Securing a Wilder Future for Surrey

© Surrey Wildlife Trust

Surrey Wildlife Trust meets Surrey MPs to discuss the Environment Bill

With a third of Surrey’s wildlife in decline or extinct, Surrey Wildlife Trust welcomed seven Surrey MPs to walk in nature reserves in their constituencies so they could experience first-hand a local place where wildlife is thriving and how this can be mapped out to wider areas across the county and UK as part of the Environment Bill. 

The Wildlife Trusts movement believes Nature Recovery Networks are vital to the new laws being introduced by the government as part of the Environment Bill and are key to transforming habitats for invertebrate, insect, bird and mammal life for a #WilderFuture and #WilderSurrey.

The benefits of Nature Recovery Network targets extend beyond wildlife to the health and well-being of people and local communities too.  MPs including Sir Paul Beresford MP for Mole Valley, Crispin Blunt MP for Reigate, Michael Gove MP for Surrey Heath, Chris Grayling MP for Epsom and Ewell, Sam Gyimah MP for East Surrey, Jeremy Hunt MP for South West Surrey and Jonathan Lord MP for Woking reported the feel good benefits of walking in nature during what has been one of the most challenging periods in politics in recent history.

Surrey Wildlife Trust showed MPs its work on nature reserves, with ecologists, volunteers, and neighbouring landowners to enhance habitats for wildlife.  Across the county, Surrey Wildlife Trust is creating a network of connecting grassland, heathland, wetland and woodland habitats for wildlife to thrive. 

Sarah Jane Chimbwandira, chief executive of Surrey Wildlife Trust, said:

‘Just as Surrey commuters need a reliable road and transport network to thrive, wildlife needs a reliable hedgerow, river and green corridor network that supports its freedom to move, mate, feed and breed. In the Government’s manifesto it committed to being the first generation to leave the environment in a better state than it found it. Well here’s its chance. Mapping Nature Recovery Networks and protecting them by law could help achieve their manifesto claims.’

The Wildlife Trusts believe that so far the Environment Bill is not good enough.  Accepting a weak Environment Bill will not achieve recovery of wildlife.  The EU and European Court of Justice have ensured that the UK has cleaned up its rivers, seas and protected key wildlife sites for decades.  Now the UK must go above and beyond these protections. A powerful independent watchdog is essential. At present the proposed green watchdog in the Environment Bill is too weak because the government sets its budget and appoints many of its members.  

MP Visits

Sir Paul Beresford MP for Mole Valley

Sir Paul Beresford MP for Mole Valley visited the Surrey Wildlife Trust managed reserve Sheepleas near Horsley.  As a result of careful management for key species and chalk grassland meadows in the summer months Sheepleas is abundant with wildflowers and is rich in biodiversity. Zoe Channon, liaison officer for Surrey Wildlife Trust, and Aimee Clarke, director of people engagement at Surrey Wildlife Trust, explained how the Environment Bill could drive the creation of Nature Recovery Networks ensuring neighbouring landowners such as West Horsley Place will be incorporated into nature mapping.

Sir Paul Beresford

© Surrey Wildlife Trust

Crispin Blunt MP for Reigate

Crispin Blunt MP for Reigate visited Dawcombe nature reserve near Leatherhead and met Simon Humphreys, volunteer warden who started volunteering to clear scrub on the reserve 37 years ago, and Mike Waite, Nature Recovery Network manager at Surrey Wildlife Trust and author of the State of Surrey’s nature report. 

In 2000, thanks to Simon’s persistence, Dawcombe was handed over to Surrey Wildlife Trust for the sum of £1, ensuring its long-term management. Now the site is abundant with butterflies, invertebrates and more than 50 species of bird.  The volunteers are involved in managing the neighbouring land either side of the reserve to extend the Nature Recovery Network across the landscape.

Crispin Blunt

© Surrey Wildlife Trust

Michael Gove MP for Surrey Heath

Sarah Jane Chimbwandira, CEO for Surrey Wildlife Trust, and James Adler, Director of Biodiversity at Surrey Wildlife Trust, met Michael Gove MP for Surrey Heath at Chobham Common and welcomed his desire to take robust action to create Nature Recovery Networks and to protect wildlife in Surrey for future generations.

