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New Welsh-English project to restore nature and boost rural prosperity

A group of Wildlife Trusts has launched Wilder Marches – a nature recovery project across two countries, four counties and three major river catchments

Welsh Marches

Image via Wilder Marches

The ‘Wilder Marches’ initiative straddles the Welsh-English border area known as the ‘Marches’, which includes the headwaters of the River Lugg, River Teme and River Clun. The area is home to long-established rural communities, ancient woodlands, heathlands and peatland, flower-rich meadows, wood pasture and ‘ffridd’, a special upland habitat of scrub and grassland. The Marches also have areas of intensive farming as well as extensive forestry plantations where nature is struggling to thrive.

The new Wilder Marches initiative aims to enable a network of estates, farms, woods, nature reserves and commons to help nature recover once more.

Helen O’Connor, head of development at Shropshire Wildlife Trust, says: “Nature doesn’t adhere to country or county boundaries and that’s why we’re so excited to be working at a landscape scale in the Marches. The region might be part of Montgomeryshire, Radnorshire, Herefordshire and Shropshire but it is a single landscape, worthy of defending with a deep sense of place. Given the shared cultural heritage amongst the Marches’ communities, as four local Wildlife Trusts we have a fantastic opportunity to work with local people, landowners, farmers and NGOs to identify areas of strategic importance and opportunities that will benefit habitats, wildlife and people.”

Tony Norman, Herefordshire farmer, says: “With the impending loss of Basic Payments our industry will see a step change in the way we produce food. We must improve our soils, reduce our costs and ‘stack up’ other sources of income. Accessing payment for services such as carbon capture and storage, Biodiversity Net Gain and flood control, will enable improvements in linking vital nature habitats, as well as supporting activity such as hedgerow management and tree planting.

“The Wilder Marches project can provide support for landowners during this transition. Its vision is to promote sustainable farming, green income streams and natural recovery to benefit wildlife and local farm businesses alike. By working together across the wider landscape, it will enable us to help clean up the rivers and streams of the Marches and to see more wildlife back on our farms.”