The funds have been awarded to a partnership led by RSPB in partnership with Kent Wildlife Trust and Canterbury City Council and will be used to restore nature at a significant landscape scale over all three connected sites.
The Green Recovery Challenge Fund is a short-term competitive fund to kick-start environmental renewal whilst creating and retaining a range of jobs. The aim of the fund is to support projects that are ready to deliver and focus on nature restoration, nature-based solutions and connecting people with nature, delivering against the goals of the Government’s 25 Year Environment Plan, whilst helping to sustain and build capacity in the sector.
Blean Woods, managed by a partnership that includes the RSPB, Kent Wildlife Trust, Natural England and the Woodland Trust, is one of the most extensive and important woodland landscapes in England. Its broad stretch is around 4000ha. It is a stronghold for specialist woodland birds that are under threat and holds the largest population of one of the UK’s rarest butterflies, the heath fritillary.
However, the site is beginning to come under pressure from climate change, particularly an increase in dry, warm summers in Southern England. These changes will have a big impact on the wetter parts of Blean Woods, which will reduce its value for insects; this in turn will have a knock on effect for many woodland birds.
This project will build on the RSPB’s experiences at experimental sites in Suffolk and Gloucestershire and will prevent the loss of water that leaves woodland dry in most years. Using the new funds, the RSPB and Kent Wildlife Trust will install features that will reduce the loss of water from the woodland, including the installation of earth dams and working with local people to build and install natural dams using woodland products. These actions will slow water loss and increase soil moisture and renovate rare ancient bog habitat. The partnership will also selectively open tree cover and introduce grazing to increase the mix of different habitats in these new wet woodland areas.