Could millions flow to our fens with key nature designation?

Wigeon at Willow Tree Fen Nature Reserve.
Wigeon at Willow Tree Fen Nature Reserve.
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Millions of pounds could come to South Lincolnshire for key fenland wildlife projects if a Nature Improvement Area (NIA) gets the go-ahead.

South Lincolnshire Fenlands Partnership wants the designation to cover land between Spalding, Market Deeping and Bourne, including Twenty, Thurlby, Baston and Tongue End.

Iris growing at Baston Fen.

Iris growing at Baston Fen.

The area already has major wildlife sites, including Willow Tree Fen Nature Reserve, midway between Pode Hole and Tongue End, as well as the internationally important Baston and Thurlby Fens, which are rare wetland sites of special scientific interest (SSSIs).

The partnership’s aim is to create fenland and other wetlands centred on the nature reserves of Baston, Thurlby and Willow Tree Fen for the benefit of wildlife and people.

The partnership is holding a public workshop about its NIA bid on Saturday, February 11 at Waterside Garden Centre, West Deeping, and places for that are already fully booked.

Amanda Jenkins, the partnership project officer, said: “After the workshop we will produce a vision document for the area and, if local people support the idea, we hope to apply for NIA status in late spring.”

The application goes to Greater Lincolnshire Nature Partnership.

Mrs Jenkins says if successful, the NIA designation will enable the partnership to “draw down funds” for projects in the area.

In Greater Manchester, a locally designated NIA was given £2.2million by the Heritage Lottery Fund in 2014.

The partnership’s proposed NIA here extends to some 7,000 hectares.

One aim of the project is to create ‘buffer zones’ around Baston and Thurlby SSSIs to protect them as they are home to rare wetland plants while the Counter Drain that runs in front of them has fish species like the spined loach.

Mrs Jenkins said the partnership is working with farmers in the area through a new initiative, the Countryside Stewardship Facilitation Fund, and companies involved in mineral extraction.

She said: “We are in discussions with a mineral company regarding purchase of a 30 hectare mineral reserve and more generally about restoration of sites in the area.”

Mrs Jenkins said the project is as much about people as it is wildlife, and a key aim is to extend and improve public access to green spaces.

Another aim is to encourage residents to get involved in wildlife gardening and bookings are being taken now for a workshop to be held at Waterside Garden Centre on Saturday, March 4.

To book a place on the wildlife gardening workshop please call 01476 550427.

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