Over the last decade we’ve been hard at work with wildlife on our Nature Reserve and across our estate, and with communities & partners across the UK. It’s all been about boosting our knowledge to make large-scale UK landscape conservation in the UK a reality. And now, our next big project is underway!
Now with new funding from the Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs (DEFRA) Green Recovery Challenge Fund, we’re developing an entire ‘Nature Recovery Corridor’ side by side with YOU, our home community.
The purpose of a wildlife corridor is to connect patches of fragmented habitat to form a functioning ecosystem over a large area, and we’re dreaming big with the concept. At completion, our Nature Recovery Corridor will cover a massive 10-mile stretch, connecting habitats reaching south of Chester through to Ellesmere Port in the North and turning the area into a thriving example of what the British nature can be.
We’re now one year into our Nature Recovery Corridor project, and we’re really proud of how much we’ve achieved:
- More than 23 hectares of meadow and long grass habitat, which provides essential habitat for pollinators has been established
- 5 hectares of canal has been cleared from the invasive plant floating pennywort, making the canal safer and more biodiverse, allowing an array of native wildlife such as otters and kingfishers to thrive
- 250m of wetland has been created to provide habitat for secretive birds such as snipe and water rail
- Reedbeds have been brought under sensitive management, enhancing nesting opportunity for migrant birds such as grasshopper and reed warblers
- New pond areas have been created to help aquatic life, including frogs, toads, newts and dragonflies, as well as providing a water source for mammals such as foxes and badgers
- Hedgerows have been restored, providing nectar in the spring for bees and berries in the winter for birds
- 30 native apple and pear trees have been planted to form a new orchard, providing vital new habitats
- In addition to these habitat improvements, community groups, schools and community leaders have been taking conservation action across the city including planting for pollinators, creating bog gardens, wildflower areas and bug hotels and installing ponds and bird boxes.
As part of the Nature Recovery Corridor project, we’re working with six local schools to educate the next generation of conservationists and create safe spaces for wildlife on school grounds.
We’ve teamed up with six community groups in the Nature Recovery Corridor area to help them make their green spaces better for both people and wildlife, through our Wildlife and Wellbeing clubs.
All of this is only be possible through close partnerships with the many groups in Cheshire striving for change alongside us. Here’s who we’re working with on the Nature Recovery Corridor:
Find out more about some of the fascinating science behind the Nature Recovery Corridor project. From hedgerow management to new ponds and orchards, we’re already seeing hugely encouraging results amongst local wildlife and ecosystems.
We’ve created a trail that connects our Nature Reserve to the City Forest Garden in Chester, to help better connect people with nature. You’ll see unique and diverse wildlife-friendly spaces, which were previously industrial and urban areas.
Spot the estate…
A good portion of the corridor is being developed on our own land, the Chester Zoo Estate, an entire landscape that we’ve been developing to be a mosaic of UK habitat. With this funding we’re working on the creation of a new pond, as well as renovation for the five already here. We’re also restoring our orchard, enhancing hedgerow habitat, and improving wildlife connectivity.
Next up is the real huge area projects: enhancement of 5.5 hectares of reedbed, 4.5 hectares of lowland wet grassland, and 15 hectares of grassland. Each habitat type harbours its own unique combination of life, and by preserving as many habitat types as possible we offer the best chance of restoring a flourishing ecosystem.
On top of all of this, the corridor’s creation will allow us to carry out research on a large area of peat deposit identified by Natural England in the North West of Cheshire, and plan for best possible management that will maintain the habitat in the long run. Not just a rich ecosystem for biodiversity, peatland is essential in the fight against climate change, storing vast amounts of carbon in deep soils and plant communities.
How can people get involved?
Already more than 7,000 people have joined us in getting involved with the Nature Recovery Corridor project. It means Community Conservation Action Days, bringing people together to help the Nature Recovery Corridor be fully realised. It means working with six schools and six community groups within the Recovery Corridor zone, providing them with a year of support to establish conservation and community involvement among an entire community of young people. It means new training courses in the skills of habitat management, and opportunities to become a Wildlife Champion, a programme we’re growing to help people connect with nature within their own communities. Alongside all of this is an accessible events programme and an entire range of digital engagement, real-world interpretation features, activity packs and resources, ensuring there’s something for everyone to get involved with.
It’s an incredible ambition and from now until Spring 2023 we’re be focusing this first phase of the project on the Chester area, covering just over six miles of the eventual ten mile stretch.
Find out more about our WONDERFUL zoo and all of the incredible animals, plants and FUN things to do here. Download our app or PDF map to help plan you day and find your way around when you get here.