ERDF Wild Towns Project Update

ERDF Project Manager Will Masefield provides an update on the Wild Towns project in the face of a global pandemic.

What is Wild Towns?

The ERDF Wild Towns Project is led by Gloucestershire Wildlife Trust but it is a project like no other. Not only is it working to make not one, but seven towns in Gloucestershire a little bit wilder, but it’s also supported by a brilliant team of partners, including Severn Trent Water, Severn Rivers Trust and Farming and Wildlife Advisory Group South West (FWAG). The project is generously funded by the European Regional Development Fund (ERDF) and a number of other funders.

ERDF Wild Towns is working to create, enhance and connect more biodiverse spaces within seven towns in Gloucestershire, they are: Cirencester, Tetbury, Stonehouse, Cinderford, Stroud, Fairford and Moreton in Marsh. We are creating wildflower meadows, managing woodland, creating wetlands, planting native trees and shrubs, removing barriers for fish migration and creating refuges and habitats for key species such as bats, owls, water voles, reptiles, fish, butterflies and other invertebrates.

To date we have restored streams, sown meadows, managed woodlands, planted trees and native wildflowers, installed bat and barn owl boxes, de-paved an area to return it to meadow and a native copse, installed accessibility paths, managed habitats for reptiles, created conservation grazing areas and planted new hedges.

Keeping the project on track in the face of a global pandemic

The wide ambition of the ERDF Wild Towns project has been a challenge in many ways to deliver, but with all of the disruption that the COVID-19 outbreak has caused, we’ve had another reason to celebrate this complexity. The fact that we have so many partners delivering different projects and contractors across the county has meant that, while many other GWT projects had to be paused due to the pandemic, ours was able to continue.

In line with advice from the government, CIEEM, Natural England and ERDF, many of our contractors and partners were still able to deliver outdoor work, as long as strict procedures were in place to protect them and the public. We were also able to work on creating downloadable online maps of green spaces for the towns involved remotely during lockdown.

Additionally, lockdown saw the installation of a beautiful carved bench overlooking the new wildflower meadow at City Bank in Cirencester, completed in May by Andy O’Neill.

ERDF bench

Further meadows were also recently sown in the town by our ecological contractors Ecosulis at Victoria Road playing field, making the green spaces of Cirencester better for wildflowers and their pollinators, and more interesting and attractive for residents and visitors too.

How to get involved and stay up to date

The work of the ERDF Wild Towns Project will be complemented by further GWT work over the coming years, but there are also opportunities for everyone to get involved and connect up areas for wildlife in towns and villages by rewilding their own gardens and outdoor areas. There are many resources on the GWT website that can help with ideas for this, and our partners Ecosulis have published this blog on Backyard Rewilding that might help to inspire you: http://www.ecosulis.co.uk/blog/backyard-rewilding

The ERDF Wild Towns Project has some big plans still to come to fruition over the next year and a half, including the creation of an ambitious wetland area near Cinderford by our delivery partners Severn Trent Water and the removal of barriers to fish in the Cinderford Brook by our delivery partners Severn Rivers Trust. Work in the Cinderford Brook will be starting imminently, and we’ll be creating video updates around this interesting part of the project so keep an eye out for those in the coming months. Plus more works for wildlife and communities in the towns by FWAG and the Stroud Valleys Project.

Check out our webpage to stay up to date - https://www.gloucestershirewildlifetrust.co.uk/wildtowns