Rewilding of Allestree Park awarded £1.1 million to deliver community’s vision

View of Allestree Park

Thu 22 Feb 2024

As Allestree Park enters its third year of rewilding, Derbyshire Wildlife Trust and Derby City Council have announced exciting plans for how the community would like to shape the park into a richer place for people and nature, and help tackle the effects of climate change over the next 12 months, and beyond.

In order to achieve the community’s vision, Derbyshire Wildlife Trust has been successful in securing almost £1.1 million in funding over three years from The National Lottery Community Fund, the largest community funder in the UK.

A partnership between Derbyshire Wildlife Trust, Derby City Council and the University of Derby, the Community Rewilding of Allestree Park is the largest urban rewilding project in the UK. It aims to support the delivery of an even more beautiful and accessible place for people of Derby and surrounding areas to visit, where wildlife will flourish even more and species will return.

The nature-rich park will store more carbon, directly helping with the climate and nature crisis. The project hopes to inspire people, communities and businesses right across the city and Derbyshire to rewild their own spaces and take steps to reduce their own carbon footprint.

Throughout the life of the project, the partners have been having conversations with a wealth of people, from climate, wildlife, healthcare and accessibility experts to local schools and youth groups, Derby residents, recreational groups and visitors.

Through these conversations, it is clear that community rewilding means different things to different people, but that there are several things that most people want to see. These common goals will form the focus for the project activity this year, including a jam-packed calendar of initiatives and events.

Among the ideas fed back, people have said that they want to see the light touch interventions continue to improve the site for nature, such as improving the diversity of wildflowers and letting grasslands grow. They also want more community involvement projects, including monitoring changes and volunteering to reintroduce mini-but-mighty species, such as dung beetles.

The new funding from The National Lottery Community Fund, which distributes money raised by National Lottery players for good causes, will be used to support people to take these positive actions for nature and to deliver community and nature benefits in Allestree Park and across Derby City.

Speaking about the funding, Lisa Witham, Director of Wilder Communities said:

We are absolutely thrilled to have secured this incredible amount of funding to support the community’s vision for Allestree Park and are grateful to National Lottery Climate Action Fund for recognising the value of this project and what it aims to achieve for nature and people.

The fund will allow us to provide natural outdoor engagement spaces, deliver Nature Tots activities on site to encourage pre-school children to connect with nature, set up Junior Rangers sessions for young people who are interested in conservation, and work with local schools to improve their own outdoor spaces.

It will also go towards implementing some of the other ideas people have suggested such as improving multi-user access and inclusion on site with accessible benches, improved interpretation and signage, and the delivery of self-led and organised outdoor activities for people to take part in, which we know from research will benefit their mental and physical wellbeing through a connectedness to nature.

As part of the community conversations, there has also been some interest in other ideas and facilities including grazing, general cycling, a bespoke bike track and horse riding.

While there is an important role for cattle in managing grasslands and meadows, the rewilding partners acknowledge that for now it is only appropriate to continue with the existing cattle grazing project in fenced fields, and will monitor the grasslands and natural regeneration over the next couple of years to help evaluate how best to manage these areas for nature in the future.

A bespoke bike track and bridle path were also suggested. These are not part of the Community Rewilding Project at Allestree Park, and the rewilding partnership does not feel it appropriate to progress them further at this time.

Dr Jo Smith CEO of Derbyshire Wildlife Trust said:

You only have to visit and take a stroll through Allestree Park to understand that it is a calm and natural space where people can enjoy nature and be happy. The changes to the landscape since the project began are incredibly beautiful, with exciting things happening with every changing season. There are more butterflies than we have had in years, lots of birdsong, and long swathes of grass filled with wildflowers and colour.

We want to say a huge thank you to everyone who has contributed – your feedback has been invaluable and helped shape the future of Allestree Park to make it even better for people and nature. We are excited to announce a timeline full of fun and engaging activities for 2024 that will celebrate the nature in our city and help us all to get to where we want to be together.

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

The power of partnership, such as ours with Derbyshire Wildlife Trust, lies in unlocking funding opportunities beyond the reach of the Council alone. I’m thrilled that through this collaboration, Derbyshire Wildlife Trust has secured £1.1 million in funding.

“This significant investment will advance our community rewilding project, ensuring lasting environmental benefits and enhancing biodiversity for future generations. The October floods starkly reminded us of the urgent challenges climate change presents. This initiative is a step towards our collective responsibility to mitigate these effects and protect our community.

Councillor Hardyal Dhindsa, the Council’s Cabinet Member for Communities and Streetpride, said:

Thank you to everyone who took part in the conversations over the summer. As the first large-scale rewilding project in a public park, it’s important that people are at its heart, and we will continue to work with our project partners to improve Allestree Park. Not only will it be even lovelier, I want to make sure it is accessible and enjoyed by all communities in Derby.

Find out more about the outcomes of community conversations and to get involved with events and activities at Allestree Park on the webpage.

Mel Eaglesfield, Deputy Director at The National Lottery Community Fund, said:

We’re delighted to fund the Rewilding of Allestree Park project through our Climate Action Fund. This project is a terrific initiative that will boost nature and wildlife, as well as protecting an important established green space for the whole community to benefit from.

Climate change matters to people and communities, so it matters to us. Thanks to National Lottery players, we are committed to supporting communities to come together to be environmentally sustainable, and we are significantly increasing our funding this year to inspire even more people to get involved in climate action across the UK.

Find out more about the outcomes of community conversations and to get involved with events and activities at Allestree Park on the webpage.