Biodiversity Action Plan for the National Cycle Network ... - Sustrans

Biodiversity Action Plan for the National Cycle Network ... - Sustrans

Biodiversity Action Plan for the

National Cycle Network

1st Edition

December 2007

Sustrans is the UK’s leading sustainable transport charity, working on practical projects so

people choose to travel in ways that benefit their health and the environment.


National Cycle Network Centre

2 Cathedral Square



Tel: 0117 926 8893

Registered Charity No. 326550

© Sustrans December 2007

Cover photo: Kennet and Avon Canal, National Cycle Network Route 4. Nick Turner/Sustrans

SustransBiodiversity Action Plan for the National Cycle Network (December 2007)



Executive Summary 6

1. Introduction to biodiversity in the UK 7

1.1 Description of biodiversity 7

1.2 The Earth Summit 7

1.3 The UK BAP Process 7

1.4 Local BAPs 7

2. Introduction to Sustrans 8

2.1 About Sustrans 8

2.2 Sustrans’ projects 8

2.3 Flagship project 9

3. Biodiversity commitment 12

3.1 Sustrans’ aims 12

3.2 Definition of sustainable development 12

3.3 ‘Think globally, act locally’ 12

3.4 Commitment to act locally 12

3.5 The National Cycle Network 12

4. Key activities and their impact on biodiversity 12

5. Sustrans’ partnerships 14

5.1 Sustrans’ partnerships 14

5.2 The National Cycle Network as an example of partnership 14

6. Objective of SustransBiodiversity Action Plan for the National Cycle

Network 16

6.1 Objective 16

6.2 Meeting this objective 16

SustransBiodiversity Action Plan for the National Cycle Network (December 2007)


7. Links with Local Biodiversity Action Plans 17

7.1 Local BAPs in the UK 17

7.2 Generic action plans 17

7.3 Other species 17

7.4 New species and habitat action plans and monitoring 17

7.5 Local BAP co-ordinators 17

7.6 Influencing the NCN 17

8. Monitoring, reviewing and reporting 18

8.1 Reviewing the BAP 18

8.2 Actions 18

8.3 The first review 18

8.4 Biodiversity Action Reporting System (BARS) 18

8.5 About BARS 18

9. Habitat Action Plans 19

9.1 Hedgerows 19

9.2 Lowland Calcareous Grasslands 20

9.3 Banks and verges 21

10. Species Action Plans 24

10.1 Birds 24

10.2 Bats Chiroptera 25

10.3 Badger Meles meles 27

10.4 Dormouse Muscardinus avellanarius 28

10.5 Slow worm Anguis fragilis 30

10.6 Great crested newt Triturus cristatus 31

10.7 Invertebrates 32

11. Survey objectives, methods and standards 34

11.1 Ecological surveys 34

11.2 Survey protocols 34

11.3 Survey times 34

11.4 Other species and habitats 34

11.5 Surveying timetable 34

SustransBiodiversity Action Plan for the National Cycle Network (December 2007)


12. Mitigation and enhancement measures for wildlife 35

12.1 Bridge and viaduct maintenance 35

12.2 Bat bricks 35

12.3 Bat and bird boxes 35

12.4 Log and vegetation piles 36

12.5 Lighting 36

12.6 Tree maintenance 36

12.7 Path surfaces 37

12.8 Stone walls 37

13. Controlling native and non-native invasive species 38

13.1 Native species 38

13.1.1 Bramble Rubus fruticosus 38

13.1.2 Common ragwort Senecio jacobaea 38

13.2 Non-native species 38

13.3 Japanese knotweed Fallopia japonica 39

13.4 Himalayan balsam Impatiens balsamifera 40

13.5 Giant hogweed Heracleum mantegazzianum 41

14. Education and understanding 43

14.1 The Sustrans website 43

14.2 Interpretation and leaflets 43

14.3 Staff training days 43

14.4 Information sheets 43

15. References 44

16. Glossary 45

17. Useful contacts and websites 46

Appendix 1 – Sustrans’ Ways for Wildlife Information Sheet 49

(published November 2000)

Appendix 2 – Phase 1 and 2 habitat survey methodology 53

SustransBiodiversity Action Plan for the National Cycle Network (December 2007)


Executive Summary

Biodiversity is a term used to describe the variety and richness of life on earth. It was a term

first used at the Rio Earth Summit in 1992 where over 150 countries pledged to protect and

enhance biological diversity.

The UK Biodiversity Partnership Standing Committee is steering the UK Biodiversity

Partnership, which to date has produced six volumes of national Species Action Plans

(SAPs) and Habitat Action Plans (HAPs). The plans set out very clear objectives and targets.

For this process to work effectively it has to be implemented at different levels. Therefore

Local Biodiversity Action Plans (LBAPs) have been developed, and more recently

organisations are producing their own BAPs.

SustransBiodiversity Action Plan for the National Cycle Network, or Sustrans’ NCN BAP, is

Sustrans’ commitment to biodiversity along its ever-growing network of cycling and walking

routes. The Network comprises linear features that act as wildlife corridors linking habitats

and species which would otherwise be isolated from each other.

Sustrans would like to acknowledge the work of drafting this document by Michael Woods

Associates. It is a working document that has been reviewed by Dr Ant Maddock of the

Joint Nature Conservation Committee on behalf of the Biodiversity Reporting and

Information Group (BRIG) which advises the UK Biodiversity Partnership and will be

reviewed and updated every five years.

The Sustrans NCN BAP highlights the organisation’s commitment to promoting sustainable

forms of transportation while also protecting and enhancing wildlife and the natural


The Sustrans NCN BAP includes Habitat Action Plans for hedgerows, lowland calcareous

grasslands and banks and verges and Species Action Plans for bats, badger, dormouse,

slow worm and great crested newt. There are also generic action plans for birds and


The Sustrans NCN BAP includes information on the recommended survey techniques and

the recommended methods for treating invasive species.

SustransBiodiversity Action Plan for the National Cycle Network (December 2007)


1. Introduction to biodiversity in the UK

1.1 Biodiversity is a term used to describe the variety and richness of all living things. The

term encompasses all life forms, and includes both the genetic variation within

species, the interactions between species and the relationships between species and

their habitats. Biodiversity is the shortened form of two words "biological" and

"diversity." The Convention on Biological Diversity defines biological diversity as “the

variability among living organisms from all sources including, inter alia, terrestrial,

marine and other aquatic ecosystems and the ecological complexes of which they are

part; this includes diversity within species, between species and of ecosystems”.

1.2 The United Kingdom was one of over 100 countries that pledged to develop a

national strategy for the conservation and sustainable use of Biological Diversity at

the UN Conference on Environment and Development at the Earth Summit in Rio de

Janeiro in 1992. The UK Government was also one of the first signatories to the

Convention to produce a biodiversity strategy and action plan in January 1994 –

Biodiversity: The UK Action Plan’ (HMSO 1994).

