© Walking into the sunset (c) The Wildlife Trusts

Badger, Ratty, Mole and Toad strike out for a wilder future

Stars speak up for wildlife in new film trailer hitting cinemas in Sheffield and Rotherham this weekend

Sir David Attenborough, Stephen Fry, Catherine Tate, Alison Steadman and Asim Chaudhry have backed the new campaign from The Wildlife Trusts, including Sheffield & Rotherham Wildlife Trust, which calls for a wilder future and for nature’s recovery in the UK. The conservationist and actors have starring roles in a new The Wind in the Willows film trailer which brings to life the 21st century threats facing the much-loved 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.

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 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 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 bilberries, 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. 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.

Mike Dilger, wildlife reporter on the BBC’s The One Show and Patron of Sheffield & Rotherham Wildlife Trust, said:

“As someone who has now been wildlife obsessed for the best part of 40 years and is determined to continue being a voice for nature, I must admit these are worrying times. The State of the Nature 2016 report makes clear that many of the species and habitats we all adore are patently struggling for space and protection in modern-day Britain.

“Irrespective of how you voted in the European referendum, surely we all agree that new, strong wildlife legislation is essential, which is why I’m backing The Wildlife Trusts’ push for an Environment Act to protect our natural heritage. Despite all the political uncertainty on the horizon, the only certainty is that everything is up for grabs, so I urge you to help the Trust in speaking up for the biodiversity of South Yorkshire and beyond… why? Because it’s worth it.”

Liz Ballard, CEO at Sheffield & Rotherham Wildlife Trust, said:

“We’re at a critical point in determining the future of our wildlife legislation. Nature needs much better protection, both here in Sheffield and Rotherham and across the country, and we have a chance to do something about this right now.

“In Sheffield and Rotherham, we are lucky to have such amazing green spaces on our doorstep, from stunning heathland at Blacka Moor to the ancient woodland of Greno Woods and the wetlands at Kilnhurst Ings. But there are many threats to these fragile habitats and the wildlife they support. The Trust is currently campaigning to better protect Our Moors and the birds of prey and other wildlife they should support. We are fighting for a better deal for wildlife if HS2 is driven through a number of ancient woodlands and Local Wildlife Sites in Rotherham and we continue to oppose the proposed motorway service station on the ancient woodland and Local Wildlife Site at Smithy Wood. We’re also fundraising for a badger vaccination programme, which we hope will prevent the need for a badger cull in South Yorkshire.

We are working hard to bring a wilder future to Sheffield & Rotherham – a place where nature can thrive – and we want to hear from anyone who is interested in working with us to create new habitats, support our local wildlife such as Badger, Toad and Ratty, and help build our nature recovery networks.

“But in order to ensure nature’s recovery, we need much better legislation in the form of a strong Environment Bill. We really hope that this film brings home to people in Sheffield and Rotherham, and across the UK, just how critical it is that we act now.”

Stephanie Hilborne, CEO of The Wildlife Trusts, 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 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.”

You can watch the film here: https://www.wildsheffield.com/wilder/

Sheffield & Rotherham Wildlife Trust hopes that The Wind in the Willows film trailer will inspire people in Sheffield and Rotherham to help by nature by:

  • Contacting politicians – to call for strong environmental laws which help nature recover. At wildsheffield.wildsheffield.com/wilderfuture you can find more information as well as a form that makes contacting your MP really quick and easy.
  • 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 Sheffield & Rotherham Wildlife Trust to discover what a Wilder Future could look like – and the part everyone can play in making it happen.

For more information, visit wildsheffield.com/wilderfuture

President Emeritus of The Wildlife Trusts, Sir David Attenborough said:

“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.”