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When traditional flood defences are no longer enough: wetlands and flood prevention

When traditional flood defences are no longer enough: wetlands and flood prevention

Scientists predict that one of the impacts of our climate emergency will be heavier rainfall and greater frequency and strength of storms. Find out how we can use wetlands to help reduce flooding in a sustainable and cost-effective way.

Build it and they will come - just add water!

Build it and they will come - just add water!

A WWT supporter, John, has created a suburban wildlife oasis within his own garden in Gloucestershire. Discover the wonderful features and creatures within the garden, and find inspiration to create your own - by just adding water!

10 ways to add water to your garden that wildlife will love

10 ways to add water to your garden that wildlife will love

When it comes to supporting nature, wildlife gardens are a good place to start. By creating ponds and wetland areas in our gardens - no matter how small – you'll attract wildlife like dragonflies, amphibians and birds.

How nature can benefit your mental health, and why we need it now more than ever

How nature can benefit your mental health, and why we need it now more than ever

Today, we live in a society where record levels of stress, anxiety and depression are being diagnosed. Mental health awareness is improving, but Mind reports that people are finding it harder to cope with these disorders and so incidents of self-harm and suicide are on the rise. It is vital that we find new ways to support our mental and physical wellness. Increasingly, research points towards our natural world being key. The link between nature and mental health Last year, to make sense of the findings so far, DEFRA commissioned the University of Exeter Medical School to examine the results of lots of individual research projects. The report concluded: There is strong and consistent evidence for mental health and well being benefits arising from exposure to natural environments, including reductions in psychological stress, fatigue, anxiety and depression. It also reported the link between natural experiences and favourable heart rate, blood pressure, vitamin D and cortisol levels (a stress hormone). The report found that socioeconomic inequality in mental wellbeing was narrower among those who had regular access to green spaces. This highlights the importance of green and blue spaces within our cities. So what are WWT doing to support health and wellbeing? Wetlands are special: we have a natural affinity and desire to be by water whether for relaxation, inspiration or contemplation. Social prescribing We’re working with local health care providers and academics to lay the foundations for a ‘social prescribing’ scheme as part of a natural health service. This is the idea that instead of a clinical prescription, a patient could be prescribed spending time in nature or volunteering. According to Natural England, the use of nature-based health solutions could reduce outpatient admissions by a fifth, save time for GPs, and achieve significant cost savings. It found a return on investment of £3.12 for every pound invested in nature-based healthcare. Overall, by harnessing the restorative power of nature, billions of pounds could be saved each year for the NHS, as well as improving quality of life and health for patients. In our response to the Government’s 25 Year Environment Plan, WWT campaigned for the government to publish a template for local authorities to increase consistency across all of the UK. If adopted, this could help give GPs more structure and guidance on how to work with Third Sector organisations to deliver social prescribing. At our Wetland Centres WWT have been exploring nature’s relationship with mental health for some time. Ged Cassell ran a taster 'blue prescriptions' session at WWT Slimbridge for people facing mental health challenges. The aim was to get their feedback and explore how WWT and other organisations can help people undergoing treatment for mental health issues. Ged says: They were eager to tell us how much better they feel after a visit to Slimbridge, where they can be surrounded by beautiful plants and animals, and where the only sounds are the calls of birds and the bubbling of a stream. Undertaking research WWT Senior Ecosystem Health Officer, Dr. Jonathan Reeves, is working on some exciting research in partnership with HSBC and Imperial College, London, exploring physical and self-reported experiences of being by wetlands as compared with urban and green settings. We will be able to share more on the findings in 2019. Wetlands for communities As part of WWT’s work restoring and conserving wetlands, we’re working on a number of community projects in both urban and rural areas, such as the new wetlands at Enfield. Public Health England says that the design of our neighbourhoods can influence physical activity levels, travel patterns and social connectivity as well as mental and physical health and wellbeing outcomes. It is therefore essential that WWT continues to develop these urban community projects in the UK and further afield. More details of programmes at your nearest centre are regularly updated online.Find your nearest centre

Christmas waste - the weight of 3.3m penguins!

Christmas waste - the weight of 3.3m penguins!