1.3 The Government has taken a lead in setting the approach for biodiversity

conservation, but in order to succeed, action needs to be taken at all levels and in all

sectors of the community. The UK Biodiversity BAP process is being steered by the

UK Biodiversity Partnership Standing Committee, which replaced the UK Biodiversity

Group (UKBG) in 2002. The Chairs of the four country Biodiversity Groups,

representatives of the four country nature conservation agencies and representatives

of the NGO community are standing members. Two support groups have been set up

to help the Standing Committee. These are the UK Biodiversity Reporting and

Information Group (BRIG) and the UK Biodiversity Research Advisory Group (BRAG).

1.4 There are over 150 Local BAPs in use throughout the UK, each with targeted actions.

Each LBAP is based on partnerships that identify local priorities and determine the

contribution they can make to the delivery of the national species and habitat action

plan targets. Often, but not always, LBAPs conform to county boundaries. A healthy

natural environment benefits everyone, and biodiversity conservation has an

important part to play in this.

SustransBiodiversity Action Plan for the National Cycle Network (December 2007)


2. Introduction to Sustrans

2.1 About Sustrans

2.1.1 Sustrans is the UK's leading sustainable transport charity. Our vision is a world in

which people choose to travel in ways that benefit their health and the environment.

We are the charity behind the National Cycle Network, Safe Routes to Schools, Bike

It, Liveable Neighbourhoods, TravelSmart and many other projects that are working

everyday on practical and innovative solutions to transport challenges.

2.1.2 Sustrans was started in 1977 by a group of Bristol environmentalists, who set up a

cycling group called Cyclebag. Within two years the group began a programme of

building cycle routes, which has continued unabated for nearly 30 years.

2.1.3 After 15 years’ experience of building paths, Sustrans began to capture the public

imagination and launched a Supporter Programme. Supporter numbers rose from

200 in 1993 to 40,000 in 2005. By 1995 Sustrans was in a position to make a realistic

bid to the Millennium Commission for Lottery funds to help construct the National

Cycle Network. The original bid was for a 6,500-mile network by 2005 with 2,500

miles of routes built by the year 2000. The enthusiasm for the project shown by local

authorities all over the country has since increased this total to 12,000 miles.

2.1.4 The bid was successful and Sustrans was awarded £43.5 million. Although this is a

huge amount, it only represented 20% of the total costs of the first phase of the

project. The remainder came from a variety of sources including local authorities,

development agencies, the European Union, the Highways Agency, the cycle trade

and industry, and from generous contributions from Sustrans Supporters.

2.2 Sustrans’ projects

2.2.1 Sustrans works on a range of practical and innovative projects that allow people to

choose to travel in healthy and environmentally friendly ways, as well as contributing

towards wider regional and national government policies and objectives. These

projects are summarised on page 9.

SustransBiodiversity Action Plan for the National Cycle Network (December 2007)



National Cycle Network

Safe Routes to Schools




Bike It

Art and the Travelling


Volunteer Rangers

Active Travel

Research and


General Description

A comprehensive network of safe and attractive places to cycle

and walk throughout the UK. Sustrans delivers the Network with

many partners and 12,000 miles of route are now open. Sustrans

has a range of services to help people to get the most from the

Network. We provide a free public information service, produce

high quality maps and guides, commission public artworks on

the routes and run a national volunteer programme, with nearly

2000 volunteer rangers looking after and helping to promote their

local routes. In 2002, we were awarded the Queen’s Award for

Enterprise in recognition of our work on the National Cycle

Network. In 2005 the project won the National Lottery ‘Helping

Hands Award’, decided by public vote for the lottery project with

greatest national impact.

Sustrans pioneered this initiative in the UK, working with schools

to make cycling and walking to school both safe and fun.

Sustrans has also built hundreds of Links to Schools from the

National Cycle Network, giving children traffic-free routes and

parents peace of mind.

Updating city living for the 21 st century by putting people at the

heart of their community. Places where children can play safely,

people can shop locally, with plenty of open and public spaces

accessible to all.

Pioneered by Sustrans in the UK, offering a unique service that

gives households the tailor-made information they need to walk,

cycle and use public transport more.

We know that millions of children want to cycle to school in this

country - yet only 1% do. Sustrans has stepped in to sort this out

with Bike It, a ground-breaking project which has already

quadrupled the number of children cycling to its target schools.

Sustrans believes getting children to start cycling now is the key

to the future of sustainable transport.

Creating more memorable journeys on the National Cycle

Network by commissioning quality public artworks, from

sculptures through seats and drinking fountains, creating public

spaces that can be appreciated by all.

Nearly 2000 volunteers across the UK working with their

communities on major Sustrans projects.

Persuading government to promote walking and cycling as a way

of combating obesity, heart disease and cancer.

National monitoring programme which collects data from around

the UK and uses this to produce an annual report on cycle usage

around the UK. This has been a powerful tool in showing that

cycling has been growing over recent years, particularly on carfree

routes. The data is produced mostly from automatic

counters managed by local authorities and is supplemented with

manual counts.

2.3 Flagship project

2.3.1 Sustrans is working to establish and promote a National Cycle Network in the United

Kingdom. The Network so far consists of some 12,000 miles of cycle routes passing

through the centres of most major towns and cities in the UK and within one mile of

over 50% of the UK’s population. It serves the urban areas, provides access to the

SustransBiodiversity Action Plan for the National Cycle Network (December 2007)


countryside for local journeys, and creates a regional network connecting settlements

along its way. Approximately one-third is traffic free and the rest on traffic-calmed

minor town and country roads. Traffic-free sections provide a suitable place for

children and new cyclists to practice their skills. Many routes are also used by

walkers, wheelchair users and, in some cases, horse riders. The project reaches all

parts of the UK, benefits all sectors of society and has both a local and national


2.3.2 The concept of cycling and walking as a method of sustainable transport was

accorded national recognition in 1995 when the National Cycle Network became the

first major, and truly national, project to gain the support of the Millennium

Commission. Working in conjunction with Local Authorities and others to implement

the practical work, Sustrans oversees the co-ordination, design and standards of the

overall project.

2.3.3 The majority of the Network uses pre-existing paths or linear features of one sort or

another, with very few completely new routes being created. A very small proportion,

less than 15% of the entire Network, will require new construction. Many paths use

disused railway lines and include restoration of some of their unimproved grassland

embankments and cuttings. Over a typical length of disused railway, a 2.5 metre wide

path will utilise under 10% of the area. This minimises the environmental impact of

the Network, particularly from the construction process, and the disturbance to local

wildlife that is often already accustomed to human activity.

2.3.4 The National Cycle Network, and in particular the traffic-free sections, comprises

linear features that act as wildlife corridors linking habitats and species which would

otherwise be isolated from each other. Further investigation into the use of the cycle

and walking routes by wildlife would be valuable and Sustrans is involved in a number

of research projects including the use of bridges along cycle routes by foraging bats.

