A few years ago, I began to tweet occasionally about the necessity for a wildlife grid, that is, connected strips or plots of uncultivated land to allow birds and animals to travel and live safely. Around the same time as I started to tweet on the subject, I read that one or two charities had started pilot schemes. It has been heartening to see in recent weeks that this activity has apparently been stepped up.
We are now used to the concepts of nature reserves, national parks etc. The wildlife grid complements these. Not that nature is expunged elsewhere: there are landowners and farmers who are not completely hostile to wildlife. However, modern farming (except organic or biodynamic) is often to a great degree inimical to the environment: pesticides, herbicides, intensive use of land, grubbing up of hedgerows. The wildlife grid mitigates the damage by allowing nature respite and allowing animals to travel between areas suitable for them and through areas otherwise unsuitable.
There is another part of the UK which can help wildlife, if properly used. There are a million or more acres of land in the UK used as private gardens. Some people in modest houses concrete or tarmac their “front gardens”, destroy hedges (replacing them with walls or fencing), uproot trees, lay what is left entirely to lawn. All harmful. Others however are now learning to plant hedging, plant bushes and trees, keep a part of the garden or gardens wild, select bee-friendly plants etc and to avoid use of harmful pesticides and herbicides. Even the (often derided) “water feature” can be very helpful to wildlife. Also, there are ways of helping various creatures (birds, hedgehogs, bees) via the installation of suitable places for them to live or feed in. The wildlife grid not only complements all of that but comprises that, in part.
The aim need not be a wildlife grid owned or run by the State or even by large charities. The grid will consist of all sorts of variously-held land: national parks, nature reserves, private farmland and parkland, wildflower strips alongside roads, private gardens, woodland, unused land. What matters is what is done with the land, rather than who owns it. In any case, when it comes to small areas or narrow strips, no one large organization could monitor and control all of that.
It might be asked then whether this is not all self-functioning. Up to a point, but what would be useful even so would be a secretariat to map the UK in terms of a wildlife grid, to identify areas of the country where gaps exist and, assuming existence of a suitable trust with capital and income, to buy land to fill in such gaps, planting trees, creating whole forests. Also, such a body would be able to explain the concept to interested landowners, as well as being able to conduct public relations education and so on.
The wildlife grid will be part of a future programme to place wildlife at the centre of urban, suburban and rural policy in the UK.