Conserving our natural environment

Words by:
Andrew Vaux
Featured in:
April 2024

Andrew Vaux looks at the success of the Lincolnshire Wildlife Trust which is celebrating its 75th anniversary this year.

Ted Smith was a man with a mission. A passionate conservationist, he recognised the need to stop the destruction of Lincolnshire’s most precious natural habitats and protect the species which call them home. And so, in 1948, he became the founding honorary secretary of the Lincolnshire Wildlife Trust and later went on to be chairman and then president.

In the years that followed, he fought to save our unspoiled coast, ancient meadows, and heaths, and halt the destruction of native woodland – campaigning on almost every front, from saving roadside flowers from being sprayed with chemicals, to pressing for legislation to protect otters.

But it wasn’t just Lincolnshire which Ted vowed to protect.

He travelled the length and breadth of Britain, lecturing on his vision for nature and for local Wildlife Trusts to champion it. Most importantly, Ted saw the need for local nature organisations which could own land and for them to derive support from a wide section of the community.

One of today’s most eminent and respected conservationists and environmentalists, Sir David Attenborough eloquently summed Ted up when he simply described him as “a visionary, a diplomat, and above all a revolutionary.”

And commenting on Ted’s dedication and commitment when presenting him with The Wildlife Life Trusts Centenary Award in 2012, Sir David added: “this countryside of Britain may not be as rich as Ted knew it as a child in the 1920s and 30s, but it is immeasurably better than it would otherwise have been without him and The Wildlife Trusts. Generations to come are going to benefit more than they will know.”

But what about that tiny voluntary group based at Ted’s own house near Alford? Well, there’s no denying that Ted, who passed away in 2012, would be extremely proud of how far the organisation has come as it celebrates its 75th anniversary.

Landmark anniversary
The Lincolnshire Wildlife Trust now cares for almost 100 nature reserves across the region and has a dedicated team of around 70 along with hundreds of passionate volunteers.

But it’s not just reserves the Trust manages. It also supports Roadside Nature Reserves, several Marine Protected Areas and over 1,000 Local Wildlife Sites – and has campaigned for Marine Conservation Zones to be recognised and protected in the North Sea around Lincolnshire.

And to celebrate its landmark anniversary, the Trust is launching an ambitious appeal: the Nature Recovery Fund, which aims to raise £1 million for nature conservation over the next two years.

The group’s chief executive, Paul Learoyd, says: “Over the past 75 years, Lincolnshire Wildlife Trust has saved wildlife and wild spaces across the county. We’re proud of what we’ve achieved, and there are many species that wouldn’t exist in Lincolnshire today were it not for our work.

“But whilst there have been many inspiring successes over the years, we’ve also continued to lose wildlife from the wider countryside at an alarming rate. People are increasingly disconnected from nature and the climate crisis is starting to be felt ever more keenly on our doorstep.

“That’s why, to coincide with our 75th anniversary, we’re launching the largest and most urgent appeal in our history.”

Paul continues: “We know £1 million is an ambitious target but if our Nature Recovery Fund is to make a real difference before it’s too late then – like our founder Ted Smith back in 1948 – we need to think bigger.

“The funds we raise will go towards supporting four key areas – nature, climate, land and people – which represent the four pillars of our work in Lincolnshire.”

Celebrating achievements
Let’s take a closer look at the Trust’s work, and what it has achieved over the past 75 years.

Gibraltar Point, the Trust’s pioneering first reserve, remains a vital site for wildlife. It’s a dynamic stretch of unspoilt coastline running southwards from the edge of Skegness to the mouth of the Wash.

Decades of committed shorebird protection have ensured rare little terns still nest there – the only place in Lincolnshire – and it’s a stronghold for many other migratory and resident birds.

Further north the Trust manages Donna Nook National Nature Reserve – covering more than 10km (6.25 miles) of coastline between Grainthorpe Haven in the north and Saltfleet in the south where it borders the Saltfleetby-Theddlethorpe Dunes National Nature Reserve. 

Every November and December, grey seals come to the Donna Nook coastline to give birth to their pups near the sand dunes – a wildlife spectacle that attracts visitors from across the UK.

In the south the Trust has transformed
Willow Tree Fen between Baston and Spalding. This is a relatively new nature reserve, transformed from arable land to a more traditional fenland landscape.

In 2020, with the extra solitude created by lockdown, cranes returned to the Lincolnshire Fens and successfully raised a chick. They’ve now become largely resident, leaving the reserve only for a short period in the depths of winter.

As mentioned above, the Trust’s work is focused on the core areas of nature, climate, land and people.

Paul Learoyd explains: “Nearly half of all the UK’s species are in decline and we are one of the most nature-depleted countries in the world. Lincolnshire is no different and our wildlife locally is under huge pressure from intensive land use. We’ve protected natterjack toads and little terns on the coast for decades and recently saw the return of species such as [the] bittern and crane to breed in the county again.”

Paul continues: “Our climate is in crisis. Wildlife is struggling to cope with hotter, drier periods and more intense storms and wetter winters. Species are already being impacted – for example, the earlier emergence of caterpillars means that migrant birds are struggling to time their breeding to match.

“Lincolnshire is a diverse county with a range of habitats. Many of these, such as our saltmarshes and extensive peatlands, store huge amounts of carbon. However, many have been degraded, releasing those stores of carbon back into the atmosphere. Protecting what we have left and restoring damaged habitats so that they can lock carbon away is critical to our response to climate change.

“At the same time, the fragmentation of habitats makes wildlife more susceptible to the changing climate – giving species less room to move in times of drought, flooding, or fire. We need to restore and link up woodlands, wetlands and floodplains to create a wilder landscape that helps nature to adapt and thrive.”

Call for volunteers
The Trust hopes the Nature Recovery Fund will allow it to take advantage of opportunities to add land in a strategic way and unlock match-funding opportunities from other sources.

land is one of the most important things we can buy. Over the years, our purchases and management agreements have allowed us to create nearly 100 nature reserves across the county. These reserves are now home to many of Lincolnshire’s birds, mammals, insects and plants, and are the last refuges for some of our rarest and most threatened species.

“But our reserves need to be bigger and more robust, and we need to find ways to link them better.”
There’s no doubt as to what the Trust has achieved since its humble beginnings 75 years ago. But to continue these successes into the future, the Trust needs a new influx of volunteers for its essential conservation work.

Paul concludes: “We want to enable more people to work with us towards nature’s recovery. We need to increase the number of new people coming into the sector from all backgrounds and across all areas of our work – from conservation to education to community work. The Trust has a fantastic track record in this area and with your help, we can continue to develop our traineeships to support the next generation of conservationists.”

Anyone wanting to donate to the Nature Recovery Fund is encouraged to visit

To find out more about the Lincolnshire Wildlife Trust, visit

Photographs: Geoff Trinder, Matthew Capper, Rachel Shaw, Ruth Taylor and Barrie Wilkinson

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