How the project works

The Lifelines Project for the Char Valley is seeking first to stop the decline in biodiversity locally – that is, to stop the rapid decline in numbers of birds (e.g. skylarks and cuckoos), amphibians and reptiles (e.g. frogs and toads), mammals (e.g. hares and hedgehogs) and butterflies, moths and other insects – by reducing the use of chemical pesticides. Then it aims to encourage regenerative ways of managing the land so that numbers can start to increase again. We take insect populations as our starting point partly because so many animals feed and depend on them.

The project will start by mapping areas of land where pesticides (insecticides, herbicides and fungicides) are not being used*. It will then see how new areas of land can be added by finding anyone with land – from a small garden to a large farm or estate – willing to commit to managing their plot in ways that help insects. Farmers can join the scheme by including just part of their land - such as woods, field margins and hedges - to help create wildlife corridors (see Lifelines-and-farming).

To get the most benefit, these areas of pesticide-free land ideally should link up to form wildlife corridors that connect areas of high biodiversity.  Natural England has already identified some of these “Priority Habitats”(1) and the Forestry Commission has also mapped the woodland inventory of England.  Both of these are shown as layers on the Lifelines map.

Residents who manage their land without pesticides can join, and their fields or gardens will turn bright green on the map. As other residents learn about the scheme and decide to stop using pesticides, so these lifelines will spread across the map, like a colourful green mosaic, as the Char Valley starts to be restored to vibrant health, with more biodiversity and more resilient ecosystems. The map allows everyone to see how the project is going and get more involved in the management of their local environment.

The Lifelines project hopes to be a small part of this movement to encourage more insects and wildlife back into our gardens, fields, and landscapes. It also hopes to foster discussions about how we can support our farmers in producing healthy food in an uncertain world, while ensuring a more resilient, greener and brighter future.

* Except for occasional spot-treatment using an approved herbicide for the removal of harmful invasive and non-native plants as recommended by DEFRA

1. Priority Habitat Inventory (England), Natural England