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The Swifts - Creation of an urban site for people and nature
Cath Gregory 517

The Swifts - Creation of an urban site for people and nature

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Creation of an urban site for people and nature

Work gets underway on wildlife haven

Work is set to get underway on a new wildlife haven for birds, bees and butterflies.

The Swifts golf course and driving range in Carlisle city centre is set to become the very first urban bee and butterfly oasis in the North West.

The Swifts, a 17-hectare site in the centre of Carlisle, which includes grassland, woodland and riverbanks, will be transformed into an urban nature reserve thanks to £80,000 funding from Cumbria Waste Management Environment Trust (CWMET) and £8,000 from the Environment Agency. 

The funding will breathe new life into the site, transforming once manicured greens and fairways into wildflower meadows, species-rich wetland and native woodland, helping to boost populations of bees and butterflies.

The site is owned by Carlisle City Council, who will be working collaboratively with Cumbria Wildlife Trust to ensure the successful delivery of the project.

With improved access and signage, and within close walking distance of Carlisle city centre, the site aims to be an oasis for wildlife and people alike. The funding has been secured by Cumbria Wildlife Trust, and working in partnership with Carlisle City Council, the restoration works will fall under the Get Cumbria Buzzing Project. This project, which is supported by the National Heritage Lottery Fund, aims to create and link pollinator habitat across northwest Cumbria.

Cllr Nigel Christian, Portfolio holder for Environment and Transport, said:

“Pollinating insects are a critical component of a healthy ecosystem, however more than half of UK bee, butterfly and moth species have declined in the past 50 years and 30 species of bee face extinction. Over the last 75 years 97% of flower rich meadows have been lost, whilst 60% of flowering plants are in decline.

“The Swifts project aims to restore and create three different types of habitat in the centre of Carlisle: wildflower hay meadows; diverse woodland containing native flowering tree and shrub species; and wet grassland featuring seasonal scrapes (shallow pools of water). This combination will not only provide essential habitat for pollinating insects but will also offer feeding and nesting opportunities for a wide range of bird and mammal species. As part of the project we will be retaining and enhancing the existing network of informal public footpaths across the site.”

The first stage of works at the Swifts is to carry out the process of ‘thinning’ the existing stands of trees. These are mostly non-native, quick growing, species planted in lines when the site was in use as a golf course, but they are of very limited value to pollinators and also cause dense shading, preventing the growth of native woodland floor plant species. Removing approximately one third of the trees across the entire area (a total of approximately 65) will break up the distinct lines of planting and allow light to the woodland floor, enabling the growth of a wider range of seasonal vegetation.

The City Council will follow this work up with a planting scheme for approximately 1,200 native flowering tree species and 300 native flowering shrubs in the autumn of 2021. These will be planted in and around the existing wooded areas to improve diversity and increase their overall area.

Get Cumbria Buzzing is a ground-breaking, three-year project which aims to get parks, school grounds and other green spaces around north and west Cumbria buzzing with bees and pollinators. Cumbria Local Nature Partnership is working with Highways England and Cumbria Wildlife Trust to get local people buzzing with activity to boost numbers of bumblebees and other wild pollinators and halt their decline. Cumbria Local Nature Partnership and Cumbria Wildlife Trust are bringing together a wealth of experience including Allerdale Borough Council, Buglife, Butterfly Conservation, Copeland Borough Council, Cumbria Biodiversity Data Centre, Florence Arts Centre, Highways England, National Trust, Solway AONB and Workington Nature Partnership.

This £1.6 million project is made possible by National Lottery Players and support from the National Lottery Heritage Fund, Highways England, Cumbria Waste Management Environment Trust, Rees Jeffreys Road Fund, Tesco, Allerdale Borough Council, Solway Coast AONB and The Hadfield Trust.

Administered by Cumbria Community Foundation, the following organisations are also funding the project: Fairfield Wind Farm Community Benefit Fund, Robin Rigg West Cumbria Fund, Winscales Moor Community Benefit Fund and United Utilities Legacy Fund.

Cumbria Wildlife Trust is the only voluntary organisation devoted solely to the conservation of the wildlife and wild places of Cumbria. The Trust stands up for wildlife, creates wildlife havens, and seeks to raise environmental awareness.

Formed in 1962, the Trust cares for over 38 nature reserves you can visit, campaigns for the protection of endangered habitats and species such as limestone pavements and red squirrels, and works with adults and children to discover the importance of the natural world.

Cumbria Wildlife Trust is part of a UK-wide grassroots movement of 46 Wildlife Trust charities, with more than 850,000 members and 38,000 volunteers.

Cumbria Waste Management Environment Trust provides grant assistance to Parish Councils, local community groups and not for profit organisations for environmental and community projects in parts of the local authority areas of Carlisle, Eden and Allerdale.

National Lottery Heritage Fund uses money raised by the National Lottery, to inspire, lead and resource the UK’s heritage to create positive and lasting change for people and communities, now and in the future. Follow @HeritageFundUK on Twitter, Facebook and Instagram and use #NationalLotteryHeritageFund.

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