- Wildlife Groups
The Yorkshire Wildlife Trust has broadly welcomed the inclusion of the Yorkshire Wolds as one of two areas of the UK to be potentially designated an Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty (AONB) but warn that more needs to be done in our existing landscapes if our declining wildlife is to recover. The proposal is one of a raft of measures outlined last month in the governments response statement to the Glover Review - an independent report into the state of our National Parks & AONBs, published back in 2019.
Coming over 2 years after Julian Glover's report, Natural England, as the government’s statutory advisor on landscapes in England will head up an initial programme of work with the key objectives as follows -
It remains to be seen if these measures make any real impact upon our long suffering suffering wildlife. Here in Yorkshire the Dales, North Yorks Moors, Nidderdale & the North Yorks Moors are undeniably beautiful places to visit and all have their havens for wildlife, but there are also vast swathes of habitat in all of these areas that have become degraded over time from a combination of overgrazing, habitat loss, intensive farming practices and human disturbance. Will simply conserving the status of AONB upon the Yorkshire Wolds really improve it's wildlife, or will it just drive up visitor numbers?
The proposed measures are a start of course but there are many who believe more direct action needs to be taken to really make a difference. The RSPB have responded to the government's proposals with the headline statement 'we need more nature in our protected landscapes, not just more protected landscapes' and the Wildlife Trusts in general saying “If this Government is serious about its ambition to leave the environment in a better state for the next generation, it must properly fund meaningful action to restore habitats across our protected landscapes. What is needed, more than anything, is to address the issues raised in the Glover Review and restructuring and renaming will potentially divert time and resources away from doing so.”
There were 27 recommendations coming out of the Glover Review and at the time the RSPB, Wildlife Trusts and Woodland Trust identified 10 as being key to the recovery of nature in our 'protected' landscapes.
I'm very familiar with the gently sloping chalk hills of the Yorkshire Wolds, I live a stone's throw away and lucky enough to gaze out upon them every day. To me it's already a beautiful place and I've spent many a happy day wandering around places such as Givendale, Leavening Brow and Millington Pastures. Could it be improved? Yes of course - there's too much intensive farming going on for a start, but will AONB status if granted solve this?.I remain to be convinced. Yorkshire Wildlife Trust have already worked hard with local land owners to improve selected patches of the Wolds, restoring dew ponds and enhancing the chalk streams at Skerne Wetlands for example, creating environments in which wildlife can thrive again. We need more of this please. If AONB status and the other measures, such as the proposed funding scheme to support farmers to improve protected landscapes, enable this to happen then all well and good, but it has to be meaningful, backed up with action and funding, and it has to happen now not in 5 years time when Wolds speciality species such as Barn Owls, Brook Lamprey and Brown Hares could be lost from these hills.
Further reading / information