The Chester Zoo Nature Recovery Corridor (NRC) lies in the borough of Cheshire West and Chester and will eventually cover a 10-mile stretch across two localities of the borough; Chester to Ellesmere Port.
The NRC aims to connect wildlife with wildlife, people with wildlife, and people with people. It will restore a network of wildlife-rich habitat and create a community empowered with passion, knowledge and skills to make it an iconic corridor that flourishes long into the future. Our NRC is designed to make a significant contribution to the future Local Nature Recovery Strategy for Cheshire and Warrington, focusing on the urgent need for natural connectivity in a semi-urban landscape.
Funding from the Green Recovery Challenge Fund and match funding sources enabled us to deliver the first phase of our ambitious 10-mile NRC. This project focused on the southern 6.5 miles of the NRC between Lache to the south, through Chester City Centre to the Chester Zoo estate, bordered by the Shropshire Union Canal to the north.
The success of the project has been possible due to the development of a strong partnership between key organisations working across the landscape who have all referred to this as one of the most impactful projects they have been involved in.
Over the 19 months of the project we worked closely with a vast array of local people including community groups, schools, mental health charities, religious groups, refugee groups, allotment keepers, and fellow wildlife charities to help them make their green spaces better for both people and wildlife. A key objective of the project was to provide accessible and inclusive opportunities that enabled participants to engage in nature recovery and to feel empowered to continue to improve and protect the greenspaces that they improved. A range of delivery methods were used ranging from one-off conservation action volunteering days to capacity building support spanning the whole duration of the project.
We have been able to improve over 62 hectares for wildlife including eight ponds, 24ha wildflower meadows and 15ha of grassland. Over 12,000 people have been directly engaged in the project. Many of them were involved for the full duration of the project and were supported to build skills, knowledge and agency to be empowered to continue to protect and improve spaces for wildlife after the end of the project.
After being involved in the project, 82% of participants reported improved wellbeing, 78% reported an increased connection to nature, and 84% gained new knowledge, such as how to identify and document native wildlife and plants, how to encourage wildlife in their own gardens, and how to effectively manage habitats for nature.
The engaged participants, organisations and schools will continue to be supported through the Wildlife Champions Network to ensure that the improvements for wildlife and people are maintained. To sustain the momentum and accelerate further progress, the established partnership of organisations will continue to work together to achieve our long-term vision for the entire landscape.
This project achieved a Silver in the 2023 BIAZA Awards in the Education category