Cheshire Wildlife Trust on the fight to halt the decline of nature
- Credit: Dawn Monrose
Cheshire Wildlife Trust’s Rachel Bradshaw discusses the urgent need to take care of our county’s wildlife.
Imagine a moment in your childhood, a moment which made you feel happy and full of life. I am certain that very moment was one outside amongst nature.
Do you think the next generation of children will be able to reminisce about nature-filled moments during their early years on the planet? Recent studies make grim reading. For example, a worrying three-quarters of UK children spend less time outdoors than prison inmates. In the last 100 years, the UK has become one of the most nature-depleted nations in the world. Our woods, meadows and ponds - those all-important homes for our wildlife - are getting smaller, fewer, more polluted and more separated from each other. We'll watch a wildlife documentary or fly across the world to see rare species, but we forget about what we have nearby - or what we did have. We struggle to tune into intriguing animal displays on our doorstep, smell beautiful wildflowers on a walk or hear 'exotic' calls when sat outside. And there's a reason. We've paved over our ponds, built roads through our woodlands and poisoned our rivers.
The Wildlife Trust has created an animated trailer of Wind in the Willows - if you've not seen it yet, visit our website. The trailer shows the 21st century threats that would face the much-loved characters from Kenneth Grahame's children's classic in current times. When we think about Ratty, Badger, Mole and Mr Toad and how beautiful their habitats were, it shows a stark contrast and shows us how much it has changed for our wildlife now.
Almost all of our riverbanks in the UK are completely uninhabitable for water voles, with water flow now so fast during heavy rainfall that it makes it impossible for them to build their homes. It is upsetting because what used to be a gentle meander along our rivers and streams, has too often been replaced by straight concrete channels.
Our waterways have taken such a hard hit. From streetlights and wind farms in our estuaries to house building and new roads - it all disrupts our natural way of life and prevents movement from one place to another. It changes our homes into unfamiliar areas - those habitats that no longer have everything we need to survive.
For hundreds of years, we had beautiful hedgerows marking the farmland boundaries in Cheshire, full of birds, insects, flowers and pollinators all enjoying what they have to offer. Sadly, we have lost so much of it now and it's becoming rarer to hear the sparrows chirping away.
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Did you know grasslands and meadows are amongst the rarest habitat in Cheshire with 99% across our region gone since the 1960s? That's 99% less habitat for wild orchids, 99% less habitat for butterflies and 99% less habitat for skylarks.
Gardens used to be filled with lovely native plants but now they're mixed in with varieties from across the world. The poor caterpillars that need specific greenery to munch and bees that require food beyond the barbeque season have little to eat.
We need wildlife. Our natural world is valuable in its own right and is the foundation of our wellbeing - we depend on it and it depends on us. It is literally the air we breathe, the water we drink and the food we eat. We want children to be able to look back on their childhoods like we can and remember those wonderful moments in nature.
As there becomes less wildlife to experience, we don't see as much - we lose our connection to nature. How can we expect the next generation to care for something they've never seen, visited, smelt or felt? What's a childhood without seeing the reflection of a buttercup under the chin of your friend? Without feeling the tickle of a ladybird walk across your hand? Without smelling wild garlic in the woods as you play? What's a childhood if it's not wild? The ending to this story is not yet told.
As the region's conservation charity, with your support, Cheshire Wildlife Trust is working hard with farmers and other landowners to restore meadows, plant more trees, create more ponds and so much more. But we can't do it without your help. Cheshire Wildlife Trust is fighting day-after-day to halt the decline of nature and to begin its recovery. We work tirelessly to improve and connect areas for wildlife to thrive, to defend wildlife against development and to show local children how fascinating nature is. But we need to do more.