Imagine a Suffolk where wildlife flourishes in the countryside, villages and towns. Where children grow up inspired by the sights and sounds of nature and where people live happier, healthier lives.
This is the vision, called Living Landscapes, being pursued across the country by wildlife trusts, and none more so than in Suffolk.
Last week, Suffolk Wildlife Trust announced ambitious new plans to create a giant nature reserve for wildlife and people to enjoy.
The scale of the scheme, which would involve buying land flanking the existing nature reserve at Carlton and Oulton marshes, is unprecedented in the charity’s history.
It has however already won the backing of both Professor Emeritus of The Wildlife Trusts, Sir David Attenborough, and the Heritage Lottery Fund.
Suffolk Wildlife Trust believe it would be both a major coup for the county and advancement for the Living Landscape vision, by creating the Suffolk Broads National Nature Reserve.
“The new nature reserve is an opportunity to create wildness as far as the eye can see and restore a magnificent landscape in the UK’s most nature–rich national park,” said Julian Roughton, chief executive of Suffolk Wildlife Trust.
“More than that it would be a major progression for the Living Landscapes project which aims to create stepping stones across the county where nature and wildlife can flourish.
“These can include both rural and urban areas creating a network of habitats for people and wildlife to enjoy.”
The Wildlife Trusts now have more than 100 Living Landscape schemes around the UK, where nature conservation work is helping to put wildlife back on the map in protected nature reserves and beyond, with the help of a wide range of partners and communities.
Through Living landscapes, Wildlife Trusts are working to transform the environment by restoring, recreating and reconnecting wildlife-rich spaces in both rural and urban areas by working with local communities, landowners, schools and businesses.
One of these major stepping stones was the purchase of Knettishal Heath in 2012 to create a nature reserve to act as a beacon in the county for nature lovers and tourists, alike.
This project, along with existing national reserves such as Lackford Lakes, Bradfield Woods, Redgrave and Lopham Fen, and recent work by the RSPB at Lakenheath to create a giant reedbed have all added to Suffolk’s network of Living Landscapes across the county.
The new plans, incorporating Carlton and Oulton Marshes, would create 1,000 acres of wildness in the Broads National Park and hugely enlarge the network of sites in line with the Living Landscapes vision.
Broadcaster and naturalist, Sir David Attenborough, has urged people to get behind the scheme, as the Suffolk Wildlife Trust launches a new campaign to raise £1m in public funding to help with the initial land purchase.
It would, he says, not only be a boon for Suffolk, but also for natural life, itself.
“England’s wildlife is under great and ever growing pressure,” said Sir David.
“It is vital that we restore our land on a landscape scale so that we can support more wild plants and animals.
“Suffolk Wildlife Trust’s ambition to extend Carlton and Oulton Marshes is a unique opportunity to do just this and it has my whole-hearted support.”
The land purchase would be the biggest in the trust’s 55 year history and lead to creation of a mix of wet habitats that many nationally rare animals and plants depend on.
A new reedbed would be the largest in the Broads, supporting marsh harriers and bittern, as well as reed bunting, grasshopper warbler and lesser known species like white mantled wainscot moth, which has only ever been found in Suffolk.
A seven mile network of restored freshwater ditches would be amongst the best in the UK and would allow Broadland specialists including plants, water voles, and rare fen raft spiders to spread across the landscape.
More than 150 acres of marsh, fen meadow and shallow pools would be created, with thousands of soft muddy edges, for wintering windfowl and nationally declining waders like lapwing and redshank to feed.
The project also runs alongside, as well as echoes current schemes such as the Breaking New Ground initiative, which aims to raise awarenbess of the Brecks, a unique landscape, stretching across both counties of Norfolk and Suffolk, from the margins of public awareness to the mainstream.
The Heritage Lottery Funded project involves a number of projects and events which helps connect communities to the skills and understanding necessary to sustain its natural, archaeological and built heritage.
“All of these projects involve working closely with communities and partners to share best practices,” said Julian Roughton.
“This means we can create Living Landscapes across the county for people such that wherever they are they are never far away from nature.
“This also extends into urban areas by working on land on the edge of towns and in towns themselves by helping to protect wildlife species and schemes such as people linking gardens to create whole new urban wildlife habitats.”
The Heritage Lottery Fund has already approved the trust’s initial plans for the land purchase, together with the early proposals to improve the reserve for visitors and develop wide ranging education activities.
The HLF has awarded the trust a development grant of £246,300 to now work on the more detailed plans necessary to secure a full grant of £4m for the full nature reserve project.
Suffolk Wildlife Trust launched its public £1m fund–raising campaign last week.
“Buying this land will create an amazing place for wildlife that people can enjoy forever, surrounded by other living and connected Living Landscapes in the county,” added Julian Roughton
“It’s an ambitious vision and raising £1m will help us to to make it happen.”
Suffolk Wildlife Trust is the county’s largest voluntary organisation, with 28,000 members, dedicated to local nature conservation.
The trust cares for nearly 7,500 acres of Suffolk’s wildlife habitat in 53 nature reserves.
Suffolk Wildwlife Trust hopes the new Suffolk Broads National Nature Reserve could be become a reality by 2020.
“Last year more than 60,000 people were involved with a wildlife activity organised by the trust and people are at the heart of our vision,” added Christine Luxton, Suffolk Wildlife Trust’s head of development
“People have every reason to be proud of our wildlife in Suffolk and we hope they will get behind the new plans to create our largest nature reserve.”
“This would create a major stepping stone not only for the county, but for the country as a whole, and be of international importance.”
Sir David added: “Please help Suffolk Wildlife Trust rescue this precious corner of East Anglia and bring back wildlife in all its splendour.
“By giving generously, you will be investing not just in wildlife but in the happiness and fulfilment of thousands of people now and in the future.”
To find out more, or to donate to the campaign to help create the new Suffolk Broads National Nature Reserve, people should visit the trust’s website at: www.suffolkwildlifetrust.org