A major nature recovery project funded by Natural England, which is restoring and connecting fragmented nationally and internationally-important heathlands in the West Midlands has won a nature award.
The Purple Horizons Nature Recovery Project, which is led by Natural England working with partners including local councils and wildlife trusts, aims to connect Sutton Park National Nature Reserve and Cannock Chase Special Area of Conservation.
The ambitious project, which extends across 10,000 hectares on the urban fringe of the West Midlands, is creating a mosaic of heathland, wetland, woodland and grassland – vital for the recovery and long-term resilience of the area’s reptiles, birds and pollinators.
The project was selected for the Public Sector Award at the West Midlands Combined Authority Natural Environment Awards on 21 March 2023. The regional awards recognise excellence within organisations in the West Midlands for protecting, restoring and enhancing the natural environment.
Julie Button, Natural England’s project manager for the Purple Horizons Nature Recovery Project, said:
We are very proud the Purple Horizons Nature Recovery Project work has been recognised with this important award. We are working with a range of partners, landowners and communities to deliver resilience for nature and an environment where people’s health and wellbeing can thrive on the edge of the West Midlands urban fringe.
The Purple Horizons Nature Recovery Project is about delivering a great place for nature and people to thrive while tackling the adaptations and mitigation needed for climate change.
With a population of more than 500,000 within 2 miles of the area, the project offers an opportunity to reconnect people with nature on their doorstep. Project partners are working with local communities in Walsall to understand their needs and where habitat creation and green infrastructure will deliver the greatest health benefits. The project will help enhance the internationally important geodiversity in the Black Country UNESCO Global Geopark and provide new information signs and boards for visitors.
Partners are also working with local landowners to deliver habitat creation and carbon sequestration options for their land, supporting climate change adaptation and mitigation.
Purple Horizons project highlights so far:
- kick-started the restoration of 21 hectares of important heathland, acid grassland and lowland meadow in its first year
- funded machinery to enable seed collection, mowing, scrub-control and further habitat restoration, some of which is suitable for volunteers to operate
- worked closely with the Black Country Geopark team in order to capitalise on the unique underlying geology of the area and its considerable importance in the development of the rare lowland heathland habitat
- has developed new interpretation panels to explain the importance of the geology and the underlying soils to the restoration of heathland in the area
- the project partners are also exploring opportunities for community engagement and the development of health and wellbeing programmes to ignite local interest in the common land and nature reserves in the Purple Horizons project
- a rare nobel jewel wasp has been discovered, demonstrating that climate change is affecting the spread of this species, allowing it to move further north
Purple Horizon’s project is a Natural England-funded Nature Recovery Project working with many partners including Walsall Council, Lichfield Council, Birmingham and Black Country Wildlife Trust, Staffordshire Wildlife Trust and the Environment Agency. Extending across 10,000 hectares on the fringes of the West Midlands conurbation, the project is restoring fragmented nationally and internationally-important heathlands to create a mosaic of heathland-wetland-woodland-grassland, vital for the recovery and long-term resilience of the area’s reptiles, birds and pollinators.
West Midlands Combined Authority Natural Environment Awards
The Natural Environment Awards are the first region-wide award scheme dedicated to recognising excellence within organisations in the West Midlands for protecting, restoring and enhancing our natural environment.
The annual awards will acknowledge the achievements of organisations and projects across the region, that have showcased their commitment and enthusiasm for creating and improving our green and blue spaces, not only for environmental benefits but also for the enjoyment of the local community.
Natural Environment Awards (wmca.org.uk)
The awards were hosted by the Grenfell guerrilla gardener’ Tayshan Hayden-Smith and presented by West Midlands mayor Andy Street.