Let's create a Wilder Hampshire and Isle of Wight

Our Chief Exec Debbie Tann sets out her thoughts on how we can make Hampshire and the Isle of Wight wilder

At our members' AGM this weekend, I launched Wilder, a new discussion paper setting out the scale of the challenge ahead for our wildlife, and to provoke debate and discussion for what we all need to do to create a wilder future for our two counties. 

Here is a copy of my speech: 

Today I’m going to share with you our early thinking on our new strategy

We’ve been reflecting on the Trust’s history – and the scale of the challenge ahead for our wildlife.

This time we are going to develop our strategy in a different way. We want it to be a 10 year vision to 2030 – and we’ll be combining it with a campaign

We’d like to do some “thinking out loud”.  We want to convene conversations – and provoke debate and discussion.

We want to come up with a plan that is shared  –  something that local people can be part of and help deliver.

We want to create a wilder future for Hampshire and the Isle of Wight.


© David Tipling / 2020Vision

Over 58 years the Trust has achieved some amazing things.

The wildlife we’ve helped to safeguard and the tens of thousands of people we’ve engaged with, worked with, and learnt from – all combine to make the Trust the fantastic organisation it is today.

The support of our members is of course fundamental, and I thank everyone here today for your support.  It’s vital. 

In thinking about the future it’s important that we learn from the past and build on our strong foundations – as we consider the effect of changing external factors on all that we do. 

The sad fact is – despite our work (and that of others) – the overall picture for wildlife is not good.

The Really Wild Show

Where did all the wild things go?

We are losing our once familiar wild friends –  common species are becoming scarce, scarce are becoming rare, and the rare are at risk of disappearing altogether.

In this green and pleasant land it can be hard to reconcile these losses with the beautiful views and countryside all around us. 

We are lucky to live in such an attractive area, with our national parks, woodlands and coast.   But this has led to complacency.  The picture of wildlife loss here is just as bleak as elsewhere. 

Where are the clouds of insects? – the cacophony of bird song? – the countryside is becoming silent and empty.   Its time to wake up.

Curlew at Bucklers Hard, New Forest

© Tony Bates

Almost every graph that you can find for every species you can think of shows a downward trend like this.

The State of Nature report published in 2016 – showed that 60% of all species are declining, 15% are a risk of disappearing altogether. The UK was also shown to be one of the most depleted countries in the world.  189th out of 218.

This measure reflects the small, isolated and fragmented nature of our wildlife sites and the huge pressure they are under. Our tiny islands of biodiversity, precious and vulnerable, are on borrowed time.

So in thinking about our new strategy and looking at all of those horrible graphs with the trends going downwards.

We need to answer the question: How do we tip the balance the other way – towards nature’s recovery?

We’re all nature lovers in this room and so we don’t need convincing that wildlife is important. But how do we move beyond the already committed?

Children in bird hide at Blashford Lakes nature reserve

© Lianne de Mello

In a nutshell: 

We need more people on nature’s side   

And more space for nature to thrive

We want nature to be normal

We know that investing in nature makes good economic sense

We know that people care

We believe that many small actions, together, can make a difference

We want our politicians to hear us

The good news is that policy-makers are slowly waking up to the facts – the vital importance of our pollinators, our soils and our seas  in supporting human life – the role that nature plays in helping our mental health and wellbeing. These are the early signs of change. 

One of the most important drivers of change is social norms and behaviours. The other is legislation and policy

We need new legislation (more on this later) but this is more likely to happen if people demand change.  This is where people power comes in.

Wilder Future team walking into sunset

Let's create a Wilder Future

We’ve reached a point where our natural world is in critical condition and needs our help to put it into recovery.It’s not too late to bring our wildlife back, but we must act now.

Join our campaign for a #WilderFuture and take simple actions for nature’s recovery.

Act now

A tipping point for nature

Research shows that:  25% of a committed minority is enough to achieve social change.

By committing to a new behaviour, this 25% repeatedly expose others to that behaviour until they start to copy it.

The ‘magic’ 25% is a tipping point – and its already happening with marine plastics. 

This sounds like a lot of people – but it is only 1 in 4.

We also know from market research that 35% of the population are wildlife enthusiasts – people who love wildlife, are concerned about the threats and want to do something about it.

So this target is not beyond our reach.

Plastic litter in our oceans

Plastic litter in our oceans © Shutterstock

Space for nature

We know that nature needs more space.

The Trust manages 4,500 hectares of land and much of the best biodiversity exists on our sites. But we must put this in perspective; this is only 1% of our counties. 

Adding the designated wildlife sites, the figure is much better - around 20%.

But….and this is the important point: fewer than half of these sites are in favourable condition. 

The majority are failing.  This is because they are too small and too isolated, and can’t cope with impacts such recreation pressure, pollution and chemicals in the wider environment.

So we need to ask ourselves –

How much space does wildlife need?  

How wild is wild?

What if we could create a proper, wildlife-rich, joined up network covering 30% of our land – would that be enough? 

And how would it be delivered?

Lower Test by Mark Heighes

Lower Test by Mark Heighes

As part of our plan we want to examine the evidence and look at what’s needed.

So our emerging plan has two key elements. Two elements which need people power behind them, and two elements that together will make the space that wildlife needs.

As part of the EU Withdrawal Act, The Government is committed to passing new environmental legislation by 2020, so the opportunity is real and immediate.

