Amongst all the problems that wildlife is suffering there is some good news in Birmingham and the Black Country. The Wildlife Trust has won a national award for their leadership of the Nature Improvement Area. (NIA). This is a region-wide initiative which began in 2013. First funded by the Government, and now by the Esmee Fairbairn Foundation, it is supported by more than 50 partners, including conservation bodies, community groups, and local authorities. The NIA has worked with over 5,000 volunteers on more than 250 sites, including neighbourhood green spaces and parks. Woodland, heathland and wetland habitats have all benefitted.
The award, the NGO Impact Award, was presented by the Chartered Institute of Ecology and Environmental Management (CIEEM) at a lunch in London. Simon Atkinson, Conservation Manager, The Wildlife Trust for Birmingham and the Black Country said: “We were delighted to receive this award from CIEEM. This is a win for all the partners, community groups and volunteers that have worked together to help nature thrive across the region, but most of all it’s a win for urban wildlife.”
Typical projects include new wild flower meadows and improvements to natural watercourses, but slightly more unusual is a scheme along the A41 Black Country Route in West Bromwich. Being described as ‘the best bee road in the Back Country’ the verges and central reservation are awash with colourful wild flowers, softening the harsh urban landscape and sustaining bee and other insect populations. Amongst the flowers are hundreds of rare orchids, thriving in the poor soil, a legacy of the area’s industrial past. Aggressive, nutrient-demanding species such as stinging nettles and cow parsley have to give way here to more delicate plants.
The Wildlife Trust and Sandwell Council are now working together to change the verge cutting regime to extend the flowering period, and allow more wildlife to thrive. Sandwell’s cabinet member for highways, Councillor David Hosell, said: “It’s great to see how a small change to when we mow the verges can have such a magnificent impact on flowers and wildlife. By holding off on mowing during late spring and summer, we’re giving these flowers – some of them rare like the bee orchid – the chance to flourish. We did this last year and it has reaped benefits for the local wildlife.” He could have added that money is being saved as well – a win-win situation for people and wildlife.