Land use and wildlife
A view of St Nicks during the clay capping and before main paths were laid in 1994. Can you find this place when you visit? It's the main path running through the site and the big tree on the left is a good marker...
The starting point of St Nicks charity was turning a former landfill site into a thriving nature reserve so you could say that this principle is “part of our DNA”. It is described by Bioregional as ‘protecting and restoring biodiversity and creating new natural habitats through good land use and integration into the built environment’. Being located just one mile from the centre of York, we are doing our best to promote biodiversity within built environment.
A lot of the charity’s work revolves around this principle because the vision of St Nicks is for York to be a city where people value wildlife, the environment and each other equally to sustain a rich and healthy life for all. On our History pages you can find out more about how we started, what was on site before and how it developed over recent years. By exploring the Enjoy nature pages you will learn about the wildlife and habitats of St Nicks as well as how we manage the site and extend our reach where we can. Our involvement in the Dales to Vales Rivers Network is an example of a holistic and partnership approach to landscape and flood management.
What has nature ever done for us? Whether you call it ecosystem services illustrated here or something else, we need nature more than we might like to think (diagram borrowed from: https://freshwaterwatch.thewaterhub.org).
Why is this principle important?
- According to the latest State of Nature report published in 2016: Of 3,148 species assesed by the report, “60% of species have declined over the last 50 years and 31% have declined strongly. Half of the species assessed have shown strong changes in abundance or distribution, indicating that recent environmental changes are having a dramatic impact on the nature of the UK’s land and seas. There is also evidence to suggest that species with specif ic habitat requirements are faring worse than generalist species that are better able to adapt to a changing environment.”
The report also says: “The threats to the UK’s wildlife
are many and varied, the most severe acting either to destroy valuable habitat or degrade the quality and value of what remains. Climate change
is having an increasing impact on nature in the UK. Rising average temperatures are known to be driving range expansion in some species, but evidence for harmful impacts is also mounting.”
- We need nature – nature provides as with essential services which we often take for granted but there are plenty of other really good reasons, not least because we are part of it and harming nature tends to harm us too in one way or another.
What can you do?
- Choose organic and eco-friendly products – everything we buy and consume has some environmental impact but we can minimise it or even make it a positive one by choosing carefully. Diet has a particularly big impact on our environmental footprint and there is a One Planet principle devoted just to that. Online advice can be confusing and sometimes contradictory but the basic rule is – check what exactly it is you’re buying: what is it made of, how processed is it, how far has it travelled* and what are the manufacturers’ credentials? Ethical Consumer and Soil Association are just two great sources of information.
* Please note that local is not always the best – an organic banana shipped from overseas will have a smaller carbon footprint than an out-of-season UK tomato or salad grown in a heated greenhouse…
St Nicks volunteers and staff with our 8th national Green Flag Award for 2017: a great recognition for all the hard work needed to keep the nature reserve thriving (photo by L. Outing)
Become a conservation volunteer – we’re just one of many environmental charities but whether you choose to volunteer with us or with a different group, your conservation efforts will be rewarded by spending purposeful time outdoors, meeting new people, learning new skills and improving your health along the way (everyone needs a bit of ecotherapy!).
- Garden for and with nature – even just a windowbox can be a wildlife haven for pollinating insects and most of us can create some space for nature. With urbanisation continuing at pace both in the UK and around the world, gardens and parks are becoming increasingly more important refuges for all kinds of wildlife. There is plenty of advice online on how to attract wildlife into your garden and make sure that your gardening techniques don’t harm it. Permaculture or No Dig Gardening approaches are particularly worth trying out. You’d be welcome to borrow books from us on this topic, just get in touch.
- Sponsor tree planting or wildlife conservation projects – if you cannot do either of the above yourself, there are many ways in which you can help others. Just search the internet for a myriad of options or contact us for further advice.
- Engage with local planning – development tends to have big impact on biodiversity so it’s up to us all to make it a positive one, or at least minimise the damage. In order to save the most precious natural spaces, we need to make best use of all available land and combine its uses wherever possible. When building new housing developments, they should contain workplaces, services, green spaces as well as other uses which make thriving communities and thus minimise the need for travel and lots of extra resources from outside the area. Renewable energy installations can usually be combined with farming or wildlife areas (Westmill Co-op is just one good example) while farming needs to be more nature-friendly. All developments are part of a landscape so we need to plan sustainable landscapes (as illustrated by this American example).
Have we missed something crucial out or made a mistake? Please let us know.