Victoria Farncombe discovers how the RSBP is creating new biodiversity from a disused quarry.

Just weeks after the RSPB launched its most ambitious campaign to halt the decline in biodiversity, the wildlife charity is set to open a new nature reserve in the West Midlands.

Just south of Tamworth on the river Tame, the former sand and gravel quarry has been transformed into a stunning 160-hectare Middleton Lakes.

The wetlands reserve has taken 10 years to develop at a cost of £1.5 million, funded mostly through Heritage Lottery money.

Already known for wildfowl such as pochards, tufted ducks and smews, the RSPB hopes it will become the most important site for breeding waders in the West Midlands by 2015.

Other wildlife of conservation importance expected to flock to the site include otters, water voles and dragonflies.

The planned opening of the wetlands reserve is a prime example of what the RSPB hopes to achieve in the next decade through its Stepping Up for Nature campaign.

Billed as the most ambitious project in the charity’s 122-year history, Stepping Up for Nature was instigated in response to the news that in 2010 the world failed to meet a global target to halt the decline in biodiversity.

A new target was set by the EU for 2020, and UK governments have signed up to it. While supporting this through the creation and management of more reserves in the UK, the RSPB has also devised a road map to 2020 encouraging government, businesses and individuals to play their part too.

Their support is vital, particularly during the current economic climate when all charities are facing cutbacks, the RSPB says.

Steve Holliday, RSPB regional director for the Midlands, admitted they were already having to slow down plans for their Sandwell Valley Reserve due to the financial constraints imposed by government cuts. “We mustn’t underestimate the power of individual volunteers,” he says. “We have 900 in the West Midlands and thanks to their support we have some fantastic success stories.”

Mr Holliday sites the example of the return of the red kite across many parts of the Midlands following reintroductions about 20 years ago.

“It has captured the imagination of many people and is now one of the largest concentrations of this bird anywhere in the world,” he says.

“At the same time our failure to halt loss of biodiversity means at the local level people are witnessing the gradual loss of a range of plants, butterflies and other insects, birds and mammals.

“Things like water voles and dragonflies we’d really like to bring back.”

Mike Clarke, RSPB chief executive, says: “When we missed the 2010 biodiversity target we failed nature. We can’t let that happen again.

“Everyone can do their bit. If we can encourage people from all walks of life to take millions of steps for nature, then those we elect will be forced to sit up and take notice.

“From schoolchildren creating a wildlife garden in the corner of their playground right up to ministers creating a vital piece of legislation that protects our natural environment, we all have a part to play between now and 2020.

“This is the most ambitious campaign the RSPB has launched in its long history, and the challenge ahead of us is huge. But the prize on offer is even bigger. A healthy natural world where all life can thrive.”

As part of the launch of the campaign the charity handed a Letter to the Future to Number 10, Downing Street. The letter has been signed by more than 355,000 people over the past two years and calls on the Government not to cut funding for nature conservation in our straitened economic times.