200-hectare wildlife corridor created to protect peninsula's wildlife

Taking eDNA river water samples. <i>(Image: The Bug Farm)</i>
Taking eDNA river water samples. (Image: The Bug Farm)

A 200-hectare wildlife habitat corridor – an area equivalent to almost 500 international football pitches- has been created in Pembrokeshire as a result of a two-year conservation project.

The ambitious nature recovery project Common Connections has connected up wildlife habitat across the St Davids peninsula and turned St Davids’ Bug Farm into a nature reserve.

The project connected and protected a 200-hectare wildlife habitat. More than 140 hectares of this land is the internationally important wildlife habitat of the North West Pembrokeshire Commons Special Area of Conservation (SAC), while 60 hectares is private farmland at Lower Harglodd, the Gwryd and Penweathers -together known as The Bug Farm- and Llanunwas.

The project, which was supported by the Nature Networks Fund, aimed to address as many of the threats to the habitat as possible within the course of a year and a half.

“It was a busy time,” said Dr Sarah Beynon of The Bug Farm, who led the practical project delivery. The work included: Ecological surveys to help build a more detailed picture of what is living on project land; development of plans to identify threats and help site managers best manage the land for nature; marsh fritillary butterfly habitat surveys to investigate the possibility of a species reintroduction of this locally-extinct butterfly and action to link up the SAC through private land and sustainable woodland creation.

During the project four hectares of new wildflower meadows, six hectares of improved meadows were created.

6,000 native plug plants were planted, 5.5 hectares of arable crops planted for wildlife, 2,000 trees were planted as hedging/shelter belts and eight ponds were created or improved.

Agri Advisor Solicitors have also drawn up templates to protect the private sites for nature, forever. These templates are available on the project website for others to download and use to help them forever protect their land for nature.

“The 2023 State of Nature Report confirmed what we already knew” says Sarah. “The time to act to save wildlife is now.

“In a human-dominated world where we humans, as one species, have caused a mass extinction event of other species, we need to make sure that we protect the remaining areas of wildlife habitat at all costs and, more than this, we need to connect them up to allow wildlife to move across a hostile planet. Conservation is no longer enough. We need nature recovery at a grand scale.”

Sarah added that next year The Bug Farm would work with Folly Farm and partners to host the first Nature Recovery Conference Wales. This will explore the collaborative action needed to help nature recover.

But protecting land for wildlife isn’t simple said Sarah: “A lot of visitors who come to The Bug Farm have created wildlife habitat, ranging from a small wildlife gardens to entire farms, and want to protect it for nature after their lifetimes,” she said.

“However, it is not currently possible in Wales to protect land for nature by placing a conservation covenant on the land.

“One way is to protect it with a trust. We hope that others will use the downloadable trust templates to help them protect their land for nature, forever too while we work to change the law on conservation covenants.”

The Bug Farm’s follow-on Nature Networks Fund project called A Connected Peninsula involves bringing other private landowners on-board to fully join up wildlife habitat across the St Davids peninsula.

The project also involves building a Nature Recovery Centre at The Bug Farm and applying for a licence to reintroduce the locally-extinct marsh fritillary butterfly to the peninsula.