Michael Gove

© Surrey Wildlife Trust

Chris Grayling MP for Epsom and Ewell

Chris Grayling MP for Epsom and Ewell visited Priest Hill, a rich grassland habitat and wildlife Nature Recovery Network between Howell Hill and the Epsom Downs nature reserve, with Sarah Jane Chimbwandira, CEO, and Andrew Jamieson, project development manager at Surrey Wildlife Trust. In 2013 the Trust created a completely new reserve by working with developers to clear 1000 tons of tarmac from abandoned playing fields. This was a big step forward in a Nature Recovery Network in Surrey, which has seen the benefit in butterfly counts in recent years. The small blue butterfly has exploded in numbers in recent years from a summer count of 78 in 2017 to 242 in 2018.

Chris Grayling MP said: “It was really good to revisit the Priest Hill nature reserve following it’s opening a few years ago.  To have a haven for wildlife in an urban area is really key to protecting all types of animals and birds and it was particularly pleasing to spot three deer grazing on the site today and hear how the rare small blue butterfly is flourishing too.” 

Chris Grayling

© Surrey Wildlife Trust

Sam Gyimah MP for East Surrey

James Adler, director of biodiversity for Surrey Wildlife Trust, and Aimee Clarke, director of people engagement for Surrey Wildlife Trust, welcomed Sam Gyimah MP for East Surrey and his two children to Bay Pond in Godstone to get up close with nature. Although there are pressures on Bay Pond, which is polluted by run off from agriculture and urban areas, Sam Gyimah and his children enjoyed pond dipping, finding pond wildlife and creepy crawlies under logs. Sam Gyimah MP held a baby newt and everyone enjoyed finding woodlice, centipedes, larvae in the ponds, ladybirds and wildflowers.

Surrey Wildlife Trust shared Sam Gyimah’s concerns about protecting and recovering the environment for our children and grandchildren, and how wildlife is declining across the country. We also discussed how the Environment Bill is a huge opportunity to recover the natural environment and create a wilder future – for the benefit of health and wellbeing and the economy. Sam Gyimah was surprised by the sheer quantity and richness of wildlife species in a very small area.

Sam Gyimah

© Surrey Wildlife Trust

Jeremy Hunt MP for South West Surrey

Jeremy Hunt MP for South West Surrey visited Rodborough Common, near Godalming, with Katy Fielding, Liaison officer for Surrey Wildlife Trust, and Sarah Jane Chimbwandira, CEO for Surrey Wildlife Trust, to discuss Nature Recovery Networks, global biodiversity, the importance of nature for health and wellbeing and how beneficial even just half an hour walk out in the countryside can be.

Jeremy Hunt MP for South West Surrey said: “We are very fortunate in Surrey to have some beautiful woodland and open spaces. I thoroughly enjoyed my walk on Rodborough Common this morning discussing local, environmental and wildlife issues.”

Jeremy Hunt Rodborough Common

© Surrey Wildlife Trust

Jonathan Lord MP for Woking

Sarah Jane Chimbwandira, CEO of Surrey Wildlife Trust, and Ben Habgood, conservation manager at Surrey Wildlife Trust, welcomed Jonathan Lord to Ash Ranges.  The ancient 5000 year old heathland habitat is vitally important for wildlife and offers views all the way to London and across Surrey’s forests and hills. The Trust explained how it is constantly improving and adapting the way it manages heathland habitats, and its connectivity to the wider landscape to help wildlife cope with the effects of climate change. Neighbouring sites such as Pirbright ranges and adjoining land are also key to how Surrey Wildlife Trust continues to enhance and create connections.

 

Jonathan Lord MP for Woking said: ‘I had a fascinating time on Ash Ranges learning about the wildlife and the work of the Trust to look after this important area. Surrey is lucky to have a lot of beautiful countryside and it is important we protect and connect vital places like Ash Ranges, to help stop the decline of our natural environment.’

Johnathan Lord

© Surrey Wildlife Trust

Surrey Wildlife Trust is calling on Surrey residents to take action by contacting their MPs to ask for a stronger environmental laws.

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