A nature restoration project bringing wetland back to Bradford Estates fields on the Shropshire and Staffordshire borders is getting under way as conservationists celebrate World Wetlands Day.
The landed estates business is transforming an area near Brineton as part of a scheme delivered with Shropshire Wildlife Trust, drawing upon funding from the Environment Agency’s Water Environment Improvement Fund.
The main work on the project is beginning this week, to be complete by mid-February, at the same time as conservationists mark World Wetlands Day. The event is held each year on 2 February to raise awareness of wetlands and encourage action to conserve and restore them.
On three hectares most recently used for livestock grazing, Bradford Estates are creating wildlife-friendly scrapes, shallow depressions that temporarily collect rainwater, to attract wetland wildlife.
The project will include the felling of trees across the stream which runs through the land to enhance the wetland at peak rainfall times. As well as seeing plants such as sedges and rushes restored to the area, it is hoped insects and wading birds like snipe will return.
The partners have shaped the transformation to slow and stop sediment being carried to the nearby Aqualate Mere National Nature Reserve, reducing the decline of the natural lake. Fencing surrounding the fields has been replaced to create a buffer around the wetland and support conservation grazing, and a footbridge is also being restored.
Shropshire Wildlife Trust is working with Bradford Estates as part of its wider vision for a thriving natural local environment in the county. Pete Lambert, Head of Land and Water for Shropshire Wildlife Trust, said: “We are absolutely delighted with the regenerative approach that Bradford Estates is taking with this project. It will make a great contribution to improving biodiversity.
“The theme of World Wetlands Day 2023 is wetland restoration, which highlights the importance of this work. Land management practices, until recent times, have been about draining land to support the growth of crops, but the challenge with this is that wetlands do some critical things.
“They store carbon to provide essential protection against climate change, enhance water quality and support some of our rarest species of plants and animals, including diverse aquatic life and a number of our most interesting birds.
“It is incredibly important that those who look after land work collaboratively together to preserve wetlands to increase the number of species that are supported and avoid their extinction. It is great to work with a forward-thinking landed estates business like Bradford Estates in order to meet the long-term needs of the local area.”
Alexander Pearson, a third year BSc Environmental Land Management student at Harper Adams University, near Newport, has worked on the project as part of his placement year with Bradford Estates. He added: “Another key benefit of this project is flood alleviation. With pools being created to hold more water, this will reduce the risk of flooding, benefiting the local community that surrounds the brook downstream. A small change in the way that you manage land can have such a large impact on the surrounding environment.”
Landed estates business Bradford Estates is responsible for managing 12,000 acres on the Shropshire and Staffordshire borders. Working to its 100-year plan, Bradford Estates’ stewardship is centred around delivering a legacy for generations to come by using sustainable practices across its activities.