OPINION: Beauty and biodiversity can be found in surprising places

Roger Outlaw with young visitors to the Go Wild! sessions at All Saints Church in Chedgrave

All Saints Church in Chedgrave is one of the pledgees to the WildEast nature movement. Pictured is Roger Outlaw with young visitors to the church's Go Wild! sessions - Credit: All Saints Chedgrave

A project to inspire nature recovery across East Anglia has highlighted some encouraging and surprising examples writes Argus Hardy, one of the founding trustees of the WildEast conservation movement.

Since the launch of the WildEast 'Map of Dreams' we have received a surge of pledges towards the map and the vision of a wilder, wetter and woodier east.

The idea is that we all make a commitment of whatever we can towards nature recovery, anywhere and on any scale. It is a simple idea but it needs mass participation to work.

As the project matures so will the map, defined by the projects, ideas and commitments which people are making every day in their own way. Fundamentally, the Pledge has become what WildEast is about, all of us finding common cause and working together towards nature recovery.

The WildEast 'Map of Dreams' illustrates the nature recovery ambitions of people across East Anglia

The WildEast 'Map of Dreams' illustrates the nature recovery ambitions of people across East Anglia - Credit: Global MapAid

To do this it is not just about preserving the iconic landscapes of East Anglia: the great coastal reserves, saltmarshes and reed beds. Where we need a quiet revolution is the areas where the majority of us live and work.

Here every pledge matters, from landscape-scale projects through to farms and farmyards, churchyards and backyards to roadside verges. Each pledge is dropped onto our map to mark out this collective effort, allowing people to see the recovery they are helping to create and encourage others to follow suit.

The map becomes this mosaic of intricate habitats that make up our region and strengthening the connections between them.

The founding trustees of the WildEast nature movement. From left, Hugh Somerleyton, Ollie Birkbeck and Argus Hardy

The founding trustees of the WildEast nature movement. From left: Hugh Somerleyton, Ollie Birkbeck and Argus Hardy - Credit: Mark Cator

Pledgee Sam Lee, a folk singer and author, makes a clarion call in his book The Nightingale for messy places in our gardens and on our farms: “These small corners that if allowed to run wild encourages a boom in invertebrates, molluscs and naturally occurring weeds that in turn support so many more birds.”

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Sam is talking specifically about nightingale habitat but his point is that what is good for one species will benefit all.

Michael Salter, warden of Saxmundham Fishing Club, describes this perfectly at the club’s fishing ponds and conservation area.

The two ponds were dug out from a grubbed up Second World War runway and the area has been allowed to naturally regenerate from the bare clay.

“With reeds in the water, wide hedges and overgrown areas of scrub it’s a haven for wildlife, reed buntings, cormorants, murmurations of starlings, turtle dove and nightingale. Bee orchids, pyramids. You name it, it's here,” he says.

What was once a narrow strip of concrete is now a County Wildlife Site.

Andy Jarrett of the South Yare Wild Patch trust has pledged an equally inspiring array of habitats on his own land, nurtured over the last 30 years.

He is custodian of wildflower meadows, two orchards of varying age, and a fenced-off area planted especially for bees. These areas host a huge variety of habitats which provide food for an equally large variety of invertebrates, small mammals and bird species including field fares and voles. These in turn attract sparrow hawks, marsh harriers, buzzards, and a peregrine falcon.

Andy says: "The South Yare Wild Patch is a hugely inspiring project, where we share our wilded areas. Even the smallest of WildPatches makes all the difference. It has brought the community together and makes you feel that collectively, you can do something positive for the environment and biodiversity."

Another member of the South Yare group is the Rev Alison Ball, who has pledged on behalf of All Saints Church in Chedgrave, near Loddon.

Part of a Buglife "bee corridor", the churchyard has seasonal mowing, hedgehog houses, log piles and bee banks. Rev Ball says: “We hope that this will allow wildflowers and insects to proliferate and increase the number of birds and small mammals that are in the churchyard.”

The map is beginning to show that beauty and biodiversity can be found in surprising places. An area of reclaimed wasteland, an overgrown corner of a churchyard, a thicket of invasive bramble and blackthorn: all are perfect habitats for a kaleidoscope of species.

It is exactly these sort of visions we want to celebrate through WildEast and encourage others to follow.

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