AN emergency grant will help Worcestershire Wildlife Trust to remove scrub that has overgrown at a nature reserve between Kidderminster, Stourport and Bewdley during the lockdown.

The trust has received £205,000 from the National Lottery to help address the impact of Covid-19 on the county's natural heritage, including at the Devil's Spittleful in Wyre Forest.

As the pandemic and lockdown began, much of the trust's work was severely impacted, with volunteers being unable to help out with management of nature reserves for much of the year, while the nature reserves were in high demand as visitors sought access to green spaces.

Staff have also had to deal with anti-social behaviour, fly-tipping and littering at a number of locations.

Helen Woodman, head of conservation at Worcestershire Wildlife Trust, said: “Thanks to the National Lottery and its players, we’re now better able to get our management work back on track and engage even more people.

“The funding will allow us to temporarily employ wardens to visit our reserves more often, engaging people with the wildlife delights that can be found there. We’ll also use it to help us to adapt our education programmes for schools to be Covid-safe.

“We’ll also be investing in technology. This will provide both software and hardware to improve our home-working capabilities and to help with our online presence that has been so appreciated by our many social media followers and website visitors over the last few months.

“We use many local contractors for our work so some of the funding will be going directly into the local economy.

“We’re grateful for all the support we’ve received from our members and supporters this year and also that The National Lottery Heritage Fund is supporting us at this critical time – it’s a lifeline to us and all our supporters who are passionate about helping nature to recover for the benefit of everyone.”

The money will primarily go towards hiring contractors to remove the scrub that volunteers were unable to manage during the lockdown.

Without management, the scrub, which includes young birch trees, will turn into secondary woodland and will shade out the heathland species that thrive at the Devil's Spittleful.

Part of the funding has been spent appointing two new temporary staff members who will visit the Devil's Spittleful and other nature reserves to speak to visitors to help them understand and appreciate the beauty of the heathlands.

Helen added “Nature underpins society’s health and wellbeing and the benefits of this have been clearly seen during 2020 with more people than ever seeking solace in the natural world.

“With 41 per cent of insect species facing extinction and pressure on our natural environment like never before, we’re delighted that this crucial funding will help us to continue protecting our nature reserves, working with landowners and communities to advise on land management and reaching more individuals to help inspire them to help nature where they live.”

Ros Kerslake, chief executive of the National Lottery Heritage Fund, said: “Heritage has an essential role to play in making communities better places to live, supporting economic regeneration and benefiting our personal wellbeing. All of these things are going to be even more important as we emerge from the current crisis.”