WWT and 17 other environment and animal welfare charities* are championing moves to cut plastics and waste this Christmas. Together we are calling for: businesses to slash wasteful packaging; governments across the four nations to commit to a raft of strong measures to tackle plastic pollution in the New Year; and for the public to help cut the plague of plastic pollution this Christmas by using less and recycling more. The calls come as the charities publish new estimates on the startling scale of plastic and other waste this Christmas, and in the wake of disturbing images showing the impact of plastic on sea life in the last episode of Blue Planet II. New UK Christmas waste figures from Wildlife and Countryside Link: Around 114,000 tonnes of plastic packaging will be thrown away and not recycled in the UK this Christmas – which is more than the weight of 3.3million Emperor penguins Around 88 square km of wrapping paper are likely to be used in the UK this year – that’s enough to cover either Brighton and Hove, Coventry, Newport, Preston, Reading, Sunderland or Swansea The UK uses a staggering 300,000 tonnes of card packaging at Christmas (Source WRAP) –the equivalent weight of 2 million Reindeer The total waste created in the UK this Christmas from food and drink, packaging, wrapping paper, cards, Christmas trees and other rubbish, is likely to exceed 5 million tonnes of waste - equivalent to around 450,000 double decker buses The charities are particularly highlighting plastic waste, as it degrades so slowly and is having such a devastating impact on our oceans. They are calling for strong commitments from businesses and government to reduce excessive packaging waste, and for the public to give a gift to the environment this Christmas and recycle as much glass, paper, card, metal, foil and wood, as well as plastic, as possible. Peter Morris, Head of PR and Communications at WWT, said: "Waste is growing, wildlife is disappearing and we need to see the connection. Less waste, more recycling and more reuse reduces threats to wildlife. Christmas cards are about the sentiment not the size so even using smaller cuter Christmas cards and putting them in recycling helps a little towards appreciating both people and animals at this time of year. Putting your plastic in the recycling is also a great help, but we need concerted action from business and government to slash the amount of plastic and other packaging being pumped out in the first place." Paul de Zylva, Senior Nature Campaigner at Friends of the Earth, said: "Marking Christmas and the New Year can see our bins bulge with a third more waste. This season, let’s help cut threats to turtles and other sea life by getting drastic with plastic." Dr Elaine King, Director at Wildlife and Countryside Link, said: "These figures shine a light on the harsh reality of the impact we have on our environment and wildlife. Our waste can be invisible to us once it’s in the bin. So it is easy to forget that it ends up in landfill or finds its way into our rivers and seas – polluting our land, oceans, animals, fish, birds and insects. We need to give a gift to the environment and get our packaging waste under control." Christmas is the most wasteful time of year, with high proportions of waste which could be recycled being thrown in the bin instead. Plastics, foil and aerosols are the recyclables most likely to evade the recycling bin and almost two thirds of the UK population say uncertainty over what can be recycled leads them to put items in the waste bin. The amount of plastic going in our waste bins at Christmas has fallen slightly over the last decade, from 125,0000 tonnes to 114,000. This is largely due to the public recycling more, as the volume of plastic packaging we use has increased substantially during the same period. However, the scale of plastic waste remains vast and the public can only do so much to help tackle our plastic waste crisis. Governments across the four nations and businesses must take a lead in making change happen to aid our ailing environment. The NGOs are urging the UK Government to take the following actions to both discourage companies and individuals from using throwaway plastic and incentivise sustainable alternatives: Set charges on single-use plastics at a level which will achieve real change Allocate revenues generated by any plastic charges to fund environmental conservation and improvements Provide incentives to manufacturers to reduce single-use packaging and encourage environmentally-friendly alternatives Phase-out the most harmful plastics that are most difficult to recycle Top tips for recycling at Christmas: Examine plastic packaging – Recycling symbols on packaging show what can be recycled. Check Recycle Now if you’re unsure of a symbol. All clear and coloured plastic bottles from the home can usually be recycled, including bleach products. The only things that can’t be recycled are chemical containers, like antifreeze, and you should take pumps off soap dispensers before recycling. Maximise recycling space –fold down cardboard boxes and squash down cans and bottles to make as much space in your recycling bin as possible and avoid resorting to your waste bin. Avoid putting plastic bags in recycling bins – Plastic bags are recyclable, but take these back to your local supermarket as they can clog up recycling sorting machines. Scrunch-test your wrapping – All wrapping paper can be recycled, except metallic and glitter papers. You can use the ‘scrunch test’ - if you scrunch it and it stays in a ball, it can be recycled. Sainsbury’s, in partnership with the Forest Stewardship Council UK, offer customers the opportunity to recycle their old Christmas cards, wrapping paper and Christmas lights in store from Boxing Day until 8 January 2018 *The 18 environment and animal welfare organisations are A Rocha UK, Born Free Foundation, Environmental Investigation Agency, Friends of the Earth, Greenpeace, Humane Society International-UK, IFAW, Institute of Fisheries Management, ORCA, National Trust, Plantlife, The Rivers Trust, RSPCA, Whale and Dolphin Conservation, The Wildlife Trusts, Wildfowl & Wetlands Trust, WWF-UK and Zoological Society of London.