The Network also forms a valuable resource for nature education, and Sustrans aims

to increase cyclists’ and walkers’ enjoyment of nature along the Network by

enhancing habitat for wildlife, and through interpretation where possible. For sensitive

sites, management plans are being produced to protect and enhance the route for

wildlife as well as for users. These include short-term maintenance e.g. cutting

regimes and timing, and longer-term management e.g. embankments and cuttings,

bramble, hedgerows, etc. which incorporate maximising wildlife interest. The

Sustrans NCN BAP is just one of a number of initiatives that Sustrans is developing to

maximise the wildlife potential along its routes. Sustrans produces a series of

information sheets, one of which, ‘Ways for Wildlife – wildlife, cycle paths and traffic’,

is specifically targeted at the value of traffic-free cycle routes to wildlife. A copy of

this leaflet can be found in Appendix 1.

SustransBiodiversity Action Plan for the National Cycle Network (December 2007)


2.3.5 Map of National Cycle Network

SustransBiodiversity Action Plan for the National Cycle Network (December 2007)


3. Biodiversity commitment

3.1 Sustrans aims to encourage people to choose to travel in ways that benefit their

health and the environment. The Network is a positive demonstration of the UK’s

commitment to sustainability.

3.2 A widely used and accepted international definition of sustainable development is:

“development which meets the needs of the present without compromising the ability

of future generations to meet their own needs” 1 . Sustrans considers that a policy of

continuous reduction in vehicular travel is central to this goal and should be an

objective of all environmental groups and organisations. This, in turn, helps the

Government fulfil its commitments under the Rio Convention and really does enable

people to ‘Think globally, act locally’.

3.3 Reflecting this commitment to act locally, Sustrans seeks to minimise the impacts on

wildlife and its habitats during expansion of the National Cycle Network. Sustrans

recognises the importance of its traffic-free paths as wildlife habitats and corridors to

help reduce isolation and fragmentation. They also offer potential for educating the

public about local wildlife and geology. In constructing and managing paths and

routes for which it is responsible, Sustrans will aspire to do this with high biodiversity

and geological gain as an objective, using the framework provided by the Biodiversity

Action Plan.

3.4 In June 2007 a new list of UK priorities was identified, covering 65 habitats and 1149

species. By early 2008 all of these priority habitats and species will have national

action plans. The LBAPs identify local priorities and determine the contribution they

will make to the delivery of the national targets contained in the UK BAP. As the

Sustrans Network covers the whole of the UK, it will need to consider a total of 162

Local Biodiversity Action Plans. Therefore partnerships will play a vital part in the

successful implementation of the Sustrans BAP.

3.5 The National Cycle Network can be found throughout the UK. As the Network

consists of a series of linear features, the actions set out in the habitat and species

action plans reflect this.

4. Key activities and their impact on biodiversity


Encourage shift from private car use to


15% of routes of National Cycle Network will

require new-build tracks while other linear

features with no current public use (but often

with wildlife value) will require conversion


Reduce negative environmental impacts of

road traffic (air pollution, health and safety,

threats to wildlife)

Disturbance to local wildlife and limited

direct loss of habitat (addressed below)

1 World Commission on Environment and Development’s (the Brundtland Commission) report Our Common Future (Oxford: Oxford

University Press, 1987)

SustransBiodiversity Action Plan for the National Cycle Network (December 2007)


On-going key action plan items and how these make a positive contribution

Proposed Action

Continue liaison with conservation

organisations (Natural England, Countryside

Council for Wales, Scottish Natural Heritage &

Environment Heritage Service Northern Ireland)

and expertise, i.e. retain ecological consultant

to provide advice

Action to minimise impact of building new

cycle routes:

Contribution to biodiversity

Increase awareness and knowledge of

biodiversity and raise environmental


Ecological surveys of areas of proposed

paths (e.g. those running through/close to

SSSIs etc.)

Reduce threats and impacts to habitats and


Sensitive siting of new routes

Contracts to include environmental

responsibilities (general as well as

mitigation of construction impacts)

Improve environmental performance of


Assess the use of recycled or local

materials as far as appropriate in


Reduce impacts on biodiversity from

extraction & supply of natural resources

Use of tarmac as a path surface Provides a long lasting smooth surface and

reduces detrimental impacts of repeated

repairs which can affect adjacent habitats

and increase extraction

Appropriate screening of cycle routes at

sensitive points taking into account the

need for attractive and interesting views

Work to enhance/protect biodiversity along

National Cycle Network routes:

Produce management plans for specific

routes (those passing through sensitive

areas (e.g. SSSIs) or those used by priority


Conserve and enhance biodiversity

Sensitive maintenance of routes e.g.

wildlife friendly mowing regimes,

enhancement of on-site ditches for wildlife,

maintaining arboreal routes and enhancing

hedgerows, etc.

Support Rangers’ maintenance work on

routes (e.g. training by retained ecological

expert, articles on enhancing routes for

wildlife in the Ranger newsletter, etc.); work

with local wildlife trusts and other groups

Control invasive alien species such as

Japanese knotweed, Giant hogweed and

Himalayan balsam

Provide, where possible, wildlife and/or

geological interpretation of interesting


Promote biodiversity awareness and

knowledge to improve management of routes

Promote biodiversity awareness and

appreciation of nature by users of paths

SustransBiodiversity Action Plan for the National Cycle Network (December 2007)


5. Sustrans’ partnerships

5.1.1 Sustrans currently has active relationships with over 2,000 partners in the UK alone.

In nearly all its work, Sustrans tries to maximise the effectiveness of its activities by

not only creating new routes and projects itself, but by getting other bodies to jointly

or independently fund similar schemes. Sustrans sees the successful implementation

of the Sustrans NCN BAP as an ideal opportunity to expand opportunities for

partnership working.

5.1.2 Sustrans has direct management control over the (approx.) 400 miles of traffic-free

paths that it owns. Sustrans is also responsible for maintaining additional traffic-free

sections owned by other authorities. In the first instance, The Sustrans NCN BAP will

be implemented on sections of Network which Sustrans owns. However, it is

Sustrans’ aspiration that biodiversity will be maximised on all sections of traffic-free


5.2 The National Cycle Network as an example of partnership

5.2.1 The National Cycle Network is a partnership par excellence - hundreds of different

bodies are involved. Most important among these are local authorities in their

commitments to local route sections, the Department for Transport, the Scottish

Government, the Welsh Assembly Government, the Department for Regional

Development for Northern Ireland and the Highways Agency.

