Our plan to restore nature at our places

Greylag geese on Orford Ness
Published : 20 Mar 2017 Last update : 14 Jun 2017

Britain's wildlife is in trouble. More than half of species are in decline. And as the nation's biggest private landowner we want to play our part in addressing this dramatic slump.

We are setting out ambitious plans to help reverse the decline in wildlife on all the land in our care. We aim to create 25,000 hectares of new habitats by 2025 - the equivalent of more than 33,000 Premier League football pitches. 

The National Trust was set up to protect places of natural beauty, and we plan to create and restore 'priority' wildlife habitats on 10 per cent of our land. They include habitats like chalk grassland and arable field margins - hand-picked by government as threatened and in need of help. 

By 2025 our ambition is that at least 50 per cent of our farmland will be 'nature-friendly', with protected hedgerows, field margins, ponds, woodland and other habitats allowing plants and animals to thrive.

Supporting sustainable farming will be crucial for the plans to succeed. Many of our 1,500 farm tenants are already farming in a way which benefits wildlife and we will continue to work in partnership with our farmers. 

Barn Owls at Charlecote

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Once common wildlife like water voles and cuckoos are now rare and under threat. Our rangers are working with farmers to create nature habitats and help struggling birds, butterflies and wildflowers.

Peter Nixon, our Director of Land, Landscape and Nature, said: 'Our charity was founded to protect our natural heritage and we believe we should be playing an active role in reviving it – by doing what we can on our own land.

'Nature has been squeezed out to the margins for far too long. We want to help bring it back to the heart of our countryside.

'Despite the battering it’s taken over many decades, nature has an incredible ability to rejuvenate and revive if given the conditions to thrive.

'Birds such as the cuckoo, lapwing and curlew are part of the fabric of our rural heritage. But they’ve virtually disappeared from the countryside.

'We want to see them return to the fields, woods and meadows again, along with other wildlife which was once common and is now rare.'

" Nature has been squeezed out to the margins for far too long. We want to help bring it back to the heart of our countryside."
- Peter Nixon, Director of Land, Landscape and Nature

We will look to implement the 'better, bigger, more and joined-up' approach to nature conservation called for in a Government-commissioned review by Sir John Lawton.

Planting more hedgerows, which act as ‘wildlife corridors’ for birds and bats, establishing more lowland meadows and creating wetlands where appropriate could all help establish new habitats and will be considered in partnership with tenant farmers and other stakeholders.

Peter Nixon said: 'The future of farming and the environment are inextricably linked – they are reliant on the other to succeed. So, it’s not a case of supporting one, at the expense of the other. We want both to thrive.

'We need the support of our farmers and want to support them in their businesses and combine our skills, expertise and passion to deliver a healthier, more beautiful environment. That’s why we will work with them and explore how we make improvements together.'

Hay baling in the Brecon Beacons
Hay baling in the Brecon Beacons
Hay baling in the Brecon Beacons

The new plans have been welcomed by conservationists and farming groups. Marian Spain, chief executive of charity Plantlife, called the plans a 'bold commitment'. 

George Dunn, chief executive of the Tenant Farmers' Association, added:  'Farm tenants will be heartened by the National Trust's clearly expressed position that good environmental management in the countryside cannot be divorced from the achievement of productive and sustainable farming.' 

Our new commitments could play an important role in helping deliver the Government's own ambitions to improve the natural environment.

Environment Secretary Andrea Leadsom said: 'I’m really pleased nature will be prioritised across the Trust’s farmland, supporting even more of our plants and wildlife and helping deliver our target to create 200,000 hectares of priority habitat by 2020.'

Read about our cause

While we're passionate about open spaces and historic places, we're working hard in other areas too. With your help, we're caring for the environment, food and farming, green energy and transport, and heritage.