Expanding wildlife conservation on the National Cycle Network

wildflower planting in Derby

Wildflower planting in Derby

Wildlife Champion training -birds. Sustrans Greener Greenways Scotland

Wildlife Champion training on bird habitats in Scotland

31 January 2017

We have been awarded £400,000 funding by the Esmée Fairbairn Foundation to continue and expand wildlife conservation work across the National Cycle Network for the next three years. 

We have worked with volunteers and partners across the North West, Yorkshire, the Midlands and Wales to record and monitor wildlife along 280km of traffic-free paths, manage habitats to protect and attract a wide variety of plants and animals, and run a variety of wildlife-themed events, as part of the Greener Greenways project.

The project will now be expanded to routes in the North East and the South of England, covering a further 138km of off-road cycle and walking paths.

Volunteer wildlife champions

Over 280 volunteers have joined as wildlife champions to monitor sections of their local route since work began in 2013. They take part in regular surveys and special events such as ‘Bioblitzes’ to record as many species as possible in one day within a designated area of a path. To date, the project has provided over 3,000 wildlife records to local record centres, including rare finds such as Barn Owl, Red Squirrel and Grass Snake.

Protecting wildlife

Traffic-free paths, usually on former railway lines and canal towpaths, make up around a third of the 14,700 miles of Britain’s National Cycle Network. Often in urban areas, these pathways act as safe-havens and provide essential corridors for wildlife to move and adapt to as their habitats shrink due to development, climate change and disease.

Projects along the cycle network help conserve a range of rare species, including the small blue butterfly on the Lias Line in Warwickshire, water vole along the Foss Islands in York, grizzled skipper butterflies along the Fallowfield Loop in Manchester and the Water Rail, a genuine oddity amongst British birds.

Sustrans ecologist David Watson said: “We’re delighted to receive this funding to help us continue wildlife conservation along the National Cycle Network. Your local cycle and walking route is a well-used path for bats, hedgehogs, birds and insects, as well as people. Linear paths without the disturbance of traffic help plants and animals to move around to find food and reach new habitats, which makes them more resilient in the long term."

If you would like to learn more about monitoring wildlife on a cycle route in your area have a look at our volunteering opportunities.

Find out more about the Greener Greenways Project

For all media enquiries, please contact Anna Galandzij, senior press officer for Sustrans, on [email protected] or call 075 5791 5648.