5.2.2 Disused railway routes and links to working stations have been developed in

partnership with Network Rail, BRB Residency Ltd, Regional Development Agencies,

the Welsh Development Agency, the Railway Heritage Trust and several rail operating


5.2.3 Forest route sections rely on the support of Forest Enterprise and the Forest Service

in Northern Ireland. Countryside sections involve Natural England, Countryside

Council for Wales, Scottish Natural Heritage, Woodland Trust and Central Scotland

Countryside Trust, amongst others. National Parks (a Memorandum of Understanding

between Sustrans and the National Parks Transport Officers Group was signed in the

summer of 2005), tourist bodies and wildlife and heritage organisations are also

critical for progress. Sustrans has worked closely with the Lee Valley Park,

Snowdonia and Brecon Beacons National Parks, Northumberland National Park, and

the Wildfowl & Wetlands Trust. Besides supporting local Network sections, the

National Trust, Cadw and English Heritage are also encouraging sustainable travel to

heritage sites.

5.2.4 British Waterways has developed positive policies on towpath cycling for links that

are critical for Network continuity. The Environment Agency and several local canal

trusts are also involved. Sustrans has a close partnership with the Groundwork Trust

who has built several sections of the National Cycle Network.

5.2.5 The CTC (Cyclists Touring Club) and the British Cycling Federation have become

closer working partners, and the London Cycling Campaign and dozens of other local

cycling campaigns are involved. Sustrans is working more closely with the Ramblers’

SustransBiodiversity Action Plan for the National Cycle Network (December 2007)


Association, the British Horse Society, the National Federation of Anglers, the

Pedestrians Association and the Joint Mobility Unit.

5.2.6 Sustrans will expand this partnership by linking into LBAPs where possible to ensure

that as well as meeting its own targets, local targets are incorporated and the LBAP

co-ordinator is aware that this is happening.

SustransBiodiversity Action Plan for the National Cycle Network (December 2007)


6. Objective of SustransBiodiversity Action Plan for the National Cycle


6.1 Sustrans is an organisation committed to the promotion of sustainable transport, but

also realises that there is a delicate balance between the creation of safe routes and

the conservation of biodiversity. Sustrans’ NCN BAP has one objective:

“To provide a series of safe and enjoyable routes that promote sustainable forms of

transportation, while ensuring that the biodiversity along the Network is enhanced and

protected, within the constraints of safety and resources”.

6.2 Sustrans will meet this objective by:

Developing partnerships

Educating staff

Providing information for users

Ensuring biodiversity aims are included in management plans for land managed

by Sustrans

Seeking additional funding to meet these additional objectives.

SustransBiodiversity Action Plan for the National Cycle Network (December 2007)


7. Links with Local Biodiversity Action Plans

7.1 Sustrans will, where possible, develop partnerships to implement local BAP targets,

as well as those set out in this document.

7.2 It is not practical for Sustrans’ NCN BAP to cover every possible species and habitat

found along the Network. To ensure that the targets are achievable and, therefore,

that the BAP can be implemented it has been decided to produce generic action

plans for birds and invertebrates, rather than list actions for individual species. The

BAP also concentrates on those species and habitats most commonly found along its

length, some of which are not a UK priority.

7.3 This does not mean that other species and habitats found along the Network will be

ignored, it simply means that the species and habitats listed will be promoted and

monitored through Sustrans’ on-going programme of works.

7.4 New species and habitat action plans can be added at the five-year review and will

be influenced by changes to the UK BAP as well as new records and information

about biodiversity along the Network.

7.5 When operating on a project, Sustrans will contact the Local Biodiversity Action Plan

co-ordinator for advice and ideas on how the planned works can assist in the

implementation of that particular LBAP. Nature conservation issues will be

incorporated from the earliest stages of project development as part of the decisionmaking


7.6 Sustrans does not manage all the paths that it develops, so the Sustrans NCN BAP

will be used to advise the decision-making process and influence the future

management of paths that make up the NCN.

SustransBiodiversity Action Plan for the National Cycle Network (December 2007)


8. Monitoring, reviewing and reporting

8.1 The Sustrans NCN BAP is a working document. It will be reviewed every five years. At

this review stage new Habitat and Species Action Plans can be considered for

inclusion. This will be subject to changes at a UK level, as well as information from

internal sources (e.g. management plans, ecological surveys).

8.2 Actions will also be monitored for progress. If actions have been completed, these

can then be removed or updated. HAPs and SAPs can also be removed at this stage,

should this be necessary.

8.3 The first review is scheduled to take place in 2012.

8.4 Once the actions have been reviewed, their progress will be reported on the

Biodiversity Action Reporting System (BARS) and survey data sent to the National

Biodiversity Network (NBN).

8.5 BARS is an information system that supports the planning, monitoring and reporting

requirements of national, local and company Biodiversity Action Plans (BAPs). It also

allows users to learn about the progress being made with local and national BAPs.

Using this system allows the progress of Sustrans’ NCN BAP to be monitored quickly

and efficiently, without the need of developing a new system (

SustransBiodiversity Action Plan for the National Cycle Network (December 2007)


9. Habitat Action Plans

9.1 Hedgerows

9.1.1 Description

A hedgerow is defined as any boundary line of trees or shrubs over 20m long and less

than 5m wide at the base, provided that at one time the trees or shrubs were more or

less continuous. It includes an earth bank or wall only where such a feature occurs in

association with a line of trees or shrubs. This includes ‘classic’ shrubby hedgerows,

lines of trees, shrubby hedgerows with trees and very gappy hedgerows (where each

shrubby section may be less than 20m long, but the gaps are less than 20m).

Priority hedgerows should be those comprising 80% or more cover of any native

tree/shrub species. This does not include archaeophytes and sycamore. For the

purposes of the UK BAP ‘native’ will not be defined further; it will be left up to the

Countries to provide guidance on this as they consider appropriate.

Hedges are not just important for biodiversity, but are also recognisable landscape

features, act as boundaries in farming and are important for cultural, historical and

archaeological reasons.

They are a primary habitat for at least 47 extant species of conservation concern in

the UK, including 13 globally threatened or rapidly declining ones. They are especially

important for butterflies and moths, farmland birds, bats and dormice. Over 600 plant

species, 1500 insects, 65 birds and 20 mammals have been recorded at some time

living or feeding in hedgerows.

Hedgerows also act as wildlife corridors for many species, including bats, reptiles

and amphibians, allowing dispersal and movement between other habitats.

9.1.2 Optimum survey time

According to Defra’s ‘Hedgerow Survey Handbook’ (published March 2007), “the field

survey period extends approximately from April to October, depending on the part of

the country. June and July are ideal months, particularly where surveys include

assessments of the ground flora. Local hedgerow management practices are also


9.1.3 Current status

Hedgerows are a UK BAP Priority Habitat. The current total length of hedgerow in the

UK is estimated at 280,000 miles. Hedgerows continue to decline through lack of

survey work or unsympathetic management of the adjacent land and of the

hedgerows themselves.

