Nature Recovery in Action
At Wildfell we follow a comprehensive, highly disciplined nature-recovery process.
Stay up to date with key milestones at the Wildfell Centre for Environmental Recovery – Ground Control’s 296-acre nature recovery laboratory near Braintree, Essex.
Follow project progress and see our comprehensive and highly disciplined Green Gains nature recovery process in action.
See how we’ll sequester 18,000 tonnes C02e by year 50, generate 277 Biodiversity Units (125% Net Gain), and open up the landscape for the benefit of the community.
- Grays Farm purchased by Ground Control’s Evergreen Fund
- Green Gains ‘Establish’: Interface with nature established. We locate assets, operations, and activities (upstream and downstream) that interface with nature and biodiversity.
- Green Gains ‘Social & Community’: We established early community relations with Ground Control employees, Ground Control clients, The Forestry Commission, Essex Wildlife Trust, Essex County Council, Braintree District Council & Wethersfield Parish Council, residents of Wethersfield village, local businesses, and educational institutions
- Green Gains ‘Assess’: We identified the size and scale of impacts and dependencies on nature at each location along with material risk mitigation and nature-related opportunities.
- Green Gains ‘Create: We set targets, defined measurements, and developed policy, strategy and action plans based on results of analysis.
- Green Gains ‘Investigate’: We scoped and undertook surveys, assessments, and investigations to understand baseline ecological and biodiversity value and context of surroundings. Including, Desktop Study, Preliminary Ecological Appraisal, Mapping, Species Specific Surveys, eDNA & DNA Testing, Botanical Surveys, Biodiversity Metric Calculations, Soils and Ground Investigations, Hydrology and Water Quality, and BioBlitz – an intensive 24-hour species survey.
- Green Gains ‘Investigate’: We carried out a habitat baseline study to enable measurement and reporting on the improvements that we make. This data will help develop a habitat bank to generate income from the measured Biodiversity Net Gain we will be delivering and will be calculated using the DEFRA metrics. This data will be enhanced by species-specific surveys over the next 8 months to give us further, detailed baseline data in addition to soil and water quality sampling.
- Green Gains ‘Plan’: We prepared studies, strategies and planned interventions and management prescriptions to increase biodiversity, along with financing and permissions. Including, Habitat Design, Measurement & Assessment, Biodiversity Action Plans, Management Plans, Nature Recovery Strategies, Nature Recovery Modelling, Grant Funding and financing, Option Appraisals, Financial Tools & justification, Planning, Permitting & Licencing, Technical Design & Engineering, S106 & Conservation Covenant Advice.
- Green Gains ‘Plan’: Forestry Commission English Woodland Creation Offer submitted
- Green Gains ‘Plan’: Biodiversity Net Gain scheme designed
- Green Gains ‘Social & Community’: Extensive stakeholder engagement across a wide range of local organisations including local landowners, councils, Essex Wildlife trust, RSPB, Bumblebee Conservation Trust, Plantlife, Dragonfly Trust, Farming & Wildlife Action Group East, Environment Agency, Royal Botanic Gardens Kew and the Forestry Commission. This will help inform the design using the best local knowledge and experience along with developing ongoing partnerships for the future management and monitoring of the site.
- Green Gains ‘Modify’: First planting takes place to mark COP2, creating ‘First Avenue’. Twenty-six native trees are planted, each dedicated to a UK Environmental Hero – a diverse group of leading environmentalists and unsung green champions taking pioneering action to tackle climate change and reverse nature’s decline
- Green Gains ‘Modify: 5000 native trees and shrubs planted in partnership Briggs Equipment. Made possible by Evergreen Fund investment, the intervention enhanced a 1,000m section native hedgerow allow the site boundary. We selected 21 different native species to increase biodiversity and strengthen connectivity with existing hedges and trees.
- Green Gains ‘Investigate’: Our ecologists carried out surveys for great crested newts, bats, breeding birds, hazel dormice, reptiles, and BAP mammals. The reptile information we gather over the next few months will allow us to form a picture of the populations on site including where their home ranges are and whether these species are breeding. Understanding this will allow inform potential habitat enhancements including the provision of hibernacula and management prescriptions for the habitats.
