Nature in Flintshire
The broad distribution of habitats in Flintshire is shown in the map below.
Natural Resources Wales https://cdn.cyfoethnaturiol.cymru/media/691298/area-statement-broad-habitatsne-a4.pdf
Flintshire is a county of contrasts. Set between the rural counties to the west and the more developed areas of Cheshire and Merseyside, land use varies from intensive industrial development along the Dee estuary through to remote and wild areas on the Clwydian range. The moorland, coast and woodland are important to all who live, work and visit the County.
The Clwydian Range, designated Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty, lies in the west of Flintshire, here Coniferous forests are prominent and although areas are managed for agriculture, much of it is still covered by a mosaic of heath, heather and gorse.
Our only areas of deep peat in the county are in the Clwydian range. Peatland habitats can play an important role in water management, slowing down flood waters and naturally reducing flood-risk downstream. By slowly releasing water during dry periods, peatland helps to reduce the impact of droughts on water supplies and on river and stream flows.
Nature is being lost across the whole of Wales and Flintshire is no exception. Over the decades, Flintshire has undergone significant transformation. Impacts are evident on our Dormouse population where average positive survey records across our sites has reduced by 94% indicating a population which has plummeted. Another small mammal the water vole is the UKs fastest declining mammal and in Flintshire is now only found in specific pockets of suitable habitat.
The widespread loss of natural habitats through development, agriculture, housing, infrastructure, industry and mineral extraction is significant and there are new threats including pests and diseases such as Ash Dieback which is likely to greatly impact on the Ash trees across the County. Despite this Flintshire does still retain many places that are of importance for wildlife in urban and rural areas and there is now more evidence than ever, that these natural places are also incredibly important for human well-being.
Below are some examples:
Important areas in Flintshire
The commons within Flintshire are important for wildlife. The Halkyn Common Special Area of Conservation (SAC) was formed over glacial deposits and 350 million year old limestone, creating a unique habitat and the largest resource of Calaminarian grassland in Wales. Nationally uncommon species such as the lead-tolerant spring sandwort are abundant as a result of the long history of metalliferous mining in the area.
The commons in the more urban areas also provide important diverse habitats. The network of ponds, wetland and scrub areas on Lower Common, Buckley are particularly important as breeding sites for frogs and newts and form part of the Deeside and Buckley Newt Sites SAC. Flintshire is one of the key counties in Wales for the Great crested newt, they will often favour rural farm ponds, old quarries and derelict land in urban settings.
Woodlands cover 8.8% of the county, well below the Wales average of 14%. It is characterised by small blocks of farm woodland and some rural estates, as well as larger forest blocks, such as Nercwys and Moel Famau in the south of the county. Woodlands form an important habitat component in the wider countryside and within protected sites. For example Alyn Valley Woods SAC which follows the river Alyn from Loggerheads to Rhydymwyn is designated for its broadleaved woodland on limestone and wet alder woodland.
Much of the Deeside and Buckley newt sites SAC is a woodland which is important terrestrial habitat for Newts and Wepre Woods, Connahs Quay is designated for the sessile oak woodland present. In 2018 we launched our Urban tree and woodland plan which sets a target of achieving an urban canopy cover of 18% by 2033, an increase from the current 14.5%, the seventh lowest in Wales.
It’s a 15 year plan which sets out an integrated approach to planting on all types of council land. Tree planting and natural regeneration (where appropriate) will be an important part of creating resilient ecological networks. It is essential that “The right tree in the right place” policy is followed when planning tree planting. This will prevent any loss of other important habitats (such as wetland or grassland) and will ensure that the trees provide maximum benefit into the future.
There are many undesignated sites and scattered fragments of habitats which are essential for nature as they have nature conservation value. This forms our green infrastructure. It includes streams and small pockets of wet woodlands and old hedgerows which act as corridors for wildlife in otherwise species-poor fields. Combined, these habitats provide for our more common and rare species such as Sand Lizards, Natterjack toads, Bats, Dormice, Otters, Great Crested Newts and thousands of wading birds on the Dee Estuary.
Most urban areas within the County incorporate informal ‘green space’ with industrial or mineral workings being important for wildlife and recreation. Many of these are the legacy of old developed natural flora and are the home for numerous insect species. Greenfield Valley in Holywell and Wepre Park in Connah’s Quay are particularly valuable ‘wild spaces’. The map to the right shows the different types of urban green infrastructure across Flintshire.
Flintshire contains a high number of international, national and local nature conservation designations. The saltmarsh, sand dune and mudflat habitats of the Dee Estuary are not only important in their own right, but host internationally important populations of wildfowl and waders and are designated internationally as Special Protected Area (SPA), Special Area of Conservation (SAC) and RAMSAR wetland site of international importance.
Other internationally designated sites include the Alyn Valley Woods SAC, Deeside and Buckley Newt Sites SAC and Halkyn Mountain SAC. In total the County hosts over 23 Sites of Special Scientific Interest (SSSIs) and over 300 locally designated wildlife sites. These contain sensitive habitats such as:
- Coastal and floodplain grazing marsh (5% of the welsh resource).
- Lowland Calcareous grassland (17% of the welsh resource).
- Saltmarsh (12% of the welsh resource).
- Calaminarian grassland.
- Coastal sand dunes.
Local Nature Partnership
Flintshire County Council coordinates the Local Nature Partnership (North East Wales Biodiversity Network). The North East Wales Biodiversity Network was formed in October 2009. It brings together local biodiversity partnerships that had existed in the counties of Conwy, Denbighshire, Flintshire and Wrexham.
