Launch of Middle Marches

The purpose of our Trust is to help create an ecologically healthy and sustainable countryside in the hills of the Middle Marches to inspire both residents and visitors.

Of course we are not the first to have such aspirations and there have been a range of initiatives in the area such as Back to Purple and the Blue Remembered Hills Project to most recently the Stiperstones and Corndon Hill Landscape Partnership Scheme. The latter has led to the establishment of various organisations such as the Community Wildlife Groups and the Marches Meadow Group. These initiatives have all been positive in establishing strong local links and networks on which future work can build. However despite these successes, declines in key species are continuing to take place, for example among ground nesting birds such as curlew, lapwing and snipe and many plant and insect species.

To prevent these declines and to try and address the growing threat from climate change Natural England and the National Trust are developing the Stepping Stones Project. They are working with farmers and other landowners to improve the long-term prospects for habitats and species in the area through improved connectivity, ie the provision of more wildlife corridors and stepping stones of habitat to connect the major wildlife sites, such as the Long Mynd and the Stiperstones. This means for example, creating more hedgerows, woodlands and verges to help species such as dormice, lesser horseshoe bat and butterflies such as the green hairstreak and the small pearl bordered fritillary move through the landscape.

The Middle Marches CLT will:

  • act to create permanent sites on the ground, where we can put in place the best land management practices for the future.
  • focus our attention on valuable wildlife sites that come onto the market or where there is an opportunity to fill a gap in a wildlife corridor. No other organisation will be acting in this way in the Middle Marches.
  • support the objectives of the Stepping Stones Project.

Establishing an independent charitable Trust is a good way of achieving these goals and there are plenty of examples of such Trusts around the country. There are also additional benefits that flow from having a Trust owned and run by local people. We believe there are people who already have land valuable for wildlife who will be encouraged to know that there is a local organisation that can help them look after such land in the long term.

This approach will:

  • encourage the land around sites to be managed sustainably and to continue producing products that both local communities and visitors value.
  • offer additional employment opportunities in the area.
  • help natural processes function properly, for example by ensuring a continuing supply of clean water, the better regulation of flows to help reduce flooding downstream and a reduction in siltation helping river wildlife
  • assist habitats to adapt to climate change.
  • build on previous work to continue finding new ways to engage people and to increase the number of people who understand and value nature.

Our vision includes the creation of a working centre which would become a:

  • focus of activities
  • location where training courses can be carried out
  • base for volunteers who would be able to support our activities and carry out vital conservation work in the surrounding countryside.
  • provider of good opportunities for partnership working with other organisations, such as the Marches Meadow Group.

We will also support sustainable farming initiatives in the area, where the production of good quality food goes hand in hand with measures to encourage wildlife. Recent years have seen the withdrawal of on farm ecological advice to farmers and we hope that the Trust can act as a hub for the exchange of good ideas. Stock grazing will always be part of the landscape in the Marches.

There is an urgent need for action if we are to pass on to the next generation an environment rich in wildlife that can have such an influence on our lives. It is worth quoting Charles Sinker, “As recently as the 1940s it was still possible to walk from the Long Mynd through Ratlinghope to Shelve and Bromlow Callow over a succession of large well-grazed fields whose ancient turf was rich in flowers; heath bedstraw, bitter-vetch, bird’s-foot trefoil, Good-Friday grass, tormentil, heath milk-wort, germander speedwell, moonwort and the hauntingly beautiful mountain pansy were all common” (Sinker et al, 1985).

It is now all but certain that the future is going to be a time of great change but also of opportunity and it seems a good time to launch such a Trust. We have all the background reports we need from years of deliberation, all we need to do now is act!

To conclude, the initial aims of the Trust are three fold:

  1. Buying land of high wildlife value
  2. Supporting sustainable quality food production to sell locally
  3. Acting as a hub for the exchange and dissemination of information

These are the reasons why we hope that you will support the foundation of the new Trust.