The Wyre Forest's 6,500 acres is all that survives of a wood that once stretched along the Severn Valley from Worcester to Bridgnorth. The landscape consists of rolling hills, woodland, orchards and open water with picturesque valleys and is one of the largest areas of ancient semi-natural oak woodland in Britain. Much of the Wyre area is designated as a Site of Special Scientific Interest (SSSI) and many rare species of flora and fauna can be found there. However years of industrialisation and increasing urban populations have had an impact on the Wyre landscape and left people disengaged from their natural heritage. Forgotten fruit varieties, historic crafts and the increasing scarcity of native species are all at risk of becoming extinct without expert help.
The Wyre landscape is undergoing a dramatic restoration thanks to grants totalling £4 million from the Heritage Lottery Fund, SITA Trust, Natural Assets, Biffaward and GrantScape. The ‘Grow With Wyre Landscape Partnership Scheme’, which is led by the Forestry Commission, has been set up to help restore the unique landscape of Wyre and celebrate its rich working history.
The ‘Grow With Wyre Landscape Partnership Scheme’, along with the local community and visitors, are all taking an active role in restoring around 72 square kilometres of unique landscape through the delivery of 18 projects. Each project is designed to manage the landscape character, heritage and biodiversity that make the Wyre Forest Landscape special. One of these projects - Gateway to Wyre - has seen the building of the new Community Discovery Centre at Callow Hill, which opened in August 2011 and is already hosting many education and community events.
The Forestry Commission is the lead partner in the 'Grow With Wyre Landscape Partnership Scheme', joined by Natural England, Shropshire County Council, Bewdley Development Trust, Butterfly Conservation, Worcestershire County Council, Wyre Forest Study Group, Wyre Community Land Trust, Wyre Forest District Council and The National Trust. These partners are driving the project forward to ensure the long-term social, environmental and economic sustainability of the Wyre landscape.
After three years work, we are seeing changes in the landscape with new hedgerows, butterfly filled forest clearings, new fences to enable grazing and new saplings appearing. Bracken is being controlled by grazing cattle, better habitats for creatures such as butterflies have been created and old orchards have been brought back to life. There are new paths to enable people to enjoy the forest, we have restored two water mills in the forest, invigorated a local produce market and installed wood burning boilers in schools and community buildings to support the wood fuel market which can help us sustainably manage Wyre Forest.