Nature plan moves on

Richard Astle

Langdyke is spearheading a campaign to protect nature in the area we have come to know as John Clare Countryside. Here chair Richard Astle gives an update on how the plan is moving on with the creation of nature recovery plans


Lockdown has reinforced our love of nature, but it hasn’t lessened the pressures on our local wildlife.  

We are lucky to have so much and so varied wildlife in and around our villages.  But we must never forget how much nature, even here, is in steep decline. 

Nightingales have gone from Bainton Heath, lapwings nest in one or two places, not everywhere as they once did; turtle doves have done well again this year at Maxey, but have vanished from the rest of our countryside. Wild-flower meadows are few and very far between and ash trees are dying across our landscape.

This is why the John Clare Countryside project – spearheaded by the Langdyke Countryside Trust – is so important as it aims to create a nature recovery area across our area, allowing space for nature to prosper and expand across the countryside.  

If you haven’t read our vision document it is on Langdyke’s website here

And these ideas have considerable support.  

Peterborough City Council unanimously approved a motion in July to “support Natural Cambridgeshire’s aim of doubling the area of land managed for nature across Cambridgeshire and Peterborough by 2050 and in particular supports the John Clare Countryside project, which aims to create, launch and deliver an ambitious and accessible nature recovery area across the landscape areas to the west of Peterborough”

We have been taking these plans forward during lockdown, including the launch by Zoom of our initiative for every parish to create its own Nature Recovery Plan.   

Already we have twelve of our local parishes signed up to the idea and starting work on their plans. 

 Working with our partners at Natural England, the Wildlife Trust and PECT, Langdyke has produced a toolkit full of advice on how to develop a nature recovery plan. The first step is to create a map of the key wildlife sites in each parish, a baseline of where nature is richest.  

From this, each parish can decide its objectives (plant more trees, restore orchards, dig ponds etc.) and then develop a recovery map setting out how and where new habitats can be created and linked up.

Once plans for each of the parishes are complete, we can then work collectively to link up all these ideas and ensure a landscape-scale approach to nature recovery across John Clare Countryside.   Any proposals in the plans must of course be discussed and agreed with landowners first and we will be working closely with the farming community to ensure that these plans fully reflect their interests and help their approach to the new agricultural subsidy regime.

Initial ideas include corridors of trees stretching between Stamford and Peterborough; or a chain of wildflower meadows linking Nene and Welland.  

The parish plans are just one part of the John Clare Countryside project – we are also bidding for substantial funding from Heritage Lottery Fund to allow us to work closely with landowners and to develop ideas for improved public access and community engagement. 

The project also includes work to link nature and mental and physical health, forging relationships with the NHS and mental health charities.

If you’d like to be involved in your parish nature recovery plan or any other aspect of the John Clare Countryside project, do let us know and we can put you in touch with the key contacts.  Please email me at chair@langdyke.org.uk

If we are to help nature recover, we need more volunteers!