Describe your project
Baronsdown Wildlife Sanctuary has belonged to the League Against Cruel Sports since the late 1950’s. It is a stunningly beautiful place, an enduring landscape of wind-hushed heights, deep woods and sun-drenched open spaces. Since the initial purchase, more parcels of land have been added, creating a wild-life rich whole that has evolved to become a haven for fauna and flora of all kinds. Baronsdown is the largest of five such sanctuaries in Devon and Somerset, totalling around 350 acres, that belong to the League. We strongly believe in the conservation of the land that we own. This natural process-led approach seeks to complement, rather than replace, existing product-based conservation approaches. Management is only necessary in core areas where natural processes are missing. This may involve supportive measures to kick start natural processes or help in bringing back wildlife species in more natural numbers. Our ecosystems are broken, and nature is struggling – with 56% of species in the UK in decline and 15% threatened with extinction. Biodiversity needs to flourish, and we believe in leaving a positive legacy for future generations. Baronsdown is one of the few places where you are almost guaranteed to see Britain’s largest land mammal, the wild Red Deer. Fallow Deer and Roe Deer sometimes call in and even wild boar have made an appearance. Badgers and foxes breed there, and otters pass through as they make their way along the River Exe. You will also see rabbits and squirrels, and if you are lucky you might see stoats, weasels or maybe a polecat. In summer, many bird species nest on the sanctuary including Pied Flycatchers, Redstarts, Wood Warblers and Spotted Flycatchers and you can also spot Buzzards, Peregrines and Sparrowhawks flitting by. You can spot most British butterfly species and other migrating butterflies from mainland Europe all around the sanctuary. Careful management of the land on all the League’s wildlife sanctuaries, including minimal use of chemicals, means that a wide range of animals and plants flourish. At the centre of Baronsdown is the old Kennels building which we are hoping to refurbish fully over the next years to create the Baronsdown Education Hub. The aim of the Education Hub is to inspire local communities to come together through volunteering, taking part in educational workshops, learning new skills and increasing their knowledge about the local wildlife, flora and fauna. We believe that education is a key aspect of the League’s sanctuaries and we hope to teach younger generations about the importance of wildlife as part of the ecosystems on which we all depend, as well as representing the natural world for its own intrinsic worth. At a local level the sanctuaries show an alternative way of looking at nature, but more than that they provide an opportunity for young and old to engage with wildlife and to instil an appreciation of it. At present the Old Kennels building is a basic meeting room and desperately needs a full refurbishment to enable us to use it effectively as an Education Hub.
How will your project benefit your local community?
We are in the process of developing an education programme and volunteer programme for our sanctuaries. We have limited resource (one full time and one part time member of staff) to maintain all our sanctuaries. We are planning to recruit the help of local individuals, wildlife enthusiasts, community groups and businesses over the following months to help with various ongoing tasks including coppicing, clearing and replanting, making bird and owl nesting boxes, and carrying out monthly bird, butterfly and mammal surveys, to name but a few. This will be a great opportunity for the local community to feel the amazing benefits of volunteering, being in the great outdoors and learning so much about our British wildlife from experts, such as our Head of Conservation & Education. The Education Hub will act as a base for all activities at Baronsdown where local volunteers, community groups, university students, and schools can come together to learn and protect our precious wildlife and environment. Being outside in nature is one of the best ways to support physical and mental health. Studies carried out in 2018 by the University of Derby found that a connection to nature may provide people with resilience to meet the challenges of everyday life, whilst also facilitating exercise, social contact and a sense of purpose. Spending time in nature has also been shown to reduce blood pressure and contribute to longer lifespans amongst senior citizens. Another study carried out by the University of Essex found that Ecotherapy (‘green care’, nature based interventions in mental health) enhanced mental wellbeing, social inclusion, healthier lifestyles and environmentally friendly living.
Please give details of any support you have from your local community
We are currently embarking on a local volunteering programme to help with our work at Baronsdown. We also have local supporters and supporter groups based in the Devon/Somerset area.
How big is your community? And how many people will benefit from your project?
Our wildlife sanctuary, Baronsdown, is situated high above the Exe Valley in Exmoor National Park and is surrounded by the local town of Dulverton and parish hamlets such as Battleton and Ashwick. The larger towns of Tiverton, Taunton and Barnstaple are also within a 30 minutes’ drive from Baronsdown. We have many visitors to Baronsdown including volunteers, as well as local and national supporters of the charity. We have regular visits from the Learning & Outreach Officer, Interpretation & Education Manager and staff groups from Exmoor National Park Authority as well as Wiltshire College. We also welcome groups from the Devon Recovery Learning Community – a recovery college provided by Devon Partnership NHS Trust for the wellbeing of people in Devon.
Tell us what you intend to spend the money on.
The Old Kennels requires a full refurbishment. In order to make it into the vibrant Education Hub we would envisage it would require the following: • New slip resistant flooring (incl screeding & labour) • Install a compact kitchenette. The building only has a sink and small ledge to make teas and coffees. • Plaster and paint the walls and ceiling • Modular/foldable tables and chairs • Projector, screen and mount The money from the Calor fund would fund 50% of the £10k project costs.
When and why was your project founded?
The League Against Cruel Sports was founded in 1924 and is Britain's leading charity working to stop animals from being persecuted, abused and killed for sport. We manage sanctuaries to protect wildlife, carry out investigations to expose law-breaking and cruelty to animals, and campaign for stronger animal protection laws.