Practical delivery will be carried out on five ‘Focus Areas’ (covering 4,825 ha) identified as key opportunity areas for biodiversity. These ‘biodiversity opportunity areas’ were identified following work undertaken by the Bedfordshire and Luton Biodiversity Forum and the Hertfordshire and Middlesex Wildlife Trust.
The Wild Chalk Project will deliver landscape-scale conservation – creating bigger, more joined up, more diverse and better habitats in five Focus Areas (see maps 4, 5 & 6).
Opportunities have been identified to expand, buffer and connect existing chalk habitats that are largely isolated from each other.
Positive feedback has been received from many major landowners regarding their potential participation in the project (a mix of private landowners, NGOs and public bodies with holdings in the project area totalling c3,500 ha) – see map 8.
Wild Chalk will increase and restore diversity within chalk downland – develop and test new methods to re-introduce habitat diversification at the macro and micro scale through the creation of microfeatures (‘small actions, big impacts’). By establishing trials of large-scale scraping of soils to expose subsoil/chalk and re-start successional development, as a means of diversifying sites where grazing is difficult.
Wild Chalk will promote management to support farmland wildlife and develop joined up approaches to land management, encouraging landowners/managers to work collaboratively with neighbouring landowners in farmland clusters to conserve populations of ‘lost’ and threatened farmland species. Demonstration and training events will be organised to discuss and share best practice and landowner advice will be provided including whole-farm advisory visits and on-line best practice guidance.
Landowners and land managers will be supported by a small grant scheme to support management work across the Focus Areas, e.g. scrub management, installation of fencing, water supply, water bowsers, purchase of equipment, and will be able to share specialist machinery where there is a need to manage grassland on difficult terrain and grazing is unfeasible.
Wild Chalk will connect with the Chalkscapes Champions project to deliver practical habitat management, species conservation work, surveying and monitoring tasks.
Landscape enhancement schemes will be created to reduce visual intrusion and negative impacts, restoring characteristic features, enhancing views and removal or screening eyesores.
Opportunities will be identified to create a Wild Chalk celebration events programme, promoting community/family involvement with the project’s work, for example, farm visits.
During the Development Stage, two specialist contracts be commissioned to inform the development of the Wild Chalk project.
The Wild Chalk project is being developed by the Wild Chalk Working Group which will meet regularly during the Development Stage.