The project had been shortlisted in the Large-Scale Practical Nature Conservation category, alongside multi-million pound projects from across the UK.
“We are ecstatic about winning,” said Sarah Bennett, Area Manager West, part of the conservation team at Cheshire Wildlife Trust. “I am extremely proud of my team, and our work in Delamere over the last few years. We are really starting to see the results of this project and the positive impact it has had for local wildlife.”
Cheshire Wildlife Trust has been working in partnership with the Forestry Commission to deliver nature conservation improvements at Delamere Forest, supported by Natural England, WREN’s FCC Biodiversity Action Fund, Heritage Lottery Fund, the British Dragonfly Society and Cheshire West and Chester Council.
Adrienne Bennett, Forestry Commission Ecologist added “The Forestry Commission began restoring Delamere Forest’s meres and mosses in the late 1990’s and we are thrilled to see such an important long-running project receive such high level recognition. We’ve seen some fantastic results from our partnership including the return of sphagnum mosses and notable increases in the occurrences of a wide range of species. ”
Over the last four years, Cheshire Wildlife Trust and the Forestry Commission, have continued the restoration of 110 hectares of mossland habitat through scrub-clearance, rewetting areas of peatland to create pools, and controlling invasive species.
Species are now flourishing at the popular forest from nationally rare mosses, through to woodland birds, rare insects and amphibians. Nowadays green hairstreak butterflies are a common sight, along with common lizards, and a nationally-rare spider, has also been confirmed on two of the sites. The improved bog areas are also home to one of only five populations of bog myrtle in Cheshire.
Cheshire Wildlife Trust has also been managing a white-faced darter dragonfly reintroduction programme over the last few years in Delamere, and this year the team believe that they have seen their first ‘true’ Delamere white-faced darter. “This is hopefully a fantastic sign that we are on our way to a sustainable population of this species in Cheshire,” explained Sarah Bennett.
The mossland habitat work also provides wider environmental benefits. Before restoration much of the peat on the sites was drying out causing it to break down and release carbon into the atmosphere. Over 25.5 hectares of peat has now been rewetted, allowing it to store carbon once again and soak up rainwater.