It is made up of a number of organisations including Conwy, Denbighshire, Wrexham and Flintshire local authorities, Natural Resources Wales, North Wales Wildlife Trust, RSPB, Amphibian and Reptile Conservation, the North Wales trunk Road Agency, British association of shooting and conservation, Butterfly conservation, Chester Zoo, Clwyd Badger Group, Keep Wales Tidy, Wild Ground, Cofnod (the North Wales Environmental Record Centre) businesses and independent recorders and consultants.
The broad aim of the network is to conserve, protect and enhance biodiversity for current and future generations. Collaboration are seen as being important to the partnership alongside other objectives that include raising awareness and the promotion of biodiversity and identifying local priorities to deliver local nature targets.
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Useful Documents and Guidance
Invasive Non-Native Species
There are many non-native species in our environment. They may have arrived through natural processes or through deliberate or unintentional release by humans. Most of these species cause no problems but some do. We call these Invasive Non-Native Species (INNS). Climate change is expected to increase the risk from many INNS that are currently unable to establish. INNS are a substantial environmental and economic threat as they can:
• Prey on native species;
• Out-compete native species for food and shelter;
• Spread disease;
• Interfere with the genetic integrity (DNA) of native species.
Common Invasive Non-Native Plant Species include but are not limited to:
• Japanese Knotweed (Fallopia japonica)
• Giant Hogweed (Heracleum mantegazzianum)
• Himalayan Balsam (Impatiens glandulifera)
• New Zealand Pigmyweed (Crassula helmsii)
The Welsh Government’s Invasive Non-Native Species Strategy has established targets to reduce the establishment of INNs by 50% compared to those of 2000 levels, achieved by significantly improving monitoring techniques and increasing the rate of inspections. The Convention on Biological Diversity identified a 3-tiered hierarchal approach to managing INNS:
• Containment/long-term control
This document provides guidance on common INNS, legislation surrounding their management, and who to contact with any concerns.
Who is responsible?
Every year, it costs around £125 million to tackle INNS in Wales, and is estimated to be £1.84 billion in the UK. Japanese knotweed alone is estimated to cost the British economy around £247 million per year. Invasive non-native species are listed on Schedule 9 of the Wildlife and Countryside Act 1981 (WCA) Part 1 (Animals) Part 2 (Plants)1. Responsibility to prevent the spread of invasive non-native species rests with the occupier of the land on which the INNs are growing.
The Wildlife and Countryside Act 1981 (WCA) is the principal legislation dealing with non-native species.
Section 14 of the WCA makes it illegal to:
• Release or allow to escape into the wild any animal which is not ordinarily resident in Great Britain and is not a regular visitor to Great Britain in a wild state or is listed in Schedule 9 to the Act.
• Plant or otherwise cause to grow in the wild any plant listed in Schedule 9 to the Act.
These offences carry a maximum penalty of a £5,000 fine and/or 6 months imprisonment. Guidance on Section 14 of the WCA gives further information. Here you can also find a list of species in Schedule 9 of the WCA for England and Wales.
Section 23 of the Infrastructure Act (2015) allows: Welsh Ministers and Natural Resources Wales to serve ‘Species Control Agreements’ & ‘Orders’ on landowners who allow INNS to establish on their land without management. Orders will be carried out when an agreement with landowners cannot be reached.
What can you do?
A quick way to report an Invasive Non-Native Plant species is using the INNS Mapper/Mapiwr INNS app available to download on your phone which aims to provide an effective resource to coordinate efforts regarding INNS management. The app allows you to report an INNS sighting, its location and management actions for numerous Invasive Non-Native Plant Species, all of which are listed within this guidance report. The app is available on the Apple App Store and Google Play. You can also visit the INNS Mapper website at: https://innsmapper.org/home.
What can we do?
Where INNS are growing on Flintshire Council land, it can be reported to the council directly at email@example.com/01352703020. Flintshire will endeavour to undertake appropriate control measures; the following factors will be taken into consideration:
• The species
• The likely success of any operations
• The likelihood of re-invasion
• Any existing eradication programmes
• The costs of the operations, including any potential future costs associated with ongoing control.
Where INNS are growing on private land it should be reported to the landowner at first instance. In the event of a landowner not complying, Flintshire Council will seek to secure control. When deciding whether to pursue this course of action Flintshire County Council will take the following factors into account:
• The species
• The likely success of any operations
• The likelihood of re-invasion
• Any existing eradication programmes
• The costs of the operations, including any potential future costs associated with ongoing control
• If the action is an effective use of resources
The Great Britain Invasive Non-Native Species Strategy 2023 to 2030:
The Great Britain Invasive Non-Native Species Strategy 2023 to 2030 (nonnativespecies.org)
North Wales Wildlife Trust: Wales Resilient Ecological Network: Invasive species Toolkit designed to support people in identifying INNS, Biosecurity and general awareness:
Wales Resilient Ecological Network (WaREN) | North Wales Wildlife Trust
- Create a haven for wildlife with our Wildlife gardening pack.
- Planting for pollinators: Tell us about a local area you would like to be considered for pollinator planting by emailing firstname.lastname@example.org. Put pollinators in the email subject bar.
- Get involved in Hedgehog conservation with PTES and Hedgehog Street.
- Find out more about Barn Owls and fill in the form if you would like to be considered for a box in our long running project to install boxes across the region.
- Record the nature you see across the whole of Norrth Wales with Cofnod, the North Wales Environmental Record Centre.
- Our introduction to orchard management booklet will give you all the basics to plant and look after your own orchard.
- Register to volunteer on conservation projects with us by emailing email@example.com. Put volunteer in the subject bar.
- Learn more about biodiversity in Wales at Biodiversity Wales
Telephone: 01352 703263