WWT Washington Waterlab garden: How rain gardens can help tackle climate change

WWT Washington Waterlab garden: How rain gardens can help tackle climate change

Gardeners are getting an insight into dealing with the possible effects of climate change, at a new WWT Washington Wetland Centre garden exhibit. It’s likely that British gardens will need to withstand more periods of both drought and heavy rain in the future. So the new “Working wetland” garden is demonstrating how gardens can manage too much or too little rainfall. The garden assumes a green roof will be impractical, so instead it channels rainfall off a central roof into a series of recycled troughs filled with gravel and marsh plants. Anyone can do this instead of having your drainpipe pointing directly down into your drains. The troughs filter out dust, leaves, twigs and bird poo. The marsh plants take up some of the water, but after heavy rain the troughs overspill into a pond surrounded by plants. Some of the water slowly evaporates or transpires away. The pond can overflow into permeable paving, flower beds and hollows, all of which allow water to soak away slowly into the ground. Central Developments Manager Simon Rose at Wildfowl & Wetland Trust said: “The concept is really simple. It’s just a case of holding back rainwater and releasing it slowly. This helps to stop the garden from flooding during heavy rainfall, and keeps water reserves back for when it’s dry. “If your garden slopes downhill, you can even use a series of troughs, channels and ponds as a slow watering system to regulate water flowing through your garden. “The fact the pond is rain-fed with clear, clean water helps to attract wildlife. By slowing down water running off your garden you’re also helping your local environment cope with floods and drought too. That’s why it’s called the “Working Wetland” garden – because it mimics the water-storing properties of Britain’s moorlands and wetlands.” Left to right - WWT's Simon Rose, CEO Martin Spray, Sue Alexander from HSBC, garden designer Jeni Cairns and WWT's Gill Pipes If you want to try “rain gardening” at home, you’ll find lots of inspiration for which plants to use. Species like meadowsweet, purple loosestrife and ragged robin are suited to dry conditions with bursts of heavy rain. At Washington Wetland Centre, WWT has contrasted their purple and white with some fabulous yellow flag iris. The Working Wetland garden has been kindly donated to WWT by HSBC Bank as part of their Water Programme. HSBC originally commissioned Jeni Cairns of Juniper House Garden Design to create the garden for last year’s RHS Hampton Court Flower Show where it won best showgarden and a gold award. WWT is delighted to keep the garden working and creating a lovely space for everyone at Washington.