9.1.4 Legislation

Certain hedgerows are protected under the Hedgerow Regulations 1997, which were

made under the Environment Act 1995 in England and Wales. These Regulations

prevent the removal of most countryside hedgerows without first submitting a

hedgerow removal notice to the Local Planning Authority. In Scotland and Northern

Ireland there is no specific legislation for the protection of hedgerows, as there are

SustransBiodiversity Action Plan for the National Cycle Network (December 2007)


fewer found in Scotland and Northern Ireland compared to the rest of the United


9.1.5 Current factors affecting the habitat

Removal of hedges for development or agricultural purposes.

Inappropriate cutting, either at the wrong time of year or too frequently.

Changes in hedgerow management. Hedges are no longer cut or laid, and many

are simply replaced by fencing.

Too frequent and badly timed cutting leading to poor habitat conditions, the

development of gaps and probable species changes.

Use of herbicides, pesticides and fertilisers right up to the bases of hedgerows

leading to nutrient enrichment and a decline in species diversity.

Increased stocking rates, which leads to hedgerow damage.

9.1.6 Actions

Ensure that all work adjacent to hedgerows encourages the retention and

favourable management of ancient and/or species-rich hedgerows.

Encourage favourable management of ancient and/or species-rich path side

hedges, especially with regard to cutting practices.

Consider the development of hedge management skills through training,

especially for contractors and volunteer Rangers.

Ensure management plans promote the protection and management of hedges

and seek to minimise adverse effects on hedges from developing the Network.

Continue to promote awareness among staff of the need for appropriate

management to maintain biodiversity.

9.2 Lowland Calcareous Grasslands

9.2.1 Description

These develop on shallow lime-rich soils, generally found overlying limestone rocks,

including chalk. They are mainly found on distinct topographic features such as

escarpments or dry valley slopes and sometimes on ancient earthworks in

landscapes influenced by the underlying limestone geology. They may also develop in

situations where alkaline rock has been exposed, for example in quarries and road

cuttings, and even on industrial spoil such as flue-ash or railway ballast.

9.2.2 Optimum survey time

June and July.

9.2.3 Current status

Calcareous Grassland is a UK BAP Priority Habitat. It is estimated that lowland

calcareous grasslands have declined by approximately 50% in the last 50 years.

9.2.4 Current factors affecting the habitat

Agricultural intensification by use of fertilisers, herbicides and other pesticides, reseeding

or ploughing for arable crops.

Farm specialisation towards arable cropping has reduced the availability of

livestock in many lowland areas. The result is the increasing dominance of coarse

SustransBiodiversity Action Plan for the National Cycle Network (December 2007)


grasses such as tor grass Brachypodium pinnatum and false oat grass

Arrhenatherum elatius and invasion by scrub and woodland, leading to losses of

calcareous grassland flora and fauna.

Development activities such as mineral and rock extraction, road building, housing

and landfill.

Localised afforestation with hardwoods and softwoods.

Recreational pressure bringing about floristic changes associated with soil

compaction at some key sites.

Invasion by non-native plants, including bird-sown Cotoneaster species, causes

problems by smothering calcareous grassland communities at some sites.

Atmospheric pollution and climate change, the influence of which is not fully


9.2.5 Actions

Encourage appropriate public access for observation and enjoyment of lowland

calcareous grassland.

Reduce invasion by scrub and trees.

Use appropriate cutting methods and regimes to benefit the grassland.

9.3 Banks and verges

9.3.1 Description

There are many thousands of miles of banks and verges throughout the UK

associated with roads and railways (both used and disused). These verges can take

the form of hedges and banks, all of which represent small linear areas of seminatural

habitat, and collectively are an important natural resource. Banks and verges

can often support species rich grasslands, mixed scrub, woodlands, and, along

disused railways, calcareous grasslands. They can provide an important habitat and

food source for a wide variety of species, from badgers and bats to butterflies and

orchids. Banks and verges are also very important wildlife corridors, allowing a huge

variety of species to commute along them, and therefore link up other habitats.

Habitats likely to be encountered on banks and verges along the Sustrans Network

are described below.


The biodiversity of the grassland found along a verge will depend on the

maintenance regime that is employed. Cutting too early in a season can prevent

many species flowering and setting seed, so removing an important food resource

for birds and insects. Late cutting is often the preferred method as this

encourages annual and late perennials to grow, so increasing the biodiversity. In

many cases it is important to remove the cuttings as otherwise these will increase

the nutrients in the area, so changing the flora of the area. As a general guide,

most grasslands should be cut once in September, with the cuttings

removed/raked into habitat piles.


Woodland edges provide excellent habitats for a range of species including bats,

dormice and a wide variety of birds and butterflies.

SustransBiodiversity Action Plan for the National Cycle Network (December 2007)


Hedgerows (see above action plan)

A hedgerow that contains a good variety of trees and shrubs can provide food and

shelter for a huge variety of animals including birds, mammals and insects.

Hedges are also important as wildlife corridors, allowing species to commute

between habitats. They need to be maintained in a sympathetic way that will

improve the biodiversity found within them.


It is an important component of the landscape and a natural part of other habitats

such as grassland and woodland. It provides shelter and food a variety of species

including birds, mammals and invertebrates. Scrub of varying age, species and

structure supports the widest variety of wildlife. Some species require particular

shrubs and others a range of habitats in a small patch of scrub. It is important to

maintain all growth stages, from bare ground through young and old growth to

decaying wood.

Scrub needs regular maintenance to ensure that it does not dominate an area,

and so reduce the overall biodiversity. Bramble is very important but can be a

particular problem. With regular cutting it can be kept in check (see section


9.3.2 Optimum survey time

April, May, June and July, depending on the habitat.

9.3.3 Current status

Banks are not currently a UK BAP priority habitat in their own right (though field

banks maybe included as such in the next review and roadside verges will be

recognised within relevant grassland priority habitat types). However, many of the

habitats found along banks and verges are priority habitats. Banks and verges are

probably one of the most widespread habitats throughout the UK. If managed

properly they can be a valuable resource with a huge potential for enhancement.

9.3.4 Status in relation to Sustrans

Banks and verges will be found in varying forms throughout the National Cycle

Network, ranging from hedgerows to grasslands and woodland to scrub.

9.3.5 Legislation

Although the banks and verges themselves have no protection, some of the habitats

found along them may be protected. They are a very valuable resource along the

Sustrans Network and one that Sustrans can enhance through its regular

maintenance regime.

9.3.6 Current factors affecting the habitat

Neglect through mismanagement both through over cutting and undercutting.

Lack of appreciation of the importance as a habitat.

Invasion by non-native species e.g. Japanese knotweed (see section 13.3).

9.3.7 Actions

Education about the importance of banks and verges as a habitat.

