Newport for Nature

Trefdraeth am Natur / Newport for Nature is a new initiative centred in and around Newport, Pembrokeshire, roughly within the ward boundary but really open to anyone in the immediate area who is interested in taking part.

The project is kindly funded by the Sustainable Development Fund, and donations from individuals and other organisations.

Our vision is …

A network of wildlife-friendly spaces and corridors across Newport and its environs, connecting town and countryside, supported, maintained and enjoyed by residents and visitors alike, providing climate change resilience but also colour and birdsong, calm, joy and wellbeing for all.

The project has three primary objectives – enhancing biodiversity, creating wildlife-friendly spaces, and improving our knowledge of local wildlife. It will achieve these objectives in three ways: planting trees, wildlife gardening and by inviting people to become citizen scientists and record wildlife seen in the area.

Project Mission

Enhance the biodiversity and climate resilience of Newport by:

  • Creating a network of wildlife-friendly private gardens and public space, wildlife corridors and wild areas set aside and managed for biodiversity; 
  • Planting trees equal to the number of residents of Newport; 
  • Creating a strong and vibrant collaboration of local people and local organisations to manage and maintain natural areas and public spaces for wildlife; 
  • Creating a network of citizen scientists to observe and record wildlife sightings throughout the year, to provide the basis for a map of the biodiversity and wild areas of the town and its surrounds.

Want to get involved?

Sounds good. But what actually is it?

Tree planting – The project will plant a tree for every member Newport’s population (approx. 1200.) Planting sites will be public open space and community areas, private land and gardens.  Planted appropriately, this will create small, wooded areas, enrich public open spaces and add habitat to gardens, enhancing biodiversity within and about the town.

The community will be engaged throughout, from finding and offering sites, planting a tree in their garden, attending tree planting events and providing aftercare. 

Why trees?

As trees grow they remove carbon dioxide (the gas responsible for most of the global warming we are witnessing) from the atmosphere.  Trees therefore help to mitigate climate change, but they also play an important role in climate change adaptation, providing cooling and shading, helping to reduce flooding, and provide habitat for wildlife, of which more shortly.

Trees are of enormous importance in our countryside and towns and yet the UK is one of the least wooded countries in Europe, with only 13% woodland cover, compared to an average of around 37% for European Union countries. 

Creating wildlife-friendly gardens – the project will encourage as many people as possible to improve their gardens for wildlife. There are loads of things you can do, as simple or extravagant, as large or small, as you wish – anything from planting a few pollinator-friendly flowers, leaving the mower in the shed and allowing an area of your garden to revert to nature, to creating a wildlife pond.  More ideas and tips are found below, and workshops are being organised throughout 2022. See here for more details.

Why gardens?

Trees have very good PR, and rightly so. However, they are not the only important habitat type in the UK, and far from the rarest or most threatened. Wildflower meadows and unimproved grassland (97% lost since the 1930s), lowland heath (80% lost in the last 200 years) and ponds (75% lost in the last 100 years) are critically important habitats for a multitude of species. With more of our wildlife and wild spaces disappearing year after year, it is more important than ever that we provide space for nature in our gardens and public spaces.

Gardens matter – they make up 28% of urban area in Wales.  Looked after sympathetically they can be wildlife havens offering food and shelter for literally hundreds of species.

Connected, gardens and urban green spaces can become important wildlife areas in their own right, but also become corridors to and from the countryside, stopping off points and feeding stations for migrating birds, essential refuges in times of hardship. They can make a significant contribution to conservation, and at a landscape scale.

Recording Newport’s Wildlife – The project will encourage people to gather observations of wildlife in their gardens, on their walks, in the open spaces and back lanes of Newport and its surrounds, and record them using an existing wildlife monitoring app from the West Wales Biodiversity Information Centre.


Pembrokeshire is internationally important for its wildlife, home to many rare and protected species. Important though this is, the wider landscape of farmland and urban spaces is also of vital importance for more common species.  Also, familiar hedgerow flowers and garden birds are more visible ‘indicators’ of the general health of wildlife and habitats.

The observations, tree planting and wildlife sites will be used to create a vital baseline, and a Biodiversity Map of Newport.

What is biodiversity, and why does it matter?

In the simplest terms, biodiversity is the vast variety of plant and animal species that live on Earth or, at a local level, in a particular habitat; importantly, it also refers to the crucial genetic variation that exists within healthy populations of species (but reduces as those populations decline!)

Plants and animals, through their myriad, complex interactions with land, air, water, and each other, provide benefits that we all rely upon – food and fuel, clean water, clean air, flood alleviation, control of pests and disease, as well as joy, beauty and wonder, mental wellbeing and good health. They have ensured the planet functions in a way that, since the end of the last ice age more than 10,000 years ago, has allowed humankind to thrive and civilisations to rise. 

This is under threat – the planet is undergoing enormous and rapid change. 

Planting trees and creating wildlife-friendly spaces will increase biodiversity, and enhancing biodiversity is critical when it comes to reducing the impact of this change. A biodiverse area is intrinsically more resilient to the effects of climate change. Natural areas and systems that are more diverse, larger, in better condition and better connected are more able to adapt to or recover from change.