- Green Gains ‘Social & Community’: We kick off an innovative partnership between Ground Control’s Wildfell, Plant Life, Royal Botanic Gardens Kew and the Bumblebee Conversation Trust. We will be collaborating to deliver our vision by putting plants, fungi and pollinators at the heart of our project. This 'super group' will deliver surveys and scientific research. It will also be a mechanism through which we can capture valuable input into our habitat creation and management proposals.
- Green Gains ‘Modify’: We establish Wildfell as a Carbon Observatory with our partners CSX Carbon. Initial terrestrial laser scanned plots have been completed to our established woodland and hedgerows. LIDAR and Optical data have also been collected using advanced drone technology. The data will be processed to give highly detailed models of our above ground biomass and carbon stocks. This will then be monitored over time to measure the positive impacts of our project.
- Green Gains ‘Investigate: We have completed our DEFRA Matric baseline calculations and are developing our proposals and a Habitat Management Plan to deliver Biodiversity Units. A fundamental objective of the project is to maximise the Biodiversity Net Gain of the land we now own and manage.
- Green Gains ‘Social & Community’: We establish a partnership with the Environment Agency who will fund tree planting and explore opportunities to carry out ground modelling in the River Pant corridor and the wider catchment.
- Green Gains ‘Investigate: We complete ecology reports and celebrate the discovery of seven species of bat (including Barbastelle and Natterers - relatively scarce species in Essex), Great Crested Newt, Common Lizard, Grass Snake, forty-seven species of bird (including one Red Kite) and active nesting Owl, Raven, Mallard, Moorhen and Starling. We were also excited to capture our first Otter on the banks of the River Pant, four active Badger sets, Hare, Rabbit, Fox and Grey Squirrel.
We also captured a Mink on camera, an invasive, non-native species which is damaging to native fauna especially the water vole. We will be working with Essex Wildlife Trust to support their mink control project.
We have identified rare Bee and Early Purple Orchids.
- Green Gains ‘Plan: We have completed our Bio Bank design and management proposals and are in discussion with two interested parties to secure a buyer for the biodiversity units they will generate.
- Green Gains ‘Plan’: We have secured funding for five new Great Crested Newt ponds through Natural England and FWAG East. We are planning to get those formed in the Autumn with potential for five more later in the year.
- Green Gains ‘Social & Community’: We have begun a formal Pollinator Collaboration with Royal Botanic Gardens Kew and the Bumblebee Conservation Trust; through the collaboration our partners will survey erected bee boxes and monitor solitary bees.
- Green Gains ‘Social & Community’: We are thrilled to a host a visit of the Forestry Commission Board at Wildfell and Ground Control’s South Essex nature-recovery site Little Cowbridge Wood. Wildfell IS deemed to be a Nationally significant project.
- Green Gains ‘Plan’: Forestry Commission English Woodland Creation Offer approved
- Green Gains ‘Modify’: Works start on the planned Wildfell Learning Centre. We create an access track and temporary compound to provide an accessible location for welfare, material and plant storage while we construct a permanent building and yard. Access track is constructed with a no dig makeup to avoid any impact to roots of adjacent trees
- Green Gains ‘Social & Community’: We welcome the Lower Thames Crossing (LTC) senior leadership team and key stakeholders to Wildfell. The tour of the 296-acre site enables sharing of insight into the pioneering woodland, meadow, hedgerow, and pond restoration programmes underway.
We’ll continue to share biodiversity expertise and key learnings from Wildfell to help LTC to take away a deeper understanding of how it can achieve Hole Farm ambitions.
- Green Gains ‘Modify’: We commence a Mulch Mat effectiveness pilot. This is the first-time mulch mats have been tested at scale. The pilot will be carried out across 50ha of new native woodland (approx. 100,000 trees). Planting commences in November 2022 in partnership with colleagues at The Forestry Commission.
- Ongoing habitat creation and enhancements with 750m of native hedgerow planted. these will to connect areas and act as food, shelter, and security for native species.
- A new partnership with the Environmental Agency saw the creation of a new flood management SUDS scrape, leaky dam, and ditch diversion.
- Continued woodland creation with 46,925 first-phase native trees and shrubs planted, using biodegradable mulch mats and vole guards.