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Assessing the ‘natural capital’ of Three Hagges Woodmeadow

The recreational and educational benefits of the woodmeadow at Escrick, North Yorkshire are at least two and a half times greater than the costs of creating and maintaining it, according to a report produced by The Economics for the Environment Consultancy Ltd (EftEC) on behalf of The Woodmeadow Trust.

The report, the first of its kind, measures the natural capital value of Three Hagges Woodmeadow. The woodmeadow has been developed in line with Professor Sir John Lawton’s call for ‘more, bigger, better and joined’ habitat networks.

The Woodmeadow Trust converted the former barley field into a woodmeadow ecosystem in 2012, by planting 10,000 native trees in a mosaic of coppice woodland and meadow. The project used ecological principles and low-tech land management methods to increase the variety of wildlife.  There are now 200 native plant species. The woodmeadow also supports insects, including pollinators, as well as songbirds and small mammals. Around 20% more insect species have been identified year on year.

Recreation and educational benefits have the scope to increase further or double. In addition carbon sequestration has improved. The woodmeadow will generate overall environmental and social benefits of between £15,000 - £20,000 a year over the entire life of the woodmeadow.

The Woodmeadow Trust has used techniques that are within the grasp of land managers everywhere.  The vision is that the Three Hagges Woodmeadow becomes the first of a series of community-based, grass roots projects that make Prof Sir John Lawton’s aims achievable. The Woodmeadow Trust has the data to show land managers and government that conservation makes economic sense. Careful design and management of nature can extend the value of a Forestry Commission grant.  The aim is to inspire a wood-meadow in every parish.

The study follows the Corporate Natural Capital Accounting framework, developed by eftec and others, for the independent Natural Capital Committee. The committee advises the Government on the sustainable use of England's countryside.