The Wildlife Trust of South and West Wales has been carrying out a project in Merthyr Tydfil, encouraging rural communities to appreciate and conserve the rich habitats on their doorsteps. With a grant from the Rural Development Fund, people in the rural wards of Merthyr Tydfil County Borough have been offered a variety of activities and volunteering opportunities, from braken-bashing to bird box making, to simply getting out and about and doing a bit of bird-watching.
Around a quarter of the total land in Merthyr Tydfil County Borough has been designated as Sites of importance for Nature Conservation (SINC), for the important species and habitats that they support. An important part of the current project has been to speak to landowners about the high nature-conservation value of the land that they own, and to discuss ways that they might preserve it for the benefit of wildlife and for its potential as a source of non-agricultural income.
SINC designations, or their equivalent, exist in most Local Authority areas, and are considered the most important places for wildlife after legally protected sites such as Local Nature Reserves (LNR), Sites of Special Scientific Interest (SSSI), etc. SINC designations are primarily used as a planning tool by local authorities, helping decision-makers to give consideration to our most important and sensitive green spaces. In some local authorities, particularly in England, local Wildlife Trusts have helped to develop the system into more than just a planning tool, forming partnerships to oversee the protection and management of these important sites, and to seek the funding needed to help landowners take positive action.
This Rural Development Fund project in Merthyr Tydfil is facilitating some important first steps towards active conservation of SINC designated land, by reaching out to rural communities and landowners and encouraging them to fully appreciate the ecological importance of their own back gardens.