Encourage appropriate public access for observation and enjoyment of banks and


SustransBiodiversity Action Plan for the National Cycle Network (December 2007)


Contribute to the implementation of relevant priority species and habitat action

plans, through the integration of management requirements and advice, in

conjunction with relevant LBAP partnerships.

Control any patches of alien plant species along the Network including Japanese

knotweed, Himalayan balsam and giant hogweed (see section 13).

Banks and verges that are of poor quality will be improved.

SustransBiodiversity Action Plan for the National Cycle Network (December 2007)


10. Species Action Plans

10.1 Birds

10.1.1 Description

Birds are one of the most common wildlife species that people have regular contact

with. Many of the once familiar British birds are now in serious decline.

10.1.2 Optimum survey time

The birds themselves can be surveyed for at any time. However, the most important

time of the year to carry out a thorough bird survey would be during the nesting

season which begins in early March and continues through to late August. As it is the

nests that are protected, it is essential to identify any possible nesting sites, as this

may affect the timing of works along routes.

10.1.3 Current status

Many of Britain’s bird species are in decline, including ‘common’ species such as the

house sparrow and starling, which are both now UK BAP priority species.

10.1.4 Status in relation to Sustrans

Birds can be encountered along the entire length of Sustrans routes. Species found

will be dependent on the adjacent habitat and the time of year.

10.1.5 Legislation

All British birds, their nests and eggs (with certain exceptions) are protected under

Section 1 of the Wildlife & Countryside Act 1981 as amended. This makes it an

offence to:

Intentionally kill, injure or take any wild bird.

Intentionally damage or destroy the nest of any wild bird while that nest is in use

or being built.

Intentionally take or destroy the egg of any wild bird.

Possess or control any live or dead wild bird or any part of, or anything derived

from a wild bird, or an egg or any part of the same.

Offences against Schedule 1 species carry special penalties if convicted. Schedule 1

is, however, divided into two parts – birds included within part I are specially

protected at all times; and those species listed in part II are protected by the same

penalties but only within the closed season (1 February – 31 August).

10.1.6 Current factors affecting this species

Loss of nesting habitat

A reduction in available food sources


10.1.7 Actions

Breeding bird surveys to be carried out before the building of a new path.

Where possible, the use of sympathetic hedgerow management (e.g. hedge

laying, coppicing, gapping up, replanting and less trimming) will be employed and


SustransBiodiversity Action Plan for the National Cycle Network (December 2007)


Where planting is required in hedges, native seed and berry bearing species will

be used to benefit the local bird population.

Where appropriate, information on the local bird life will be included in any


10.2 Bats Chiroptera

10.2.1 Description

There are sixteen species of bat recorded as breeding in the UK. They utilise a wide

variety of structures, both natural and man-made for roosting, including trees,

buildings and bridges. All need warm breeding sites in the summer and cool,

undisturbed hibernation sites in the winter.

10.2.2 Optimum survey time

Although bats can be surveyed for throughout the year, the optimum time is from

April through to early October as this is when they are most active. It is important to

remember that bats hibernate throughout the winter and they should not be disturbed

when in their hibernation roosts as this may cause them to use up valuable energy

reserves. See the table below for more information on when and where different bat

species may be encountered throughout the year.

10.2.3 Current status

Their current status and known distribution is summarised in the table below.














Myotis brandtii


Myotis nattereri











Nyctalus noctula









Trees and



Trees and



Trees and





Caves, mines,


Caves, mines

and cellars

Caves, tunnels

and mines

Caves, tunnels

and mines

Caves, mines

and cellars

Feeding habitat Distribution Status

Pasture and seminatural


Deciduous woodland

Parkland, woodland

and gardens

Parkland, woodland

and gardens

Tree canopies

Trees Trees Closed canopy






and trees

Caves, mines

and ice




Over water

Pasture, parkland

and along woodland


Parkland, pasture,

woodland and water

South west

England and west


South west

England and


England, Wales

and South


North and west




South and west

England and




Central, south and

south east


England, Wales

and southern








Very rare






SustransBiodiversity Action Plan for the National Cycle Network (December 2007)



Nyctalus leisleri
















Brown longeared



Grey long-eared



Trees Trees Open habitat, over

water or pasture





Buildings or


Buildings or


Woodland, grassland

and over water

Habitats over water

South and east

England, rare in






Unknown Unknown Unknown Throughout


Trees Trees Hedgerows and




and barns



and barns

Caves and


Caves and



Grassland and

woodland edges

England and




Southern England

Rare, but









Very rare

10.2.4 Status in relation to Sustrans

Bats could be encountered feeding, roosting and commuting along the entire length

of the Sustrans Network. It is likely that the Sustrans Network provides important

commuting routes for bats. Many bat species roost in bridges, tunnels and other

similar structures. It is therefore important that the appropriate survey work be carried

out before work occurs on such structures.

10.2.5 Legislation

In England, Scotland and Wales, all bat species are fully protected under the Wildlife

and Countryside Act 1981 as amended, and the Conservation (Natural Habitats, &c.)

Regulations 1994. All bat species are listed on Appendix III of the Bonn Convention

and all except the common and soprano pipistrelles are included on Appendix II of

the Bern Convention.

10.2.6 Current factors affecting the species

Loss of suitable breeding and hibernation sites.

Loss of feeding habitats.

Reduction in prey availability due to unsympathetic farming practices.

Increase in predation by cats.

10.2.7 Actions

Carry out surveys along proposed new routes prior to development, with

particular emphasis on structures which may be used for roosting e.g. bridges and


Use bat boxes along routes where applicable.

Participate in the National Monitoring Schemes (BCT).

Further research into the importance of feeding under bridges along the Network.

Research into the use of the Network as commuting corridors for bats.

Research the use of bridges, tunnels and other structures along the Network by

roosting bats.

Information about bats to be included in interpretation where appropriate.

SustransBiodiversity Action Plan for the National Cycle Network (December 2007)


10.3 Badger Meles meles

10.3.1 Description

The badger is probably Britain’s most well known mammal, with its distinctive black

and white face markings making it impossible to confuse. Badgers are nocturnal and

therefore rarely seen during the day. When inactive, badgers usually lie-up in a

system of underground tunnels and chambers known as a sett. They live in social

groups and each generally produces just one litter of two or three cubs in February.

Although rarely seen, badgers leave a wide variety of field signs including the sett,

which is recognised by having entrances approximately 300mm wide and 200mm

high, often with piles of soil outside them, ‘snuffle holes’ (holes dug by badgers when

searching for invertebrates), ‘dung pits’ (small pits in which they deposit their faeces)

and day nests (nests of bedding material made by badgers for sleeping above


10.3.2 Optimum survey time

Badgers can be surveyed for throughout the year, with the optimum time being

February/March when they are very territorially active and before the vegetation regrows,

which can make surveying difficult.

