The Conservation Fund is made up with donations from Friends of Shropshire Hills AONB subscriptions, the Millichope Foundation, the Garfield Weston Foundation, the Martin Wills Wildlife Maintenance Trust and individual contributions.
Grants have been awarded by the Shropshire Hills AONB Trust in Spring 2021 to the following projects:
Pollinator garden at Lower Bush Farm
The farm is a not-for-profit care farm which welcomes adults with learning disabilities, teenagers with mental health difficulties and children and young people with a variety of special educational needs and disabilities. The aim of the project is to plant a pollinator garden on the farm. The research and planting will be done by the young people as part of their Countryside Management unit to learn about pollinators, healthy habitats and how to increase numbers at the farm and at home.
Lower Bush Farm CIC – grant £2,000
This project will deliver affordable outdoor education and awareness-raising activities that relate to the Shropshire Hills, and its conservation, in the high priority area of a native woodland. The sessions will combine Forest School education with local nature knowledge, professional knowledge, and with a flare of seasonal relevance. The project aims to be as inclusive as possible by welcoming children (aged between 6-11 years old) of all walks of life into the woodland through being affordable to the majority, and offering two free places for households with a lower-income.
Toni Pettitt– grant £1,780
Norbury Hill ecological survey & bracken control
Norbury Hill is an important conservation ‘stepping stone’ between the Long Mynd and Stiperstones. Working with the neighbouring farm, MMCLT have commissioned a baseline ecological survey and report to be written for Norbury Hill (250 acres) to guide medium/ long term conservation management. The hill supports breeding skylark, meadow pipits and is a feeding ground for kestrel, curlew and snipe. The grant will also support MMCLT to work with volunteers to carry out bracken control using had tools, on their 47-acre holding.
Middle Marches Community Land Trust (MMCLT) - grant £1,500
Hopton Castle Verges & Tree Planting
Hopton Castle is open to the public. The grant will enable the local community to replant trees in the grounds of the castle which have been lost in recent storms. Wildflowers will also be planted on the approaches to the castle and the motte. The planting will enhance the biodiversity of the area and provide an attractive space to enjoy and picnic in for visitor to the castle and local residents.
Hopton Castle Preservation Trust – grant £816.89
Save our Curlew
This is a joint project with the Stretton Community Wildlife Group. The project aims to improve Curlew breeding success in the Stretton area, through action on the ground: finding nests and putting electric fences round them to protect the eggs from predation and agricultural activities, fitting radio tags to hatched chicks to track them to find out how they use the landscape, and what happens to them. Volunteers from the community wildlife group will help with sightings and surveys. Understanding the reasons for low levels of chick survival is the key to an effective local and national conservation plan.
Shropshire Ornithological Society - grant £1,000
Sustainable Charcoal Making
This project will enable members of the Knighton Community Woodland Group to make charcoal using the small timber and brash coppiced from their woodlands, and to share this knowledge with others. The grant will fund the purchase of a charcoal retort and equipment needed to make and sell sustainably produced charcoal. This will generate a regular income for the group and reduce the reliance on grants. Two one-day training courses will be held to demonstrate charcoal making using a retort to other interested community groups in the Shropshire Hills.
Knighton Community Woodland Group – grant £1,293.75
Bushmoor Verges Project
This project is bringing together the residents of Bushmoor hamlet to restore their local roadside verges to encourage wildflowers and create wildlife corridors. The project will involve an ecological survey, ground works and planting/seeding as recommended by the report. Volunteers will be able to get involved in the survey and in planting/seeding the verge. Photographs will be taken to record the verge progress. Community awareness is at the heart of this project with a drop-in day planned at the village hall and opportunities to involve children from the local primary school.
Bushmoor Verges Group – grant £627
This project introduces secondary school pupils at Bishop’s Castle Community College to biodiversity and its value in local woodlands, wild places and the local environment. The students will carry out practical activities as part of the school’s fortnightly enrichment sessions and learn how good land management can increase biodiversity. Activities will include ‘wilding’ the green areas around the college, raising trees in pots for planting out, and planting a sensory garden. The young people be encouraged to link with out of school conservation groups such as Young Rangers.