What’s in it for me?

Aside from the numerous benefits that nature provide for society as a whole (see above), it is increasingly recognised that spending time in nature is hugely important for our mental and physical well-being. An attractive place for wildlife is an attractive and healthier place  for everyone.

As already mentioned, taking part needn’t be difficult, time-consuming or cost lots of money – simple and small interventions can make a difference, especially if we all have a go.

We hope the project will increase the sense of community, and strengthen both natural capital and social capital, brining benefits across the town.

Also, many of you will have heard the phrase, Think Global, Act Local – the project fits this concept very well.

Finally, it is said that planting a tree is one of the best things we can do for nature, for ourselves but also for the future – in many ways it is a selfless thing to do:

‘Blessed is he who plants trees under whose shade he will never sit.’ (Indian proverb)

OK, I’m in.  What can I do?

Creating a wildlife friendly garden need not be expensive, or difficult, or time-consuming.  Nor need it result in messy, uncared for gardens. You don’t have to have a big garden, and don’t need to spend lost of money on fancy stuff.

  • Plant more flowers, especially flowers that are good for pollinators.  These do not have to be native wildflowers, at least not in your garden.
  • Swap seeds and plants (and ideas) with your neighbours
  • Create a few different habitats e.g. a damp shady area, sunny sheltered area
  • Plant a tree or shrub – fruit trees/bushes could also provide you with a fruit salad or crumble!
  • Get together with your neighbours to create hedgehog access routes
  • Leave an area of your lawn unmowed or set aside for wildlife
  • Put up bird boxes, bird feeders, a drinking water bowl for birds, but also insects
  • Build a bug hotel, or just put a pile of logs and stones in a quiet sheltered spot -perhaps one in the sun for solitary bees, and one in a damp shady corner for 
  • Create an earth bank or stretch of dry-stone wall (or something like) for solitary bees and overwintering invertebrates
  • Make a compost heap – fantastic for invertebrates, slow worms and even grass snakes – just avoid putting cooked food waste on it. We do not want to attract rats.
  • Create a pond – this is one of the best things you can do for wildlife in your garden, and it doesn’t have to very big – even an old sink or upturned dustbin lid can help dozens of important species.
  • Help to look after wildlife areas in your neighbourhood by volunteering a little of your time, and make space for nature.

Finally, keep a watch as things develop, and see what comes to your garden, and your neighbours’ gardens, throughout the year. Make a note and enter your observations on the WWNBIC phone app, or online at their website.

What’s the bigger picture?

Most people are increasingly aware of the dual environmental crises the world is facing, namely biodiversity loss and climate change. 

We are undergoing the 6th mass extinction.  The previous mass extinction wiped out 76% of all species on the planet, most famously the dinosaurs. However, unlike the loss of the dinosaurs, this one is being brought about entirely by us, humankind. 

Loss of biodiversity across the world is disrupting crucial ecological systems, and the reduction in wild animal populations is truly shocking – the WWF’s 2020 Living Planet Index records a decline of 68% in average population abundance since 1970.  In other words, on average, animal populations have reduced by more than two thirds since I was born.

The UK has done particularly badly at protecting its wildlife and wild spaces.  In terms of ‘biodiversity intactness’ (i.e. how much wildlife is left in a given area), the UK sits bottom of the G7, and third from bottom of European countries, behind only Ireland and Malta.  Of 240 countries and territories around the world, all four UK countries languish in the bottom 12%, with England faring worse at 7th from bottom and Wales only marginally better, sixteenth from bottom.

Climate change will affect every aspect of our lives and add pressure to already weakened natural systems. Habitat loss, primarily due to development, agricultural intensification and lack of sympathetic land management, is reducing wild spaces, and the food sources and breeding places they provide.  At the same time, habitat fragmentation is reducing the ability of species to move across the landscape in response to habitat destruction and climate change. 

Relying on Nature Reserves to provide a safe haven for wildlife is no longer sufficient. “Nature reserves have become small oases of wildlife-rich land in an inhospitable and often hostile landscape for many plants and animals. The task of making that wider landscape better for wildlife is an urgent priority if the UK is to reverse the recorded declines in wildlife and wild places.” Wildlife Trust

The sheer scale, and dire consequences, of climate change and biodiversity loss can result in feelings of helplessness or apathy, despair or paralysis; the tendency to do nothing because the challenge feels too great, the solutions too little, too late. Frankly, dwelling on the doom and hopelessness that haunts us every day via news channels and social media can do us no good.  Better to get to it, take action, change how we do things.  In short, better to be part of the solution, rather than part of the problem.

Although we may not like to admit it, in simple terms, both climate change and biodiversity loss are directly related to our consumption patterns. All our consumption decisions all have a greater or lesser impact on the environment – how much we buy, what we buy, where we buy it, how long we use it for; Reduce, Reuse, Repair, Recycle.  Particularly the Reduce bit! 

This is probably the first place to think about changes you can make. But making space for nature is also important.  Either way, it starts at home and in your garden, and in Newport’s green spaces. Which is where this project comes in.