Kate on Conservation

Sir David Attenborough and Stephen Fry feature in Wildlife Trusts’ Wind in the Willows ‘trailer’

Mole, Badger, Ratty and Toad from The Wildlife Trust's Wind in the Willows

Kenneth Grahame wrote The 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 tragically lost.

Today, the Wildlife Trusts – in partnership with Don’t Panic – have released a new film trailer, presenting an animated version of the classic story, that calls for a wilder future and for nature’s recovery in the UK. 

Badger, Ratty, Mole and Toad want for a wilder future…

Big names in the conservation and acting worlds; including Sir David Attenborough, Stephen Fry, Catherine Tate, Alison Steadman and Asim Chaudhry have starring roles in the new The Wind in the Willows trailer – helping to bring to life the 21st century threats facing the much-loved characters from Kenneth Grahame’s children’s classic.

The animated trailer, produced by Rowdy, calls on audiences to help bring our wildlife back before it’s too late, so that we can all enjoy a wilder future. Watch here:

It will also be played in 500 cinemas across the UK for an entire. By showing how the lives of Badger, Ratty, Mole and Toad are disrupted by roads, river pollution and intensive agriculture, the new campaign from The Wildlife Trusts aims to draws a direct parallel with the many wild habitats across the UK being destroyed and broken up.

As Toad utters “Farewell old friend” while hanging a picture of a puffin entangled in plastic on the wall in Toad Hall, the message of the dangers of plastic pollution becomes particularly poignant.

“Of all the characters in [The Wind in the Willows] book,it is hard to know whose descendants have suffered the most,” says: Sir David Attenborough, President Emeritus of The Wildlife Trusts and narrator of the trailer. “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.” 

“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… Together we can make the next chapter for wildlife a happier one. Join us to put nature into recovery.”

The UK has become one of the most nature-depleted countries in the world…

In the century since The Wind in the Willows was written, 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 blueberries, 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.

Kenneth Grahame’s Ratty – the water vole – is the UK’s most rapidly declining mammal and has been lost from 94% of places where it was once prevalent, and its range is continuing to contract. 

Water Vole, Photo by Terry Whittaker

Toad is also finding that times are very tough: he has lost nearly 70% of his own kind in the last 30 years alone – and much more than that in the last century.

Over the past ten years there have been numerous reports and studies documenting wildlife declines in the UK, proving it to be one of the most nature-depleted countries in the world. 

Stephen Fry, President of the Great Fen, Wildlife Trust Bedfordshire, Cambridgeshire and Northamptonshire plays Badger in the trailer. He explains: “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.”

“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.”

What are the problems main problems for wildlife and how can we help? 

Here in the UK, the most imminent threats to our wild species are those created by habitat loss and climate change.

· 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 – which is making a bad situation worse by causing extreme weather. This disrupts breeding patterns, threatens life cycles and creates food shortages. Wildlife cannot always keep up with changes to the seasons.

The Wildlife Trusts, whom advise thousands of landowners and organisations on how to manage their land for wildlife every year, hope The Wind in the Willows film trailer will inspire people to help by nature by:

·  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.

Stephanie Hilborne, CEO of The Wildlife Trusts says: “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 The 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.”

What is a Nature Recovery Network? 

Toad habitat ©Linda Pitkin

The over-arching body known as ‘The Wildlife Trusts‘ represents a network of 46 individual local Wildlife Trusts covering the whole of the UK; caring for around 2,300 nature reserves and comprising more than 850,000 members including 150,000 members of their Wildlife Watch junior branch. All are working for an environment rich in wildlife for everyone.

The Wildlife Trusts’ proposals for a Nature Recovery Network in England and Wales and the National Ecological Network in Scotland, put space for nature at the heart of farming and planning systems. (You can read more on those here)

They state that new laws are needed to turn nature’s recovery from an aspiration to a reality, including Environment Acts passed by both the Westminster and Scottish Governments to ensure the urgent protection of nature.

Support the Wildlife Trusts’ #WilderFuture campaign

I’ve pledged to join the #WilderFuture campaign, to support the plight of animals such as Ratty, Badger, Mole and Mr Toad. And you can you too, by visiting: wildlifetrusts.org

Wildlife Trusts across the UK have a vision to create A Living Landscape (by championing projects and legislation such as the first Agriculture Bill in 40 years, to help wildlife recover in the countryside) and to secure Living Seas (by running marine conservation projects around the UK, collecting vital data on the state of our seas and celebrating our amazing marine wildlife).

They campaign against threats to wild places and comment on thousands of planning applications every year, such as the proposed motorway across the Gwent Levels, Wales; a proposed golf course development on internationally important sand dunes in Scotland; and raising awareness of the danger posed by poorly planned housing developments (e.g. the threat to Askham Bog, Yorkshire).

For more information visit wildlifetrusts.org

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2 thoughts on “Sir David Attenborough and Stephen Fry feature in Wildlife Trusts’ Wind in the Willows ‘trailer’

  1. Kate
    Things more complex than a nice ad. Animal welfare is not the same as wildlife conservation – too often these are conflated and I sense DA is despairing even more so than in 2006 https://twitter.com/blackgull/status/1111682211542126592 I’m just not convinced dumbing it down for a distant disengaged urban nation unaware of where their food comes from (countryside wildlife habitat – organic or otherwise) helps fix the real connection required between our lifestyle and the environment https://twitter.com/blackgull/status/1111587202528616449

    Feel free to contact me http://www.robyorke.co.uk as I host more conversations on this, best

    1. Hi Rob, Thank you for your comment. I’m always interested in exploring issues further. Do you think that the ad is more focussed on animal welfare than conservation then? I received it as being about conserving natural environments to allow for dwindling populations (i.e. the water vole) a chance to rebuild.

      Also interested in your mentioning of food production. It’s not a topic I’ve covered much on this blog, but would certainly be interested in delving a bit deeper into it. It seems to me, the major issues that the Wildlife Trusts are trying to highlight (via the ad directly) is their work in advising planning applications to avoid affecting important natural spaces and habitats, the effect of household landfill waste and plastic pollution on the environment, and the impact of building of roads on wild habitats. Of course, the statement put out with the ad specifically mentions their work to advise farming and the impact of intensive agriculture, but I didn’t see this highlighted in the advert directly. Would be interested to know your thoughts in relation to your comment.
      All the best,

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