As we celebrate 50 years of Earth Day, Jim Whiteford, Senior Ecologist at Sustrans, highlights some of the important conservation work happening along the National Cycling Network.
Probably now, more than ever, as we navigate our way through a time of huge uncertainty, we feel the need and desire to be connected to our natural environment and the outside world.
It is therefore essential that today – 50 years since the first Earth Day – we take the time to celebrate the natural world and the work that is going on to preserve it.
What Sustrans is doing
The National Cycle Network, the UK-wide network of signed paths and routes for walking, cycling, wheeling and exploring the great outdoors is home to much wildlife and many natural beauty spots.
Therefore, as patrons of the Network, conservation is essential to the work we do at Sustrans.
We want to ensure that all users are able to enjoy the full beauty of the paths on their rides and walks, whilst the habitat of the wildlife that resides in the surrounding areas remain healthy and intact.
The UK's single pockets of woodland or grassland is surrounded by roads, towns, and cities.
Changing climate and air pollution mean that it's important to provide habitat connectivity.
This will allow species to disperse, respond to changing environmental conditions, exchange genes and move around safely.
Our conservation projects
With the support of the Esmee Fairbairn Foundation, Sustrans has recently completed ‘Greener Greenways’, a long-running conservation project along sections of the National Cycle Network.
The project, which began in 2013, has focused on creating diverse and species-rich environments along 66 traffic-free walking and cycling routes to encourage the growth and sustainment of wildlife.
With the help of our passionate team of volunteers, we have been able to improve our knowledge of the existing nature and wildlife along the paths.
The work has been conducted through surveys, as well as data searches and consultations with conservation organisations.
Why this work is important
All this information aids the development of habitat management plans and helps us protect and enhance habitats and species populations, and increase biodiversity along the route and habitat connectivity.
It is projects like this going on all over the country, by individuals and organisations both large and small that we should be celebrating today on Earth Day.
It’s often difficult, in times of crisis to see the beauty in things.
However, knowing that we can all do our bit to protect the natural world for generations to come is something that we can all find comfort in through these dark times.
How you can help
Please note that due to the Coronavirus (Covid-19) outbreak, we have suspended all volunteering activities that involve leaving your home.
You are welcome to apply for any of our volunteering opportunities.
However, there may be a delay in the processing of your application and when you might be able to get started in the role.
Alternatively, if you want to receive updates on the National Cycle Network and our work along the paths, sign up to our newsletter.