Staffordshire Wildlife Trust is highlighting the challenges facing the county’s wildlife and wild places in a new campaign.
As part of the national campaign – Wilder Future by the Wildlife Trusts – the Staffordshire trust has launched – Wilder Staffordshire.
Building on the ‘Wind in the Willows’ story, which is used in the national campaign, the Staffordshire Trust is focussing on the need to restore and reconnect people with rivers and wetlands, creating new habitats for species like the water vole, the model for the much-loved character ‘Ratty’ in the famous book.
In Staffordshire, just 5% of waterbodies are in good condition, while numbers of water voles have declined dramatically in the past decade. It’s now the UK’s fastest declining mammal. The decline has seen them being lost from 94% of places where they were once prevalent.
The Trust’s work includes the purchase and restoration of Tucklesholme Quarry, near Burton-on-Trent, which opens officially this summer in the Trust’s 50th Anniversary Year. The Trust has created large reedbeds, islands, shallows and scrapes which will provide habitat for water-loving wildlife.
Julian Woolford, CEO of the Staffordshire Wildlife Trust, said: “We are a nation of nature-lovers, yet we live in one of the most nature-depleted countries in the world. If we want to put nature into recovery we have to create a mass movement of people calling for change. Our film is a sad version of Wind in the Willows – showing how Ratty and Toad have hit the buffers – but it ends with a message of real hope. It’s not too late to create strong laws which will help our wildlife make a comeback – and it’s not too late to establish a Nature Recovery Network which will enable us to plan a wilder future.”
The national campaign film trailer stars Sir David Attenborough, Stephen Fry, Catherine Tate, Alison Steadman and Asim Chaudry and shows how the lives of Badger, Ratty, Mole and Toad are disrupted by roads, river pollution and intensive agriculture – many habitats have been destroyed and others have been broken up. Toad hangs a picture of a puffin entangled in plastic on the wall in Toad Hall. “Farewell old friend” he says.
Kenneth Grahame wrote Wind in the Willows just over a hundred years ago. Since then, many of the UK’s wild places and the plants and animals that depend on them have been lost. For example: 97% of lowland meadows and the beautiful wildflowers, insects, mammals and birds that they supported have disappeared; 80% of purple heathlands have vanished – with their blaeberries, sand lizards and the stunning nocturnal birds, nightjars. Rivers are in deep trouble too: only 20% are considered as healthy and 13% of freshwater and wetland species in Great Britain are threatened with extinction.
President Emeritus of The Wildlife Trusts, Sir David Attenborough says: “It’s desperately sad that so much of our country’s wildlife has been lost since Kenneth Grahame wrote his wonderful book The Wind in the Willows. Of all the characters in the book it’s hard to know whose descendants have suffered the most. Water Voles, Toads and Badger’s friends in the book, Hedgehogs, have all seen catastrophic declines.
“Ratty was a Water Vole and these animals can’t burrow into river banks covered with sheets of metal. Toads need ponds and wet areas to lay their eggs. Hedgehogs must roam miles to feed at night but often hit barriers and struggle to find the messy piles of leaves they need for shelter. None of these creatures can cope with road traffic because they did not evolve to recognise a car as dangerous.”
Sir David Attenborough continues: “The Wildlife Trusts have worked tirelessly to slow wildlife’s decline and to save our remaining wild places. Without The Wildlife Trusts our country would be the poorer. But there’s much more to be done. This country of nature lovers needs to give its wildlife every chance to survive, thrive and expand its range.
“I’m backing The Wildlife Trusts’ campaign to rally people to secure a ‘wilder future’ by restoring large areas of wildlife habitat, in city and country. What we create may not look exactly like the countryside that Kenneth Grahame drew such inspiration from, but our wildlife won’t mind just so long as it has the places it needs to live and thrive.”
**You can find out more about Staffordshire Wildlife Trust here.