Community rewilding starts to bloom at Allestree Park

Two similar views of Allestree Park, one taken in November 2021 with short grass, the other July 2023 with long grass

Similar views of Allestree Park, taken in Nov 2021 and Jul 2023

Tue 11 Jul 2023

As Allestree Park enters its second summer of rewilding, the changes are really starting to show.

Mowed footways cut through swathes of longer grass, creating more space for wildflowers which in turn are attracting bees, butterflies and birds.

People have been sharing sightings of swallows, comma butterflies and green woodpecker chicks as well as telling us about the calm and happiness they get from these wonderful natural spaces.

The Allestree Park rewilding project involves Derby City Council, Derbyshire Wildlife Trust and the University of Derby. It’s the largest urban rewilding project in Britain, so has national significance as well as being important to the city.

Since plans for the project were first approved by the Council’s cabinet in November 2021, there has been minimum intervention with the natural landscape. With the exception of the grass footways and a traditional area for picnics and recreation near the lake, it’s now the third season where the grass has been allowed to grow naturally.

The results of a 12-week public consultation, announced in August 2022, showed overwhelming support with 89% of over 2,000 respondents supporting rewilding at Allestree Park. Feedback from the consultation, and from ongoing community conversations over the summer, is for a ‘lighter touch’ approach.

Derbyshire Wildlife Trust and Derby City Council are still getting a huge amount of feedback and want to continue to better understand everyone’s thoughts and ideas, working with the University of Derby to analyse the data. 

Whilst there were plans to release a draft masterplan, instead they are going to spend the months ahead widening out the community conversations approach and will keep collecting ideas and feedback to shape a park that everyone can enjoy and feel proud of. 

There has also been a change in administration at Derby City Council, giving the opportunity to take stock of the project so far. Meanwhile the minimalist approach to rewilding will continue.

close up of a pretty orange-brown butterfly at Allestree Park
A butterfly at Allestree Park

Dr Jo Smith, CEO of Derbyshire Wildlife Trust said:

While the park has been changing, there has also been a spring and summer of ‘community conversations’, discussions with people who use the park, and residents right across the city. With these, we are starting to get a real sense of what community rewilding means to the people who love Allestree Park.  

From the feedback we have received it is clear that community rewilding means different things to different people. The view we have heard most is that many people are really passionate about rewilding and nature, and that they want to see a gentle, natural approach with only light-touch interventions such as improving the diversity of wildflowers and letting swathes of long grasslands grow, much like what is happening right now.

There have been well thought through proposals submitted for new facilities but based on feedback, we do not believe now is the right time for new infrastructure. It is important to let nature lead the way and see what emerges, and of course the community can review this in the future.

It has been an energising and inspiring few months – working with people across the region to discuss the future of Allestree Park, how people use the space, and why it matters to everyone. 

We want to say a huge thank you to everyone who has contributed so far – your feedback has been invaluable, and we really look forward to spending the next 12 months continuing to listen and engage with local people. In the meantime, we are excited to continue to enable the natural rewilding of Allestree Park, to make it an even better place for nature and people and stimulate lots of other similar initiatives across the city and beyond.

Looking out over the long grass at Allestree Park towards trees in the distance
Looking out across the long grass at Allestree Park

Councillor Carmel Swan, Derby City Council Cabinet Member for Climate Change, Transport and Sustainability, said:

This is a project of national significance which other local authorities, universities, and professional organisations are following with interest. This is a small but positive step towards tackling the effects of climate change, and if others follow our lead it could make a real difference. I would urge everyone living in Derby to embrace this project and get involved in the conversation.

Councillor Hardyal Dhindsa, Cabinet Member for Communities and Streetpride, said:

No project on this scale has been done in a public park before – and the key word here is public, as it’s a space where people in a city can benefit from being in nature. This is something we’ve all appreciated since the Covid pandemic. So it’s important as the new administration that we take this time to reflect on what’s been done so far, and where we go from here.

Making nature and our parks more accessible to Derby citizens is our goal. We want to get it right. So, if you haven't already done so, make sure you give us your contributions in shaping this project.

Events for the public on 15 July, 23 July and 5 August will explore some of the research, feedback and outcomes to date, and more will be added to the consultation programme. You can also comment using the online feedback form