Lightfoot Enterprises - grant £2,000
The following projects are also underway this year, with support from the AONB Conservation Fund. They were awarded a grant in 2020, but not all of the projects were able to complete due to the Covid restrictions in place.
Restoring Roadside verges
Restoring the roadside verges in Edgton started a couple of years ago, supported by the Conservation Fund. This grant has been awarded to buy wildflower plugs and seeds to improve damaged verges and to extend verge restoration around the village. The project will also re-survey the verges previously mapped to record changes. Himalayan Balsam will be removed from verges and a plan to manage this invasive plant will be explored, if necessary. Discussions with Shropshire Council Highway Department continue regarding verge management and cutting regime to enhance the verges for wildlife.
Edgton Village Meeting – grant £1,000
The aim is to preserve and enhance the roadside verges and hedgerows in the village to provide valuable habitat for plants, insects and small mammals. The village ‘Wildflower Verges Group’ has bought together range of people who previously didn’t know each other, and it is hoped that wildflower rich verges will give villagers a sense of wellbeing. The grant will support a professional survey of all the village verges and hedgerows to draw up a plan for future work. These surveys will also be a training opportunity for volunteers. Cutting, raking, scarifying and seeding the verges will also be undertaken by volunteers. Photographs of the verges and hedgerows will also be taken as a record to refer to in the future.
Little Stretton Village Society – grant £795.50
Grassland for Curlew
This project is trialling different grassland management techniques to improve suitability for breeding curlew. Working with volunteer farming partners in the Shropshire Hills, the project will trial and cost alternative and novel mowing regimes to vary the height of grass. The aim is to provide a better food source for the curlew chicks and greater protection from some predators. The results will be used to inform future management and include costs per acre per operation.
Curlew Country - grant £2,000
Exploring Wild Wood
This project introduces secondary school pupils at Bishop’s Castle Community College to the diversity of woodlands, demonstrating how they can be managed for enjoyment, biodiversity and for wood fuel production. The students visit different woodland sites in the AONB to carry out practical activities including tree planting, building shelters, woodland management (cutting and logging), a fungi foray and exploring woodland wildlife. The young people work in teams, working respectfully and safely together. The project will also be sharing its knowledge and activities with a group of teachers who have set up Marches Climate Education Group at a workshop being held in Hereford.
Lightfoot Enterprises - grant £1,900
Craven Arms Young Rangers
20 young people, aged 10-18, will help to develop a management/ activity plan for a local woodland site. They will identify what is in the woodland, what is the potential to improve habitat and what practical work needs doing to make a training base for future Young Ranger activity. The six woodland activities days will involve tree and plant identification, mapping species and places of interest, clearing and creating space for a base and better access.
South Shropshire Youth Forum - grant £1,684
Save our Curlew
This is a joint partnership project with the Upper Clun and Clee Hill Community Wildlife Groups. The project aims to improve Curlew breeding success in the Upper Clun and Clee hills area, through action on the ground: finding nests and putting electric fences round them to protect the eggs from predation and agricultural activities, then fitting radio tags to chicks as soon as they hatch, and track them to find out how they use the landscape, and what happens to them. 70+ volunteers from the two community wildlife groups will help with sightings and surveys. Understanding the reasons for low levels of chick survival is the key to an effective local and national conservation plan.
Shropshire Ornithological Society - grant £2,000
Harvesting Meadow Plant Seed for Sward Enhancement
Marches Meadow Group - grant £2,000 Final Project Report
The grant is supporting the purchase of a seed harvester to collect meadow plant seed from local species-rich meadows. The seed will be used on suitable areas of currently species-poor grasslands, including Marches Meadow Group members’ fields, lawns, road verges, public open spaces, school grounds and churchyards in and around the Shropshire Hills. The aims are to increase the number and area of species-rich grasslands and increase the opportunities for meadow plants and animals to move between existing meadows. Volunteers will be able to help with site preparation, seed sowing and subsequent management of the sites.
Mammal & Bat Recording
Abdon District Community Wildlife Group - grant £300
A small grant was awarded to enable the Community Wildlife Group (CWG) to purchase a bat detector and identification guides. With help from Shropshire Bat Group and Mammal Group, the CWG plan to record the bat and mammal species in their area. Other local CWGs will be welcome to borrow the detector.