Step 4: Firm up your ideas into a plan and policies
Now that you’ve surveyed your land, you’ll want to manage it better for nature. But where do you start?
For inspiration, RSPB Scotland’s James Silvey shares how he manages his garden for nature.
Now that you know what types of habitats exist in your area, you might want ideas on how to conserve, manage and restore them for nature. For quick suggestions about what you can do for nature see our cheat-sheet.
Other ideas are below.
- Managing road verges for nature: Road verges are home to almost half of the UK’s wildflower species. These flowers in turn provide a home to many different species of pollinators. So how do you manage these verges for nature? Think about when you want to cut them; key road verge cutting rule is where growth isn’t tall and lush, delay cutting the verges until August!
If you’re a local council who manages verges, this is a pretty simple way to manage a habitat in a way that works for nature. You may want to seek ecological advice from consultants or wildlife groups. If you don’t manage road verges but would like to help – get in touch with your local council.
Check out this guide for more detailed information.
- Plan for brownfield biodiversity: As you’re aware, brownfields are an important habitat, despite appearances. They can be great habitats for insects and other invertebrates; this is because they provide a variety of different habitats close together in one space. Check out these step by step guides from buglife to get an idea of how you can manage brownfield sites for butterflies, flies, ground beetles and bumblebees.
If you work in planning for a local authority, this guide will help you understand how planning policy on brownfield sites work, and how you can work with it to manage brownfields sites for nature.
- Hedgerows and Cornish Hedges: Managing Hedgerows is a great way to contribute to nature recovery. Think about when you want to trim hedges; the shape, size and type of hedge; and where you could create new hedgerows. Check out this guidance for more information.
Cornish hedges are unique to our heritage, but also provide great habitats for nature. Learn more about how to restore them here.
- Create a ‘Hedgehog Recovery Programme’: Did you know that hedgehogs are considered vulnerable to extinction in Britain? This is due to a multitude of reasons, including: modern farming practises damaging their habitats; the fact that they need to roam a mile every night to get the food they need; difficulty in finding mates due to development.
There are a lot of things you can do to help them.
- Plant specifically to help pollinators in your garden or allotment: One of the biggest problems for pollinators is the lack of flowering plants. Planting specifically for pollinators will allow them to feed. Choose a sheltered sunny spot, place each plant in groups, choose flowers with a simple structure and add herbs to the mix. For more information on how to manage your garden for nature better, see here.
- If you’re a local authority and want to manage your assets better for pollinators, see here.
- Create microhabitats such as bee-boxes, hedgehog homes, nesting boxes for birds and log and stone piles for invertebrates, toads and slow worms.
- Plant a community orchard: planting a community orchard is great for wildlife and also for helping you get back into nature with you friends, family and local community. Check out Cornwall’s guide for creating a community orchard here, and general guidance here.
- Ditch pesticides: Pesticides may be useful, but most pesticides don’t discriminate against what they’re killing. They will kill your target species, but also other wildlife. Trialling alternatives is a great way to be friendly to nature.
- Manage grassland better for nature: If you own a piece of grassland and have surveyed what’s already there, you will want to consider how to manage it. Think about how often you will mow it and what kind of cutting tools you’ll use. For guidance on how to create a wildflower meadow, check out this guide, and this video.
- Create ponds for wildlife: Animals and plants have evolved to live in ponds over millions of years. Creating ponds that mimic clean wild ponds is a great way to restore pond wildlife. Have a look at this pond creation kit for a step by step guide.
- Manage your churchyards: There are lots of ways you can manage your churchyards better for nature. Think about the grassland, hedges, microhabitats, and even small things such as the lichen on gravestones. Check out this guidance for more information.
- Managing woodland: Maybe you own woodland? Check out this guidance on where to start with managing it.
Environmental plans and policies are also an important way of ensuring nature is embedded at the heart of your council.
- Declare an Ecological Emergency
- Use this Generic Environmental Policy Template to help shape your Council’s policies
- Use this Step-by-step local council guidance to becoming pesticide free
- Find out about long-term Environmental Growth Strategy or our short-term draft Local Nature Recovery Strategy.
