Network for Nature

It’s been two years since we joined forces with The Wildlife Trusts, a nationwide federation of 46 independent wildlife conservation charities. Together we launched a new Network for Nature programme

Network for Nature

Our aim is to mitigate environmental damage caused by historic road building activity. We do this by improving habitats across England, benefitting people, nature and wildlife.

Our roads border some of the most valuable habitats in England. Because our road verges run alongside 'linear infrastructure' such as motorways and major A-roads, they can create crucial corridors for pollinating insects, birds and small mammals.

We've awarded over £10 million from our Environment and Wellbeing Designated Fund into the Network for Nature programme.

This has enabled 46 Network for Nature projects to enhance, restore and create more than 2,300 acres (950 hectares) of habitat.

Ranging across every region of England, these include woodlands, grasslands, peatlands and wetlands.

Here’s a quick look at some of our recent partnership schemes:

Cumbria Wildlife Trust – Shap Fells peatland restoration

This project has restored 200 hectares of degraded peatland.

Damaged peat releases carbon dioxide, increases flood risk to homes and businesses, and reduces habitat for wildlife.

This project will reprofile steep peat banks and gully edges and cover them with turfs rich in local flora. Bunds and thick soil banks will be built to hold back water and re-wet dried peatland, with the aim of returning it to a functioning peat-forming habitat.

The healthy peatland will trap and store carbon dioxide underground, preventing it from being released into the atmosphere.

This work will increase specialist plants such as cotton-grass, bilberry, cranberry and bog rosemary.

In turn, this will attract golden plover, short-eared owl, merlin, snipe, and red grouse.

This scheme is achieving 556 biodiversity units. A biodiversity unit is a standardised measure used by ecologists to measure biodiversity consistently across a range of different project and environments. 

Suffolk Wildlife Trusts – Union Farm (part of Blyth Valley Farm Cluster)

The Blyth Valley Farm Cluster is a group of 21 farmers working with their neighbours and supported by Suffolk Wildlife.

Together they restore farmland ponds, wetlands, woodland, grasslands and a traditional orchard to increase biodiversity and abundance in the landscape.

This work also means carbon will be sequestered in the soils of the managed grasslands and new woodlands.

This project was funded by the National Highways, Network for Nature (N4N) grant, which also funded several other projects within the Blyth Valley Farm Cluster.

The aim of this two-year project was to restore and improve the floodplain marshes and reedbed habitat for breeding wading birds and other wetland species.

The habitat enhancements included extending and reprofiling five existing scrapes on the marshes to create wet features from March through to June.

This provides feeding areas for birds such as redshank and lapwing, as well as farmland birds and other invertebrates.

Flood plain marshes
Visiting the improved flood plain marshes at Union Farm

New water control structures will raise the water levels across the marshes and help the wetland features hold water for longer.

When completed, the Blyth Valley Farm Cluster work is predicted to achieve 134 biodiversity units.

The Wildlife Trust for Beds, Cambs and Northants - Nene Valley wetland restoration – Summer Leys

A four-year project, working on Nene Valley nature reserve to create scrapes, a sand martin bank and better wetlands for water birds.

This scheme will also improve floodplain capacity and carbon storage.

Highland cattle have been introduced to the area to promote conservation grazing and enhance wildlife habitat.

Nene Valley SSSI complex extends approx. 35 km and is bordered along much of its length by the A45.

Highland Cow
Highland cattle recently arrived at Summer Leys nature reserve to improve conservation grazing

This scheme is ongoing and will achieve 92 biodiversity units.

The Wildlife Trust for Lancashire - M65 and A56 pollinator networks

This work forms part of Lancashire Wildlife Trust’s Green Northern Connections Programme, creating a linear pollinator network near to the A56-M65.

New and restored grasslands and other special places for insects, will reverse the impacts of fragmentation and habitat loss caused by historic road building activity.

The project will manage over 100 hectares of wildflower meadow for pollinators such as

  • solitary tormentil mining-bee
  • emperor moth
  • green hairstreak butterfly

It will also encourage food plants such as devil's-bit scabious, black knapweed and upright tormentil.

Wildflowers blooming by roadside
Wildflower meadows are valuable habitats for pollinators

The restoration work by Lancashire Wildlife Trust on Peel Park in Accrington is achieving 360 biodiversity units.

This is being complemented by work to establish a wildflower meadow on A56 road verge nearby, creating a further 120 biodiversity units.

Learn more about Network for Nature.

See a map of all our Network for Nature Projects.

Designated funds

All Network for Nature projects are being delivered with help from our Environment and Wellbeing Designated Fund. They're separate from our core work of operating, maintaining and improving England’s strategic road network.

Designated Funds provide ring-fenced funding to support initiatives that deliver lasting benefits for road users, the environment and communities across England.