Humberhead Levels and Dearne Valley Green Heart Nature Improvement Areas

A dozen large-scale nature areas have recently been unveiled by the Government as part of efforts to boost wildlife, help rare species and restore habitats. It is hoped the twelve areas, ranging from northern Devon to the Humberhead Levels, will restore wetlands, grasslands and peat bogs, improve rivers, plant trees and make new ponds.The “nature improvement areas” will share £7.5 million over three years in order to help local groups carry out work to improve, increase and link up networks of wildlife sites in their regions, in a bid to encourage threatened and declining species.

Environment Secretary Caroline Spelman said: “Each of these projects has something different to offer. The exciting wildlife projects are the result of different organisations all working together with a common purpose – to safeguard our wildlife for generations to come.”

Two of these areas are Yorkshire sites and they offer great opportunities to conserve and enhance the dragonfly fauna in our area.

The Humberhead Levels Nature Improvement Area is part of the vast flatlands straddling the borders of Yorkshire, Lincolnshire and Nottinghamshire and offers the best opportunity in England to develop a major multi-functional wetland landscape in a largely unrecognised biodiversity hotspot. The NIA covers 49,700 hectares and will be administered and driven by the Humberhead Levels Partnership and its main aim is to create an internationally renowned, unique wetland landscape, supporting thriving communities, economy, ecosystem services and wildlife, enhancing existing internationally important wetlands (the Humber and the Humberhead Peatlands), other SSSIs and Local Wildlife Sites and includes the Broomfleet Washlands Project. These sites will be reconnected by working with local farmers to create ribbons of habitat on unproductive drain-sides, headlands and wet field corners associated with the important rivers and dykes that traverse the area. Wildlife will be free to move through adjacent farmland, the land’s economic value will be maintained and its resilience to climate change increased. This programme will create or restore at least 1427Ha of wetland habitat. A key aspect will be progress towards reinstatement of England’s largest lowland mire system. Success here will increase the amount of carbon sequestered into newly forming peat and wetland soils; a vital ecosystem service.

The Humberhead Levels NIA will develop community capacity to get involved with wildlife sites. This will operate in three distinct ways; i) improved interpretation and face to face contact on five sites with existing visitor infrastructure will encourage an extra 6000 visits to local wildlife sites over the next three years, ii) new environmental education programmes will operate from three different sites in the area and; iii) targeted volunteer development and training will deliver an extra 3910 hours of volunteer input. Better integrated land use will make the area more resilient to climate change. Closer partnership working will align farming with more sustainable flood defence, water supply and biodiversity conservation. The impetus provided to the local green economy through, for example, our work on biomass to energy projects, could provide new jobs and sustainable development opportunities in an area of multiple deprivation within 10 years. This could increase work for conservation management contractors and for green tourism employees from cafe staff to nature guides. Connecting local communities to their wildlife sites will increase independence from central government funding and increase local pride and stewardship, foster social wellbeing and provide significant health benefits.

The Dearne Valley Green Heart Nature Improvement Area will help local people deliver their vision to restore the ecological functionality of the river Dearne, its floodplain and its link to habitats on surrounding sandstone and limestone hills. The vision is to create a 1300ha core of wetland and woodland habitats which will be buffered by 2690ha of open land and reclaimed industrial areas whose biodiversity areas will be enhanced. This will link up core areas and target farmland areas of poor ecological functionality covering 1700ha.The restoration areas will cover 500ha of semi natural grasslands, new woodlands and wetlands. It will also enhance 1150ha of farmland and 150ha or woodland areas through targeted advice in the poor ecologically functioning zones. A landowner and farmers working group has been set up to increase farmer involvement in the project.There will also be an extensive community outreach programme through the “Hidden Gems of the Dearne“ project.