Towards a Wilder St Albans

Grebe House Wildlife Garden (c) Charlotte Hussey

If you'd like to see St Albans a little bit wilder, good news! In April 2021, Herts and Middlesex Wildlife Trust, in partnership with St Albans District Council will be launching a pioneering project, Wilder St Albans.

Conservation Manager Tim Hill describes how Wilder St Albans was developed and what the project hopes to achieve.

Wilder St Albans aims to increase biodiversity – natural habitats and the species they support - across the District of St Albans. We will encourage the local community to take practical action for wildlife and we will look for natural solutions to the climate and ecological crises such as changing mowing regimes and allowing trees to grow.

It couldn't come a moment too soon. The Trust’s ‘Hertfordshire State of Nature’ report was launched in March 2020, highlighting the immediate need for action to address the ecological and climate crises, and to reach our target to secure 30% of land for wildlife by 2030. Wilder St Albans is a great example of how communities and organisations can come together to make a real difference and play their part in nature’s recovery.

Brimstone butterfly

© Amy Lewis

This all began with the community taking action. Loss of biodiversity, along with the climate crisis, caused a group of concerned residents to form the St Albans Environment Action Group in 2019. Herts and Middlesex Wildlife Trust and elected members of St Albans District Council worked with the group to address how these concerns could be tackled on a District level.

At the same time, the Council was developing a Net Zero Carbon Action Plan and Sustainability Strategy. Based on experience gained through biodiversity action planning and conserving Hertfordshire’s globally rare chalk rivers through a partnership approach, Herts and Middlesex Wildlife Trust proposed ‘Towards a Wilder St Albans’ to the District Council – a collaborative project to enable people to act locally to address these global issues.

The Wilder St Albans project doesn't come a moment too soon - we need to act now to tackle the ecological and climate crises.

The project will raise awareness of the habitats and species of the city and facilitate community participation to achieve more wild places, bigger wild places, better managed wild places and connect them up to create a resilient ecological network.

A collaborative Wilder St Albans Action Plan will be developed through the project and shared online, with the opportunity for local action groups to update and highlight their own local activities and contributions.

Heidi Carruthers Wilder St Albans Project Officer

Heidi Carruthers is the new Wilder St Albans Project Officer and will run the project and help local people get involved.

Heidi has been working as People & Wildlife Officer in a partnership project with Harpenden Town Council in the last couple of years. 

The first step will be to carry out a full audit of the habitats and species in the District, together with the Herts Environmental Records Centre (HERC) which is hosted by the Trust, to inform project development and decision-making.

A key part of the Wilder St Albans project will be an online tool to gather ideas, record activities and progress to help St Albans residents join up, take positive action and record their progress. 

Water Vole (Arvicola amphibius)

Water Vole © Terry Whittaker/2020VISION

The return of Ratty in 2021 will be one of the first major wilding projects 

We are very excited that this summer, water voles, also known as Ratty from Kenneth Grahame's children's classic The Wind in the Willows, will be reintroduced to a stretch of the River Ver north of St Albans. Nationally, water voles have declined by over 95% over the last 60 years and were last recorded in the Ver in 1987. Working in partnership with the Ver Valley Society and landowners in the Ver Valley, the Trust will be introducing 75 pairs of water voles to the river in July. In addition, across the city, 'wilding' of open spaces will be taking place through the revision of mowing regimes aimed at increasing wildlife habitats.

Find out more about this project

If you would like to get involved in making the city a wilder place in any way, please contact Heidi Carruthers, the Wilder St Albans Project Officer.

Get in touch with Heidi