The much-loved conservationist and some of the country’s most well-known actors have starring roles in a new ‘Wind in the Willows’ film trailer which brings to life the 21st century threats facing the characters from Kenneth Grahame’s children’s classic. The animated trailer calls on everyone to help bring our wildlife back before it’s too late, so that we can all enjoy a wilder future.
As part of the national campaign, Staffordshire Wildlife Trust is launching its own Wilder Staffordshire campaign to highlight the challenges facing the county’s wildlife and wild places.
Building on the ‘Wind in the Willows’ story, the Trust is focussing its campaign on the need to restore and reconnect people with our famous rivers and wetlands, creating new habitats for species like the water vole, the model for the much-loved character ‘Ratty’ in the famous book.
In Staffordshire, just 5% of waterbodies are in good condition, while numbers of water voles have declined dramatically in the past decade. It is now the UK’s fastest declining mammal. The decline has seen them being lost from 94% of places where they were once prevalent.
The Trust’s work includes the purchase and restoration of Tucklesholme Quarry, near Burton-on-Trent, which opens officially this summer in the Trust’s 50th Anniversary Year. The Trust has created large reedbeds, islands, shallows and scrapes which will provide perfect habitat for water-loving wildlife.
The film trailer shows how the lives of Badger, Ratty, Mole and Toad are disrupted by roads, river pollution and intensive agriculture – many habitats have been destroyed and others have been broken up. Toad hangs a picture of a puffin entangled in plastic on the wall in Toad Hall. “Farewell old friend” he says.
Kenneth Grahame wrote Wind in the Willows just over a hundred years ago. Since then, many of the UK’s wild places and the plants and animals that depend on them have been lost. For example: 97% of lowland meadows and the beautiful wildflowers, insects, mammals and birds that they supported have disappeared; 80% of our beautiful purple heathlands have vanished – with their blaeberries, sand lizards and the stunning nocturnal birds, nightjars. Rivers are in deep trouble too: only 20% are considered as healthy and 13% of freshwater and wetland species in Great Britain are threatened with extinction.
President Emeritus of The Wildlife Trusts, Sir David Attenborough says:
“It is desperately sad that so much of our country’s wildlife has been lost since Kenneth Grahame wrote his wonderful book The Wind in the Willows. Of all the characters in the book it is hard to know whose descendants have suffered the most. Water Voles, Toads and Badger’s friends in the book, Hedgehogs, have all seen catastrophic declines.
“Ratty was a Water Vole and these animals can’t burrow into river banks covered with sheets of metal. Toads need ponds and wet areas to lay their eggs. Hedgehogs must roam miles to feed at night but often hit barriers and struggle to find the messy piles of leaves they need for shelter. None of these creatures can cope with road traffic because they did not evolve to recognise a car as dangerous.
“We have damaged our rivers, built too many roads and lost too many ponds and meadows. All of this has happened because our systems and laws that should be keeping nature healthy are failing, and we are losing touch with wildlife. Everything is becoming disconnected.
“The Wildlife Trusts have worked tirelessly to slow wildlife’s decline and to save our remaining wild places. Without The Wildlife Trusts our country would be the poorer. But there is much more to be done. This country of nature lovers needs to give its wildlife every chance to survive, thrive and expand its range.
“I am backing The Wildlife Trusts’ campaign to rally people to secure a ‘wilder future’ by restoring large areas of wildlife habitat, in city and country. What we create may not look exactly like the countryside that Kenneth Grahame drew such inspiration from, but our wildlife won’t mind just so long as it has the places it needs to live and thrive.
“As a society we know how to put meanders back into straightened rivers and how to build bridges for wildlife. We know which wild places we should be protecting and expanding. But we need ambitious new laws to ensure we do this, laws that ensure we map out nature’s recovery.
“Meanwhile we can all make a practical difference. If you have a window sill or balcony you can put up bird feeders or plant pots of wildflowers. If you have a garden it is easy to dig a small pond or make holes in your fence for hedgehogs to wander through. It is not too difficult to take up paving slabs to let plants grow to feed our bees.
“Together we can make the next chapter for wildlife a happier one. Join us to put nature into recovery.”
The Wildlife Trusts hope their Wind in the Willows film trailer will inspire people to:
Contacting politicians – to call for strong environmental laws which help nature recover.
Walking in the pawprints of others – and imagine what wildlife needs to survive in your neighbourhood. Be inspired to take action for wildlife in your garden or local area, working with friends, neighbours – or by getting your local council involved – to create new homes for Toad, Ratty, Badger and friends.
Creating a Wilder Future where you live – by checking out the latest events and volunteering opportunities at local Wildlife Trusts to discover what a Wilder Future could look like – and the part everyone can play in making it happen.
These losses have led to the UK becoming one of the most nature-depleted countries in the world. Over the past ten years there have been numerous reports and studies documenting wildlife declines in the UK.
The main problems for wildlife are:
Habitat loss – mostly caused by intensive farming, inappropriate development and lack of strategic planning – with the few remaining wild places being broken up by roads.
Climate change – causing extreme weather events such as storms, droughts and floods which disrupt breeding patterns, threaten life cycles and create food shortages. Wildlife cannot always keep up with changes to the seasons.
Julian Woolford, CEO of the Staffordshire Wildlife Trust, said:
“We are a nation of nature-lovers, yet we live in one of the most nature-depleted countries in the world. If we want to put nature into recovery we have to create a mass movement of people calling for change. Our film is a sad version of Wind in the Willows – showing how Ratty and Toad have hit the buffers – but it ends with a message of real hope. It’s not too late to create strong laws which will help our wildlife make a comeback – and it’s not too late to establish a Nature Recovery Network which will enable us to plan a wilder future.”
Stephen Fry, President of the Great Fen, Wildlife Trust Bedfordshire, Cambridgeshire and Northamptonshire, said:
“I’ve acted in and narrated Wind in the Willows in the past but this version is different – it really, really matters. I adore what’s left of Britain’s wild and precious places and I’m a passionate supporter of my local Wildlife Trust which is restoring a huge part of the fens for nature. We all need to get behind The Wildlife Trusts, rise up and call for a wilder future – otherwise it’ll be too late to save Toad, Ratty and all the residents of the riverbank and beyond.”