We were lucky enough to be invited to the grand opening of the second phase of the Nature Reserve at Chester Zoo, which has been created to help threatened and endangered species on British soil.

After a picnic breakfast with fully recyclable packaging, we were treated to a guided tour of the new areas and three great talks by Simon Dowell, Science Director of the zoo, Trevor Dines, Botanical Specialist and Cllr Samantha Dixon, Leader of Chester and Cheshire West Council.

Located just outside the Zoo, the reserve is completely free to enter without entering the main zoo.  The haven is already home to kingfishers, hedgehogs and harvest mice with many reported sightings of otters and recently a fox.  With new wetland habitats near the Shropshire Canal and diverse plants growing, this is a great addition not only for the zoo, but for Chester.

Designed as both a place of relaxation for the community and as a wildlife space to encourage learning, Chester Zoo first built the Nature Reserve in 2013.  The second phase 600% expansion area provides brand new and larger protected habitats for threatened species, which in the coming years will transform and grow as more plants and wildflowers develop.

The Nature Reserve is important for the regrowth of wildflower meadows, which have suffered a loss of 97% across the UK – the same as 1.5 times the size of Wales!  Each County across the UK  has a flagship meadow and the Chester Zoo Nature Reserve is the 91st such Coronation Meadow.  The wide hedges, rough grassland and meadows will be cared for and managed to help species such as the hedgehog, which is declining in the UK at the same rate as tigers globally (5% a year) – it is now feared there are fewer than a million hedgehogs left in the UK.

Bumblebees and other pollinating insects currently struggling in the UK are additional beneficiaries – half of Britain’s bumblebee species are declining with three already extinct.

The new reserve will be fully accessible for wheelchairs, buggies and strollers as well as having a walking trail. 

But it’s not just about Chester Zoo, at home we can do so much more to improve British wildlife.  Simply planting new diverse plants will make your back garden a home for hedgehogs and wildlife, plus think twice before you cut all your dandelion flowers as just 8 of them can make enough nectar for 15,000 bee visits!

If you would like more information about how to create your own wildlife space or if you would like to know about the Nature Reserve – visit their website now at: www.chesterzoo.org/wildlifeconnections.