4.3 Natural environment

The district’s natural beauty comes from its diversity of habitats.  Our ancient woodlands are home to brown hairstreak butterflies flying high in the canopy where once nightingales sang. Traditional management techniques like coppicing reveal sunny glades and grassy rides, perfect for butterflies and people alike.

The steep wooded flanks of the Cotswolds and Bredon Hill give way to gnarled ancient trees, hiding the violet click beetle beneath their bark and casting their shade over swathes of orchid filled grassland.

The horticultural heritage of the Vale has given us a legacy of traditional orchards, where the nationally rare noble chafer beetle still thrives amongst the tumbledown trees.  Through this working landscape, the River Avon meanders across its rich floodplain, dotted with marshy wet meadows sheltering lapwing and curlew and lone black poplars weep into the water where otters raise their cubs amongst their tangled roots.

By day, club-tailed dragonflies patrol the reeds along the river’s banks, but as dusk falls, bats emerge feasting on insects over the water and along hedgerows. Water voles, once common, have been pushed into smaller streams, only a small number remain in what should be a perfect place for them

Wychavon’s traditional flower meadows are a national treasure. Flooded meadows that bloom with summer scarlet pompoms of great burnet and frothy white meadowsweet dry to the explosion of colour of a heritage hay meadow, filled with knapweed and scabious. These relics of a centuries old farming system are alive with wildlife, from barn owls to bees.

Purple heather crowns the red sandstone in the far north of our district, mixed with acid grassland, where adders bask on sandy paths sliding beneath the prickly protection of golden gorse when danger threatens.

Many species have ventured into towns in search of safety. You’re as likely to see an otter or a bat in an urban environment as you are in the countryside.  Our gardens are havens for hedgehogs and slow worms, while parks, canal side towpaths and abandoned industrial sites offer sheltered spots for the grizzled skipper to sunbathe.

No matter where you are in the district, nature is all around and it is as threatened by climate change as we are. The natural environment also has a key role to play in reducing our carbon footprint and sustaining our wellbeing and way of life. When eco-systems are joined up and work as they are intended to, they have the potential to capture and store significant amounts of carbon. They also offer a host of other benefits that can alleviate some of the impacts of climate change such as flooding or drought.

We have already:

  • Established Avon Meadows wetlands in Pershore in partnership with the town council and designated it as a local nature reserve.
  • Worked with others to create and manage Stoulton woodlands.
  • Supported and contributed funding for community gardens, allotments and woodlands.
  • Created new and improved habitats for bees, butterflies and other insects in council managed green spaces with more to follow.
  • Created a pollinator garden at the Civic Centre.
  • Purchased Shorthorn Woods to be managed by the local community, safeguarding this haven for the brown hairstreak butterfly.
  • Helped define B-Lines for Worcestershire, part of a nationwide network for pollinators developed by Buglife.

We will:

  • Review all council owned land and assess the suitability for natural habitat restoration and creation.
  • Consider purchasing strategic land to create additional high carbon storage habitats such as woodland or wetlands.
  • Shape and adopt emerging national and local policies on biodiversity and green infrastructure as they emerge and integrate those that develop through the life of this plan.
  • Eliminate the use of herbicides and pesticides in all our parks and open spaces by 31 March 2024 and trial less carbon intensive machinery.
  • Map and deliver a Wychavon Nature Recovery Network, as part of the wider Worcestershire Nature Recovery Strategy, which identifies and prioritises areas for habitat restoration, creation and connectivity.
  • Work with other organisations to enhance the natural environment and natural carbon capture and storage.
  • Create ten hectares of new wetland and work with the Heart of England Forest and other partners to restore, enhance and create 30 hectares of Wychavon’s characteristic Biodiversity Action Plan habitats (including traditional orchards, species-rich/wet grassland and broadleaved woodland) by 31 March 2024.
  • Help deliver the Worcestershire Pollinator Strategy including creating new and improved pollinator habitats on our own land, promoting parish pollinator packs and signposting to existing advice for residents to encourage more wildlife friendly practices.
  • Work with town and parish councils to identify new opportunities for developing allotments in areas of high demand.
  • Lobby and seek to influence farming and other land use practices that reduce carbon emissions or create carbon capture opportunities and deliver wider environmental benefits.