The Big Green Internet Project

The Big Green Internet Project

Ten years ago, Michel Wadham, the owner of The Big Green Internet Ltd was busily planting small woodlands, but as he was doing so an observation was gnawing away in his mind.  As he looked around the landscape in the far east of Essex, he noticed that there were many woodlands sitting as islands in a sea of agriculture and not able to communicate with each other in an ecological sense.

What if a dormouse population became extinct in one woodland, how would it repopulate if there was no connection with other woods?  If this extinction process occurred across the whole countryside it would be like an aeroplane falling apart one rivet at a time.

He thought, let’s continue to plant woodlands, but let’s connect them too.

He set about planting a 500 metre wildlife corridor between two woodlands to experiment with the idea of connecting these woodlands together.  Ten years on the wildlife corridor, a mix of trees and grassland, is full of life.

With Living Landscapes in mind and a set of OS maps he set about mapping the distribution of woodland across Essex and a great surprise awaited.  To the south of the A12 was a series of woodlands occurring in clusters in two parallel lines.  One line running from the North Sea near Frinton and the second from near Southend on Sea with both meeting and terminating at Epping Foret.

Why was this?  We have to go back 450,000 years to the Anglian ice age when most of Essex (but not all) was covered by a great sheet of ice.  Curiously, the A12 tracks the edge of the ice sheet.  To the north the county to be was covered in ice and a chalky boulder clay created underneath.  Eventually this was to become very fertile farmland and consequently, relatively unwooded.

To the south was a different matter, with the pre-glacial landscape of London clay derived soils and hills of sandy clays still intact.  Superimposed with glacial outwash, wind blown loess and remnants of the ancient rivers Thames and Medway.

It was this geological landscape that led to the clusters of woodlands sitting atop of the hills.  Epping Forest is the classic example.

This linearity in woodland distribution means that as little as 150 miles of new wildlife corridors will connect most of these woodlands together.  If we do so, this will create a big green internet of interconnected woodlands – all talking with each other.  It is from this that The Big Green Internet project was born.

Along with the wildlife corridors the project aims to plant half a million hedgerow whips too (and secretly a million if we can).  At the end of this coming winter we will have planted 100,000 hedgerow whips and have connected the first ten woodlands.  It’s Epping Forest here we come.

If you would like to volunteer or support TBGI project please contact michael.wadham@gmail.com