10.3.3 Current status

The badger has a widespread distribution throughout the UK. Although badger

populations are considered to be stable, various pressures have led to reductions in

local populations, and in some cases extinction from areas. Badgers are not a UK

BAP priority species.

10.3.4 Status in relation to Sustrans

Badgers may be encountered throughout the Sustrans Network. They particularly like

disused railway lines because these provide opportunities for badgers to dig setts in

dry, well-drained conditions.

10.3.5 Legislation

Badgers and their setts are protected by the Wildlife and Countryside Act 1981 as

amended and the Protection of Badgers Act 1992 against damage or destruction of a

sett or disturbance, death or injury to the badgers. The act defines a sett as “any

structure or place which displays signs indicating current use by a badger”. This

includes setts which appear unused at the time of the survey.

Penalties for disturbance include fines of up to £5,000 plus up to six months in

prison. Disturbance has been taken to include any digging activity or scrub clearance

within 10 metres, any work, especially digging, within 20 metres using a wheeled

machine up to the size of a JCB and any work within 30 metres by tracked vehicles or

very heavy machinery.

Licences to allow for the disturbance of badgers, and even the destruction of their

setts in certain circumstances, in relation to development are issued by the

Government’s statutory nature conservation agency (Natural England, Countryside

Council for Wales, Environment and Heritage Service Northern Ireland and Scottish

SustransBiodiversity Action Plan for the National Cycle Network (December 2007)


National Heritage). The applicant must be in possession of a certificate for full

planning permission before a licence application will be considered.

Licences to prevent serious damage to property and for the felling of trees are issued

by Natural England, the Welsh Assembly Government, Environment and Heritage

Service Northern Ireland and the Scottish Government respectively.

Both types of licence are only available between 1 July and 30 November. After that

date, the so-called closed season begins, when badgers are breeding, and no

disturbance is allowed except in genuine emergencies such as badgers digging under

roads or railways. It is understood that this restriction may be relaxed in some cases

where a sett is seasonal and badgers can be shown to be absent at the time of the


10.3.6 Current factors affecting the species

Loss of habitat due to development


Habitat fragmentation

Unsympathetic land management

10.3.7 Actions

Badger surveys will be undertaken along all new routes. These will extend 30m

beyond the proposed route as no disturbance can take place within 30m of a sett

entrance without the appropriate licenses.

Wherever possible, existing populations along routes will be monitored.

Information about badgers to be included in interpretation where appropriate.

10.4 Dormouse Muscardinus avellanarius

10.4.1 Description

The dormouse has gingery fur and is the only small mammal with a furry tail. It is a

strictly nocturnal animal, usually found in deciduous woodland and overgrown

hedgerows but also in scrub, especially bramble. It has a varied diet, feeding on nuts,

fruits, pollen, flowers and insects. Due to its secretive nature, sightings are very rare

and the most common sign that dormice are present is by finding the opened

remains of hazelnuts which the dormouse gnaws in a characteristic way. This survey

method only works where hazel is present and other techniques, such as nest tubes,

should be used in areas where dormice are known to be present but there are no

records on the land in question. Disused railway lines are especially important for

dormice, and they turn up on almost every former line in Devon for instance. During

the winter they hibernate generally between November and May.

A smooth circular cut with tiny radiating teeth marks

is the sign of the Dormouse

SustransBiodiversity Action Plan for the National Cycle Network (December 2007)


10.4.2 Optimum survey time

The optimum survey time coincides with the appearance of hazel nuts during

September and October. Early September is best, before the leaves fall from the trees

making searching more difficult. Tube surveys are carried out in the summer generally

between May and September.

10.4.3 Current status

The dormouse is a UK BAP priority species. It does not occur in Scotland or Northern

Ireland. In Wales there are an increasing number of known populations and in

England it has become extinct in up to 7 counties (comprising half its former range) in

the past 100 years. It is absent from the north, except for small populations in

Cumbria and Northumberland, and although dormice are still widespread in southern

counties (Cornwall to Kent), they are patchily distributed. Population densities

everywhere are less than 10 adults per hectare, even in good habitats.

10.4.4 Status in relation to Sustrans

The dormouse has limited distribution in relation to the Sustrans Network, but is most

likely to be encountered where routes are adjacent to hedgerows and woodland.

They also make good use of disused railway lines where these have become


10.4.5 Legislation

The dormouse is classified as ‘vulnerable, locally endangered’ (The Red Data book for

British Mammals) because of habitat loss. Consequently it is fully protected under

Schedule 5 of the Wildlife and Countryside Act 1981, as amended, which makes it an

offence to disturb, injure or kill a dormouse or obstruct or destroy any shelter or place

used by it for shelter and protection. The dormouse is also a European protected

species and is included in Schedule 2 of the Conservation (Natural Habitats, & c.)

Regulations 1994 and protected under Regulation 39. This implements EC Directive

92/43/EEC in the UK. It is listed in Appendix 3 of the Bonn Convention and Annex IVa

of the EC Habitats Directive. Furthermore it is a priority species in the UK Biodiversity

Action Plan (BAP). No licence is required under this legislation in order to carry out

minor habitat management, but one is needed if dormouse habitat is destroyed for

the purposes of development.

10.4.6 Current factors affecting this species

Changes in woodland management practice, notably cessation of hazel coppicing

and stock incursions into woodland.

Fragmentation of woodland and hedgerows, leaving isolated, non-viable

populations. (Short distances, possibly as little as 100m, form absolute barriers to

dispersal, unless arboreal routes are available).

10.4.7 Actions

Dormouse surveys will be carried out along new routes in areas deemed suitable.

Any populations found along routes will be monitored and any habitat

improvements felt beneficial will be carried out.

Sympathetic management of hedgerows and wherever possible arboreal

connectivity will be maintained along disused railway lines.

New planting should comprise fruit and berry bearing species listed in the

Dormouse Conservation Handbook.

SustransBiodiversity Action Plan for the National Cycle Network (December 2007)


Where appropriate, information on the dormouse is to be included in


10.5 Slow worm Anguis fragilis

10.5.1 Description

The slow worm is one of only three species of lizard found in the UK. It is unusual in

that it is legless, and is therefore often mistaken for a snake. Slow worms can be

distinguished from the British snakes by their smooth, cylindrical bodies which are

covered in very small scales. They can vary in colour from copper through to bronze

or dark brown, while juveniles tend to be gold.

Slow worms like well-vegetated areas, with good cover from predation, open areas

for basking and suitable places to hibernate such as stone walls and log piles. Like

many lizards, slow worms shed their tails when stressed, therefore if handling is

necessary, it should be done with the greatest care.

10.5.2 Optimum survey time

The optimum survey time is late March through to late September as slow worms

hibernate during the winter months.

10.5.3 Current Status

A UK BAP species. Although found through out the UK, slow worms seem to have

undergone a decline in recent years.