But we will have to create a powerful groundswell of public support for nature’s recovery, and make sure that politicians from all parties are very aware of this.

A new Environment Act must not only secure existing protections that we will lose when we leave the EU, but also put in place:

  • Strong environmental principles
  • Ambitious targets that go further and reverse wildlife declines
  • An effective independent watchdog to hold government and public bodies to account
  • And legal backing for the mapping and delivery of a Nature Recovery Network across the UK
Nature Recovery Network illustration

An Environment Act

A new and ambitious Environment Act could help create a healthier natural world for us all. 

To do so it must set out clear principles and targets. It should have the nature recovery network at its heart and establish an effective, independent watchdog to hold governments and public bodies to account.

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A network for nature's recovery

The Nature Recovery Network must be based on evidence and be made up of hundreds or thousands of wild spaces – joining the fragments and creating areas where wildlife can recover. We’ve already mapped the potential network for Hampshire and the Island – showing where nature’s recovery could be targeted. 

But this is just the start.

We want to bring the idea of a nature recovery network to life.  A Nature Recovery Network where every piece of the jigsaw helps – and everyone can play a role.

From landscape-scale areas of wilderness, to wildlife-friendly farmland, wild urban spaces and gardens, to marine protected areas.

Our campaign for a nature recovery network will help us reach larger numbers of people. Creating more noise for nature – and more space for wildlife.

The benefits of greening towns and cities are far-reaching. Parks, allotments, school grounds and community spaces can all offer something for wildlife, forming vital stepping stones in our network.

And in turn this can bring people together, creating more socially connected communities

We want to collaborate with others to create wilder neighbourhoods, not as a luxury but as an essential part of our health and wellbeing.

Nature Recovery Network illustration

Working with others

With 70% of our land farmed, this is one of the most important aspects to get right.

The new Agriculture Bill going through parliament now, could pave the way for a change in the way that we farm.

If the funding system for agriculture supports environmental “goods and services” it would pay for habitat creation, helping wildlife, soils and water – and contributing to the network.

We’ve worked with many farmers who share our values, and have seen the wisdom and urgency of farming with nature rather than against it.

We will be opening up more discussions with the farming community in the coming months, to help put more shape around our future plans and the role the Trust can play in this area.

Farming on the Isle of Wight

© Lucy Temple

There’s a growing acceptance that development should now deliver “Net Gain” for the natural environment.

We’ve seen how the planning system can provide a mechanism to create new habitats for wildlife such as at Barton Meadows and of course Fishlake Meadows.

We want to work with developers and planners to embed the concept of Net Gain into all planning decisions and secure more benefits for the nature network as a result.

Heron at Fishlake © Roger Betteridge

Heron at Fishlake © Roger Betteridge

We have seen how wildlife can bounce back into life when the pressure is taken off. The Knepp Estate in Sussex is showing how nature responds when conventional management is replaced by the restoration natural processes. Scarce species such as the turtle dove and purple emperor are thriving there, wildlife is returning in exciting and unexpected ways.

We have our own small glimpse of rewilding in practice at Fishlake Meadows as you heard about earlier. 

We keen to open up a discussion on the potential for more rewilding in our counties, and we want at least one and hopefully more rewilding projects to become a reality as part of our nature recovery network here.

People Power

We know the power of young people connecting with nature, and our education work has provided some powerful and transformative individual stories.

Spending time in nature helps kids develop confidence, social skills and an appreciation of all that the natural world provides us – essential tools for life as they grow up. 

We want to work with schools, parents and others to focus on embedding more opportunities for young people to get closer to nature in their everyday lives – and in so doing contribute to the nature network. 

And finally let’s not forget the role of each and every one of us as individuals.

The challenge of tipping the balance in nature’s favour can seem daunting but each individual counts – and every action however small adds up and multiplies. Gardens for example can be teeming with life and can make all the difference to wildlife’s survival, adding to the network and helping people to get closer to nature.

We have seen how a committed minority of 25% can effect social change. Your everyday actions and behaviours will influence those around you – whether its writing to your MP, cutting your plastic use or picking up litter – you are the 1 in 4 and you can help make the difference.

Hayling Island beach clean organised by Southern Co-op

Hayling Island beach clean organised by Southern Co-op © Jason Allen / Southern Co-op

The start of a conversation

This is just the start. We want to develop our ideas further over the coming months. We will be holding a series of events and discussions with members, non-members – as many people as possible. We want people to have their say in helping us shape our plans.

That includes landowners, planners, gardeners, scientists, teachers – anyone who cares about the future.

We especially want to engage with the younger generation, and build their ideas and input into the future shape of the Trust and what we do. These are the ambassadors and advocates of the future that we really need

These are the people that our MPs and the Government need to listen to.

Today the Trust is publishing a discussion document, setting out in more detail what I have said today. You’ll receive a copy today to take home with you

Please let us know what you think and tell us your ideas.

And finally, please do talk to your MP about the Environment Act - there’s a briefing note in the back of the Wilder document.

A strong legal backing for nature’s recovery is vital so let the government know how important it is to you.

Thank you

Wilder Hampshire & Isle of Wight discussion paper, Autumn 2018

A Wilder Hampshire and Isle of Wight

We're starting a debate on what a wilder Hampshire and Isle of Wight looks like, and how we can all help make it happen. Together we can tip the balance in favour of nature's recovery.

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