed to the trust’s centres for school visits, Forest Schools and Wild Beach sessions.
More information on the work of the trust can be found at www.suffolkwildlifetrust.org
The trust’s “amazing” volunteers are the charity’s “backbone”, the review says.
Whether it is by practical habitat management, welcoming visitors, giving conservation advice, working with young people or delivering the trust’s magazines, its was the volunteers’ support that made the charity “such a force for nature.”
It was estimated that, collectively, 1,400 volunteers gave a total of 12,000 days of support to the trust in the review period.
The outstanding work of one volunteers over many years earned him the trust’s Volunteer of the Year accolade - conservation stalwart Terry Peake, of Wickham Market, was presented with an award trophy at the trust’s 2016 annual meeting.
The review says: “Terry has been a volunteer for Suffolk Wildlife Trust since 1975, much of the time as volunteer warden for Blaxhall Common nature reserve.
“With his monthly volunteer team he has played a vital role in restoring the Sandlings heathland habitat. Nightjar and woodlark now breed every year and more recently silver-studded blue butterflies were successfully re-introduced.
“If that wasn’t enough, Terry has also made a valuable contribution to the Trust’s learning activities at Foxburrow Farm.
“Terry is one of the most community-minded individuals in Suffolk and how he finds both the energy and time to do so much is nothing short of extraordinary.”