Flooding-friendly garden wins awards

Flooding-friendly garden wins awards

A garden that shows people how they can help solve local flooding through gardening has won a Gold Award and Best Garden award at the RHS Hampton Court Flower Show 2016. The Wildfowl & Wetlands Trust’s “Working Wetlands Garden” is designed by Jeni Cairns and supported by HSBC. It uses 85 species of native plants and a series of water features to manage rainwater running off the roof of its pavilion. How it works Many people don’t realise the sheer speed that rainwater runs off hard surfaces like your roof, patio or decking can contribute to local drains becoming overwhelmed after heavy rainfall. Multiplied by many homes and gardens in a neighbourhood, the sudden rush of water can have serious consequences: when Carlisle was flooded in 2005, a quarter of the floodwater came from overwhelmed drains and surface water from properties for miles around. At RHS Hampton Court Show, the WWT “Working Wetland Garden” is showing gardeners how your garden can hold back heavy rainfall and release it slowly, by using a series of water features that can make your garden more attractive for you and for wildlife. Instead of pouring down drains, the water filters through gravel beds, runs down channels into flowerbeds, through permeable paving, into a pond and soakaway hollows, and feeds and nurtures a variety of marsh plants that help to keep the water clean. Great for learning about water RHS Gold Award winning designer Jeni Cairns has created the garden with WWT so that it can be transported to WWT’s Washington Wetland Centre when the show is over, to become a permanent outdoor classroom as part of HSBC’s Water Programme. Learning staff from Washington were at the show to road-test some water cycle lessons with local children from Trafalgar Infants School, Twickenham. What they said about it Children from Trafalgar Infants School, Twickenham[/caption] Feedback from the RHS judges was that the garden was “really easy to judge”; they liked the story behind the garden; they appreciated how delicate many of the wildflowers were to transport and plant; and they loved how Jeni had juxtaposed probably the wildest feeling garden at the show with some creative use of recycled industrial materials to recycle water. The Wildfowl & Wetlands Trust’s Simon Rose said: “Your garden can benefit from heavy storms. Together, nature and water make beautiful surroundings. If you store and soak up heavy rainfall, you can help reduce local flooding, create a welcoming naturalistic space around your home, and attract wildlife too.” “The idea is to mimic how huge wetlands regulate river catchments at landscape scale by holding up rainwater and releasing it slowly. You can do exactly the same thing at garden scale and easily create your own personal wetland nature reserve.” Designer Jeni Cairns, of Juniper House Garden Design, said: Garden designer Jeni Cairns, HSBC's Sue Alexander and WWT's Kevin Peberdy with the awards “I’m amazed and delighted to win these awards. The garden demonstrates it’s relatively easy for anyone to recycle water by getting creative with recycled objects. “It’s more difficult to do this for a show where you’re using mature native plants that are so fragile and can easily snap, but it was worth it because the effect is beautiful. I’m really pleased that all the hard work crafting metal and wood and making the water system work has been recognised. “It’s all about spreading the message that water is important and you can use it creatively rather than waste it.” HSBC Holdings Plc Group Chairman Douglas Flint said: “Water will be one of the most important resources for the world to protect over the next 20 to 30 years” Facts behind the garden The garden uses 85 plant species, most of which are British natives. Summer flowering plants have been selected for colour including loosestrife, flowering rush and greater spearwort – providing a predominant purple mixed with cream and yellow. Rainwater falls on a pagoda roof and cascades into tanks filled with gravel and marsh plants. While rainwater is very clean, this filters out any dust, leaves, twigs or bird poo that might be on your roof if you’re recreating the garden at home. The marsh plants take up some of the water, but at peak flows it will overspill into a pond surrounded by plants. The fact the pond is rain-fed with clear, clean water helps to attract wildlife. Some of the water slowly evaporates or transpires away. The pond can overflow into a number of features includng permeable paving, flower beds and hollows, all of which allow water to soak away slowly into the ground. The entire garden makes use of all the incoming rainwater to create a beautiful, wildlife-rich without any water being wasted down any drains. Several features are recycled. The pagoda roof is the inverted roof of a grain silo; bench supports are made from the curved girders from the same silo; the cascade was an air duct from a warehouse; the chain cascade is made from the chains of an old harrow; old sheets of metal have been intricately carved to make relief water scenes of dragonflies and kingfishers. The garden pavilion is built on a wooden platform weighing six tonnes, which spreads the weight of the structure across the Hampton Court ground underneath. After the show, the whole garden – including all the plants – will be transported to WWT Washington Wetland Centre as part of WWT’s Inspiring Generations scheme to provide outdoor learning to disadvantaged school pupils. Funded by the HSBC Water Programme, 60,000 children across the country are receiving a free outdoor learning session including hands on activities like pond dipping and bird feeding. The garden furniture may well be the heaviest at Hampton Court: it is made from recycled ekki wood, which is so dense and durable that it’s widely used as pillars to stop ocean liners bumping into jetties. We’re pleased to find ways to extend this timber’s working life. Each chair is so heavy that we haven’t managed to put it on a set of scales, but it will certainly weigh more than all the children at the learning session put together! More photos: