Arundel wetlands celebrate 45 years as WWT marks 75th anniversary with call for a ‘blue recovery’

Arundel Wetland Centre celebrated its 45th anniversary yesterday (November 10) – the same day the Wildfowl and Wetlands Trust (WWT) marked 75 years of groundbreaking conservation work.

The exhibits, hides and natural areas at WWT Arundel were planned by the trust’s founder, Sir Peter Scott, alongside Andrew Dawnay, the first warden and general manager of the wetland centre.

When the reserve opened on the WWT’s 30th anniversary on November 10, 1976, there were only two wildlife hides and a portable cabin at the gate to take tickets – which cost 50p for adults and 25p for children.

In its 45 years Arundel Wetland Centre has had a huge number of achievements, including:

An aerial view of the Arundel Wetland Centre

• The reintroduction of water voles between 1999-2005, joining up local populations on the Mill stream ditches and the Arun River.

• Restoring wet grassland habitat, crucial for breeding lapwing.

• Creating nesting banks for breeding kingfishers and sand martins.

• Maintaining SSSI reedbeds for summer warblers and roosting marsh harriers in winter.

Wildfowl and Wetlands Trust founder Sir Peter Scott with nenes

• Reintroducing threatened triangular club rush and protecting rare holly leaf naiad wetland plant.

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Described by Sir David Attenborough as the ‘patron saint of conservation’, Sir Peter Scott founded WWT on the banks of the River Severn in 1946 with just 1,000 members and one site, at Slimbridge in Gloucestershire.

Since then, the charity has grown to ten UK sites, created and helped to protect thousands of hectares of wetlands around the world, and is now supported by more than 180,000 members.

A 1977 advert for WWT Arundel

Building on the passion of Sir Peter Scott, who championed wetlands and wildlife while recognising their value to people, WWT is drawing on over seven decades of experience to ensure wetlands are put centre stage in the fight to meet global challenges.

It aims to inspire one million people to take action for wetlands by spreading the word about the many benefits of these amazing habitats not just for wildlife but for people’s everyday lives.

The charity plans to achieve both these aims through many conservation projects throughout the world and its Wetlands Can! campaign.

This focuses on the creation of 100,000 hectares of healthy wetlands across the UK to help combat the nature, climate, and mental health crises.

The new Coastal Creek aviary at Arundel Wetland Centre, which opened to visitors in April

WWT is calling for a ‘blue recovery’ where this ambition is incorporated into national and international policies to protect the planet, including strategies to reach net zero carbon emissions by 2050.

WWT chief operating officer Kevin Peberdy said: “Sir Peter Scott was an extraordinary man and in 1946 he had a vision – to create a safe haven for wild birds while at the same time bringing people closer to nature.

“He understood that people and nature are part of the same intertwined ecosystem.

“He realised – ahead of his time – that our wealth, our health and our emotional wellbeing all depend on the natural world.

“He appreciated that showing people how amazing wetland nature is can ignite a passion to preserve it.

“At WWT today we still hold these principals at the heart of everything we do.

A staff member leading an outdoor learning session at WWT Arundel

“We may be a much larger charity than we were when we started back in 1946, but we still believe fervently in wetlands and what they can do – for wildlife and for humans, and increasingly for the planet.

“If rainforests are the lungs of the planet, then wetlands are the lifeblood.

“As much as we need air to breathe, we need water to live.

“The conservation of our wetlands is essential to life on Earth.”

In its 75 years, WWT has had a huge number of achievements and hit many milestones, including

• Restoring and creating wetlands on every continent and along critical global flyways.

• Building a global network of over 350 wetland sites and organisations that share WWT’s passion for wetland protection and engagement.

• Working on action plans for over 30 threatened and declining wetland species and the wetlands on which they depend.

• Through understanding their value for wetland birds, helped protect over 700,000 hectares of the UK’s most important wetlands.

• Helping more than two million children to discover the magic of wetland wildlife.

• Providing a safe haven for 15 million migratory birds to spend the winter at our UK sites.

Mr Peberdy said: “When we look back we realise what an enormous amount we have achieved.

“But of course the work isn’t done and we now look forward to taking Peter Scott’s philosophy of creating a world where healthy nature thrives and enriches all of our lives and applying it to the situation today.

“None of this would be achievable without our incredible staff, volunteers and supporters and it is them I would like to thank as we join millions of other people around the world to work to ensure the future of the planet.

“It won’t be easy but all of us here at WWT will think of our remarkable founder Peter Scott as we try to do our best for the wildlife and the habitats that he so loved.”

The Arundel Wetland Centre entrance