Green Britain: Help us create a haven for nature – hope to create nightingale sanctuary

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Well, today Daily Express readers have the chance to create precisely such a nature reserve in a forgotten corner of William the Conqueror’s old hunting forest. You can help back a central plank of our Green Britain campaign – to make more space for nature.

The Daily Express and eco-entrepreneur Dale Vince have teamed up with the RSPB to help them buy Horse Common, a 91 acre (37 hectare) plot of woodland and heathland in the New Forest.

There are hopes that with careful management this “secret forest” could provide a home for one of our most threatened species, the nightingale.

Much of the plot is currently covered in pine plantations dating from the 1950s and 1970s which support little wildlife.

But the RSPB plans to restore it to mixed woodland, sandy heathland and watery mires which will make it a haven for birds such as the endangered lesser spotted woodpecker and willow tit, as well as toads and newts, marsh orchids and butterflies such as the silver-studded blue.

t will also safeguard ancient oaks which support more life than any other native UK tree species, from badgers to jays, stag beetles to deer, bats to woodpeckers.

The dawn chorus in spring is already deafening there – but will swell if managed for nature.

The appeal is backed by BBC Springwatch presenter and New Forest resident Chris Packham who said: “If Daily Express readers are generous enough to give the RSPB money to buy this area they will be putting their money into action to help the environment – and helping to create a vital haven for wildlife.”

Horse Common is on the northern edge of the New Forest between Southampton, Salisbury and Ringwood.

Due to the sensitive nature of the site, public access is currently restricted.

But what makes it so valuable is that it sits next to the 910 acre (368ha) RSPB reserve of Franchises Lodge and helps provide a link with the Loosehanger Copse Site of Special Scientific Interest and Langley Wood National Nature Reserve to the north and the New Forest SSSI to the south.

RSPB Franchises Lodge Site manager Richard Snelling said: “Acquiring Horse Common will allow us to build a mire system and create wet woodland as well as broadleaf woodland.

“The mires are home to insect-eating sundew plants and bog orchids and wet woodland will help lesser spotted woodpeckers.

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“We will encourage buzzards, sparrowhawks, nightjars, woodcock, woodlark, redstarts and wood warblers, among other species. We also hope to bring back nightingales.”

Other species to benefit could include spotted flycatchers whose numbers have nosedived by 90 percent in the last 50 years.

RSPB chief executive Beccy Speight said: “The New Forest is a very special place, steeped in history and home to some stunning wildlife. We are thrilled to be working with the Daily Express on this exciting opportunity to help protect and restore part of this beautiful landscape, giving the birds, bats and butterflies that live there a more secure future.”

Horse Common will cost about £450,000 but if the appeal raises about £90,000 it could unlock the rest from other donors.

The appeal was generously kickstarted yesterday by Mr Vince who is working closely with the Daily Express in the Green Britain Needs You campaign.

The Ecotricity founder donated £5,000 and said: “Giving land back to nature is a key part of our Green Britain campaign with the Daily Express and Horse Common is a fabulous example of what we can do. We can restore this historical piece of English woodland and all of the nature that supports.

“We’re raising the cash to buy this land in two ways. The first is through donations and I’m pleased to get that ball rolling myself with £5,000. The second is through a unique mobile phone service Ecotalk – a zero-carbon network provider that harnesses mobile phone bills and uses them to buy land for nature, in partnership with the RSPB.

“I’m excited to be working with the Express and its readers. Our wildlife needs all the help it can get. Together we can rewild Britain – one piece at a time.”

He added: “It’s simple, to build a greener Britain we need to make room for nature – the birds, bees, bugs and creatures that all play a vital role in our environment.
“They’ve been in decline for 50 years because of industrial-scale farming and modern life. We need to start giving land back to nature and that’s simple too – just using our smartphones.

“Every word, text and moment you spend online, we can turn into action for nature. Use yours to help build a Green Britain.”

Readers can make one-off donations or opt for a mobile phone scheme with Mr Vince’s not-for-dividend Ecotalk which provides the RSPB with regular funds.

By switching a mobile phone sim card to an Ecotalk + RSPB sim, the RSPB will receive donations every month for as long as they remain a customer.

All profits go to the RSPB to help fund the appeal.

The RSPB aims to rip-out the planted conifers and restore the site to a mixture of oak woodland, heathland, and open pasture.

RSPB volunteer Matt Pringle, 51, urged readers to back the campaign.

Matt, a retired policeman from near Southampton, said: “This is an amazing opportunity to actually give something back and leave the world in a slightly better place than we found it.”

HOW TO DONATE

You can help secure a part of the historic New Forest for wildlife forever as part of the Daily Express Make More Space for Nature campaign.
To help raise funds for the RSPB to buy and rewild this precious plot of land please send cheques made payable to RSPB to Daily Express Horse Common appeal, RSPB, The Lodge, Sandy, Bedfordshire, SG19 2DL or donate via rsbp.org.uk/expressappeal

There is another option which would let you raise money just by using your mobile HORSE Common and the neighbouring RSPB Franchises Lodge reserve are home to many of nature’s jewels – and in time could attract many more.

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