New paths for people and nature in SW
Thousands of miles of paths across the south of England are being improved for nature. The charity Sustrans created the National Cycle Network in 1995. Now, 22 years later, it is turning 22 of its cycling and walking routes across the south into wildlife friendly ‘greenways’.
If you’re out on foot or on your bike over the summer you may see teams of volunteers improving greenspace and surveying the wildlife living along the path network. Some walking and cycling routes right here in Devon and Cornwall are due to benefit from this green-fingered approach, including The Plym Valley Trail, which is part of the 21-mile Drake’s Trail.
Stretching more than 14,000 miles across the length and breadth of the UK, the National Cycle Network has served pedestrians, cyclists, joggers, dog walkers and horse riders for more than 20 years. But, says James Cleeton, Sustrans’ Director for England South, it isn’t only people who require a network to move around safely.
“Since the creation of the Network in 1995, our understanding of nature has improved hugely,” says Cleeton. “We now know that wildlife uses corridors to find its way much in the same way that people use cycling and walking routes. So the National Cycle Network really is a perfect framework for a hands-on project that can benefit both people and nature.”
The Greener Greenways project has proved hugely successful in creating this shared space for people and nature on routes elsewhere in the UK. In late 2015 the project even won international recognition for its work at an awards ceremony in Belgium. Now the Esmee Fairbairn Trust is helping Sustrans to make that same impact on the Plym Valley Trail and other routes in the south of England.
By surveying, protecting and enhancing biodiversity along traffic-free sections of the National Cycle Network, Sustrans is hoping to reconnect people with their natural environment. Volunteer wildlife champions are given the chance to learn new skills, keep active and socialise. The very action of discovering the wilder nature of these walking and cycling routes can also give cyclists and pedestrians added mental wellbeing benefits over and above physical exercise alone.
So with that in mind, why not find your nearest greenway, get on your bike and get back in touch with nature this summer? You can find out more and even help to transform your local route as a volunteer by going to the Sustrans website www.sustrans.org.uk