Hope springs for a wilder Derbyshire

PUBLISHED: 00:00 29 October 2020

Wildlife in the Peak District needs to be carefully managed and protected

Wildlife in the Peak District needs to be carefully managed and protected

Matt Gibson

Why the time to secure a better future for our county’s wildlife has to be now

Red deer roam and take shelter in Derbyshire's woodlandRed deer roam and take shelter in Derbyshire's woodland

Set in the heart of the Hope Valley is a new nature reserve where wildlife is being left to pretty much get on with things. It’s part of Derbyshire Wildlife Trust’s plan for a wilder Derbyshire and a wilder Peak District National Park - to create a network of green spaces, where wildlife can flourish and thrive.

The UK sadly is one of the most nature depleted countries in the world, and mammals, birds and insects have seen their numbers fall dramatically in the past few decades as their homes are built on, fragmented or affected by pesticides. Animals being confined to a few remnants of protected reserve have been called zombie or living-dead species – without other populations to interact and breed with, we will lose them over time too. We know a depleted natural world has impacts for our health – and not just the soil, clean water and air that nature provides and filters for us. Many of us have sought solace and taken comfort in green space and the nature on our doorstep over the past few months.

The Wildlife Trusts want to see 30% of the UK for nature by 2030 and local Trusts are leading the way on local schemes and projects to meet this ambitious target. This spring, Derbyshire Wildlife Trust took on the management of the beautiful and very peaceful 30 hectare Thornhill Carr reserve near Bamford. A mosaic of different habitats for wildlife, it gives the Trust a unique opportunity to test and look at what would happen if a reserve like this was kept free from vehicles, chainsaws and the usual tools of traditional countryside management. Here you’ll find woodlands and hawthorn growing as tall as trees, thick bramble beds, trees festooned with lichens, scrubby smaller bushes, and incredible views over the valley to Bamford Edge in the distance.

Flocks of winter thrushes including redwings and fieldfare are arriving from Scandinavia to spend a milder winter in the UK and gorge themselves on hawthorn berries. They are especially at home here in Thornhill. Hovering kestrels are also a common sight and red deer roam or take shelter in the woodland. A large family of badgers have lived here for generations.

Badgers have roamed in the Peak District for centuriesBadgers have roamed in the Peak District for centuries

Summertime will bring gorgeous grassland, dappled glades, flowering meadows, and natural regeneration of native woodland to provide the perfect places for butterflies, and summer visiting birds to safely feed. Messy scrub habitat appeals to all kinds of birds such as willow and garden warblers that visit us from Africa. The Trust hope to see more diversity and different species across Derbyshire in the coming years and there are hopes red squirrels could be reintroduced here and osprey could become a regular sighting – but their homes need to link up with other similar areas so they doesn’t just exist in isolated pockets.

According to Jo Smith, Derbyshire Wildlife Trust’s Chief Executive, the ambition is for ‘a wilder Derbyshire – more places need to be part of a nature recovery network, so our wildlife can move around more freely, with shelter and food. In turn, wildlife and wilder places bring us benefits too and create a more beautiful, healthier world to live in. Our moorlands should be richer in wildlife, there should be more wildflowers for butterflies and bees, and there are enough places where, with people’s help, we can make this happen.’

Rewilding has become something of a buzz word and can still divide opinion – most of our land will still require some level of intervention and there’s arguments that loss and development has simply gone too far for the UK to ever go back to a more ‘natural’ state. But something clearly has to be done and the creation of a nature recovery network, with wild spaces and green corridors especially in our more populated areas will have a crucial part to play. They may be the last chance saloon for many of our wildlife species.

Derbyshire wildlife Trust is encouraging people with gardens to get involved too. ‘Anyone with a garden or outdoors space can do their bit too by providing homes for wildlife, gaps in fences to allow small mammals like hedgehogs to forage freely, leave a few weeds, sow flowers for bees and avoid the chemicals.’ adds Jo.

The Trust want to keep the Thornhill accessible for people to enjoy and see rewilding in action so will be working gently to keep footpaths clear. There is a trail through the middle of the reserve and footpaths that criss-cross the hillside to let you get those far reaching scenic views. For the more adventurous there is a lung busting steep path through the reserve that takes you up to Win Hill with incredible 360-degree views across the Peak District. From this perspective, it’s possible to imagine a wilder Derbyshire and a wilder Peak District National Park.

Derbyshire Wildlife Trust recently launched a new appeal for more nature recovery projects across the county to put new land aside for nature as well as repair and link-up existing, fragmented, wild areas to enable wildlife to move around. The aim is to bring nature everywhere including to the places nearer to where people live. Find out more at www.derbyshirewildlifetrust.org.uk/rewild.

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