Birmingham Post

Cash flows in as we try to save rivers

- Peter Shirley

NATURE conservati­on has moved a long way from its original emphasis on a sprinkling of jealously protected nature reserves set in otherwise hostile urban and agricultur­al landscapes.

These days the whole landscape is considered, within which those reserves act as wildlife reservoirs and steppingst­ones for plants, animals, birds and insects.

In addition, rather than keeping people away, we are all encouraged to immerse ourselves in nature and contribute to its conservati­on as well as enjoying it for the benefits it brings to our health and wellbeing.

The Wildlife Trust for Birmingham and the Black Country has pioneered these approaches and has now been awarded nearly £250,000 to restore, and engage people with, the river Stour in Dudley and Wolverhamp­ton.

The money is from the Government’s Green Recovery Challenge Fund. Called ‘Love Your River Stour’ the Trust says the project will ‘Transform the River Stour and the green spaces along its banks into a beautiful and wildlife-rich source of pride for Black Country communitie­s’.

Two project officers will be employed for two years. They will deliver 200 public events, including training in nature conservati­on, weekly practical volunteer conservati­on days, health and wellbeing sessions, and ‘wild experience days’ for local businesses.

Rivers are the arteries of the natural world, wildlife highways wending their way through town and country. Those in industrial areas, such as the Stour and the Tame in the Black Country, and the Rea in Birmingham, were severely damaged in the 19th and 20th centuries; they became polluted, lifeless conduits for the waste and detritus of factories and mines.

Their floodplain­s were built on, they were straighten­ed and culverted, and riverside vegetation all but disappeare­d. But from about the 1970s their latent value was recognised and work began to restore them.

This project is the latest venture in this process, it is the epitome of landscape scale nature conservati­on.

Peter Shirley is a Midlandbas­ed conservati­onist

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