Exploring and preserving the Wye Valley: Insights from the Eco Society lunchtime talk for students

February 7, 2024

The second Eco Society lunchtime talk took place at the end of January in our Geography department, and we were incredibly pleased to welcome 35 students who were eager to learn more about the spectacular landscape that our school calls home – the Wye Valley – an area given protection through its National Landscape status.

The Wye Valley National Landscape is looked after by a small team of 10, working in partnership with other organisations to conserve and enhance its natural beauty, increasing understanding and enjoyment of its unique qualities and fostering the social and economic wellbeing of local communities.

Nick Critchley and Holly Williams, the speakers of the day, shared their insights and commitment to the Wye Valley’s preservation. With academic backgrounds in geography and biological sciences, their passion resonated deeply with our students.

Nick elaborated on the pivotal role the Wye Valley plays in the UK’s ecological tapestry, emphasising its status as one of the 46 protected National Landscapes, which come under the umbrella of 1949 National Parks and Access to the Countryside Act. These landscapes are just as valuable and important as the 15 UK National Parks.

Pupils learnt that the Wye Valley National Landscape was created in 1971 and is the only cross border protected landscape in the UK, creating its own challenges and opportunities. Protection is the main driver of the work carried out by the small team, surveying the varied habitats, and advising on management of hedgerows, woodlands, rivers banks, and invasive species such as the Himalayan Balsam plant.

Holly Williams introduced her exciting initiative, ‘Wye Adapt to Climate Change?,’ which is supporting landowners and the local population on how to navigate the changes brought about by climate change. The project plans to develop a more resilient landscape through nature-based solutions. The importance of hedgerows, tree planting, pond restoration, use of cover crops to reduce soil erosion and species rich grasslands were discussed.

The Wye Valley National Landscape team has been invited to participate in the upcoming school Sustainability Conference this summer, where they will also promote the Wye Valley Youth Ranger Scheme—an opportunity for students interested in engaging with local conservation endeavors. Further information is available at https://www.wyevalley-nl.org.uk/