- Find guidance on developing a Pollinator Plan or see Cornwall’s Pollinator Action Plan
- Use this Toolkit for Local Authorities to develop pesticide-free policies
- Calculate your ward’s carbon footprint and use it to identify actions with the greatest impact
- Use this tool to help local decision makers take account of the environment and people
Many local councils in Cornwall are already improving their areas to benefit nature and people. Here are some examples of what’s been going on.
Gwennap Parish Council – a small parish making great strides
In response to the Climate Emergency, Gwennap Parish Council plans to plant 1000 trees every year in the parish over the next 10 years. Despite lockdown, they planted 950 in 2020 – with all the trees donated by I-Dig-Trees. Gwennap PC has been busy taking other steps for nature including managing assets using pesticide-free alternatives, reducing mowing and encouraging re-wilding. Wider actions include switching to eco-friendly cleaning products and switching to a green energy supplier at the Parish Hall.
You can find more info on the Gwennap Parish Council website
To claim free trees go to I Dig Trees
Cornwall Urban Buzz
Truro City Council and Wadebridge, St Austell and Falmouth town councils joined forces as part of Buglife’s ‘Cornwall Urban Buzz’ project. With the help of over 500 local volunteers, 58 ‘buzzing hotspots’ were enhanced to provide food, shelter and nesting sites for bees, butterflies and other insects. By creating wildflower meadows, pollinator-friendly flower beds, and building bee hotels, this project brought colour and life into urban areas – appreciated by residents and wildlife.
Click to find out about Cornwall Urban Buzz
Parish saves ancient woodland from development
In November 2021, Devoick Parish Council launched a Crowdfunder campaign in a bid to buy an ancient wet woodland in Seaton. In just 12 days over £27,000 was raised and, combined with Council reserves, meant they were able to purchase the site. Now protected from development, Devoick Parish Council is looking forward to working with Cornwall Wildlife Trust and other supporters on a sustainable, long term management plan for the woodland and its wildlife.
You find out about the Crowdfunder campaign here
Wadebridge goes pesticide-free
To reduce the environmental and health impacts of herbicides, rodenticides and insecticides, Wadebridge Town Council became a pesticide-free town in 2016. They continue to effectively manage their parks, verges, cemetery, roads and pavements using chemical-free alternatives such as hand tools, brush weeders, and gas flame equipment. Combined with a reduced mowing regime and leaving some areas to go wild, a pesticide-free approach means that insects, birds and mammals now have more places to feed, nest and find shelter within the town. Moreover, Wadebridge Town Council have reduced maintenance costs and found that local people appreciate a more natural approach – a win-win situation for all!
You can see our Q&A session with Wadebridge Town Council.
You can find out more at Wadebridge Town Council
Developing plans and policies with community dialogue – Maker-with-Rame Parish Council
A great example of a local community shaping parish policy can be seen in progress at Maker-with-Rame. In August 2021, Maker-with-Rame Parish Council’s Environment and Conservation Committee hosted a well attended community dialogue event. The purpose was to start developing local environment and conservation priorities in the area. The resulting report focuses on community identified policies which will be taken forward for consideration at subsequent Full Council meetings.
You can see the Report of Community Dialogue on Environment and Conservation Priorities and follow the progress of priorities here
Cornwall Council can create Local Nature Reserves. Town and parish councils can create Local Nature Reserves if the district council has given them the power to do this.
The local authority must control the Local Nature Reserve land – either through ownership, a lease or an agreement with the owner. As a manager of a Local Nature Reserve you need to care for and protect its natural features. You must also make your land accessible for any visitors.
Many types of land can make suitable Local Nature Reserves. They’re usually areas of natural green space but the following types of land can also be designated as long as they have wildlife or geological interest, including:
- brownfield and artificial sites, such as historic cemeteries
- agricultural land and orchards
- commons and other accessible green spaces
You can read guidance on how to establish a Local Nature Reserve.
Your local council can help you find out what land is publicly owned and the LNRS will help you understand what is important about this land for nature.
You can then work with the Nature Recovery and Property teams at Cornwall Council to go through the process of having the land formally declared as an LNR. If your Local Council is willing to take on responsibility for the land, this process will be made quicker.