10.5.4 Status in relation to Sustrans

For a long time, railway lines have been well known for their slow worm populations

because they provide many of its favoured habitats with a variety of aspects in

cuttings and embankments. The slow worm may be encountered throughout the

Sustrans Network.

10.5.5 Legislation

Protected by Schedule 5a of the Wildlife and Countryside 1981 as amended. It is an

offence to carry out works which will be damaging to slow worms if it is suspected

that slow worms may be present.

10.5.6 Current Factors affecting the species

Loss of suitable habitat and hibernation sites

Persecution from humans

Predation by domestic cats

10.5.7 Actions

All future developments to require a survey.

Management techniques take into account its habitat requirements.

Artificial refuges and hibernacula to be provided where necessary.

Information about the slow worm to be included in interpretation where


SustransBiodiversity Action Plan for the National Cycle Network (December 2007)


10.6 Great crested newt Triturus cristatus

10.6.1 Description

The great crested newt is the UK’s largest newt, reaching an adult length of up to

170mm. The adult newt is easily distinguished from the other two native newts (the

smooth and palmate) by size and colouring. The skin of the adult newt is very

granular in appearance, with a black or dark brown colour and very fine white spots

on its lower flanks. The male has a jagged crest along its back and tail, although this

is less pronounced outside of the breeding season. Both sexes have a bright orange

or yellow belly that is covered in irregular black spots. On land both sexes appear

very black and the male’s crest is held against its body. Adults spend most of the

year on land, returning to water in early spring to breed. Eggs are laid on submerged

vegetation and, like all newt eggs, are distinctive in that the female encloses each egg

within a folded leaf of a water plant.

10.6.2 Optimum survey time

The optimum survey time for adult great crested newts is between late March and

September as this is when newts are out of hibernation. Great crested newts are very

difficult to survey on land, and breeding pond surveys are most successful. Although

they are known to travel up to 500 metres from their breeding pond, most do not

travel more than 100 metres and, for distances greater than 200-250 metres, capture

effort is hardly ever appropriate. The best time to carry out construction near to

breeding ponds is between mid-April and mid-August. Outside of those times, and

when the animals are not in hibernation, exclusion fencing along both sides of the

proposed path, will almost certainly be necessary. A search of records for great

crested newts in the local area is certainly a good first step.

10.6.3 Current status

The great crested newt is still quite widespread in Britain. It is locally common in parts

of England and Wales, but rare or absent in Devon and Cornwall. The British

population is amongst the largest in Europe, where it is threatened in several


10.6.4 Status in relation to Sustrans

Great crested newts could be encountered throughout the Network, but particularly

where the routes are close to a mosaic of habitats (woodland, grassland, ponds etc.).

The Network could prove particularly important as commuting corridors for newts.

10.6.5 Legislation

The great crested newt is listed on Annexes II and IV of the EC Habitats Directive and

Appendix II of the Bern Convention. It is protected under Schedule 2 of the

Conservation (Natural Habitats, etc.) Regulations, 1994, (Regulation 38) and Schedule

5 of the WCA 1981. It is a Priority species in the UK BAP.

10.6.6 Current factors affecting the species

Loss of suitable breeding ponds caused by water table reduction, in-filling for

development, agricultural changes, waste disposal, neglect or fish stocking and

the degradation, loss and fragmentation of terrestrial habitats.

Pollution and toxic effects of agrochemicals.

SustransBiodiversity Action Plan for the National Cycle Network (December 2007)


10.6.7 Actions

Survey all future projects with all results feeding into the Local BAP process, Local

Records Centre and national monitoring programme.

Investigate the use of the Network by newts as commuting corridors.

Where appropriate, artificial refuges and hibernacula will be provided.

Survey ponds adjacent to a proposed route for great crested newts to ensure that,

if they are present, appropriate measures are taken to protect them during the

path construction.

10.7 Invertebrates

10.7.1 Description

There are over 30,000 British invertebrates including such diverse groups as

butterflies, spiders and molluscs. They are found in a range of habitats, both

terrestrial and aquatic. Many invertebrates in Britain are insects and these include

beetles, flies, bees, wasps and ants, bugs, butterflies and moths, mayflies,

dragonflies and grasshoppers, in fact 25 totally different sorts (Orders). Related to

insects are other types of animals with jointed limbs (arthropods), such as spiders,

crayfish, water fleas, woodlice and millipedes.

10.7.2 Optimum survey time

Most species become more active through the spring and summer. Certain

taxonomic groups can only be surveyed within very specific timescales. Surveying for

invertebrates should involve someone with specialist knowledge.

10.7.3 Current status

Many invertebrate species are in decline and significant numbers of species are either

known to be extinct or feared to be. Of the 1149 priority species in the UK BAP, 411

of these are invertebrates.

10.7.4 Status in relation to Sustrans

Sites with a varied habitat structure usually contain a greater invertebrate interest.

Disused railway lines can form ideal habitat for invertebrates by offering a mosaic of

habitats including species-rich grassland, scrub and wetland, often with limited

disturbance over a number of years. Varied habitats contained in cuttings and on

embankments can provide an even wider range of conditions to suit many species of

invertebrates with differing requirements; both warmth and light, cool, damp shade,

shelter at several levels, a wide range of food plants, and bare ground suitable for

basking or use as nesting sites.

10.7.5 Legislation

A number of invertebrate species are fully protected under the Wildlife and

Countryside Act 1981 as amended with some protected for sale only. The marsh

fritillary is also protected under the Conservation (Natural Habitats, &c.) Regulations


10.7.6 Current Factors affecting invertebrates

Loss of habitat

SustransBiodiversity Action Plan for the National Cycle Network (December 2007)


Loss of food plants for certain species

Habitat fragmentation

Unsympathetic habitat management

10.7.7 Actions

Future developments to identify habitat features of greater invertebrate interest by

speaking to local invertebrate groups and possibly a scoping visit (by invertebrate


Survey if required.

Sympathetic restoration following construction of new paths avoiding use of fertile

top-soil and artificial seed mixtures and rather allowing natural regeneration.

Management techniques to maintain valuable habitat mosaics along paths.

SustransBiodiversity Action Plan for the National Cycle Network (December 2007)


11. Survey objectives, methods and standards

11.1 A thorough ecological survey of the proposed route should be carried out before final

development proposals are considered. It is impossible to predict accurately the

impact of a development without this information. A thorough ecological survey will

enable adequate mitigation measures to be designed and incorporated into the

construction of the path. A Phase 1 habitat survey that includes protected species

(referred to as an Extended Phase 1 Survey) may conclude that further survey work

(Phase 2 survey) is required (see Appendix 2). Data will be submitted to the National

Biodiversity Network (NBN).

11.2 Many species and habitat surveys have set protocols that must be adhered to (e.g.

dormice), and in some cases the survey can only be carried out by persons holding

the appropriate licences (e.g. bats). Often such protocols require surveys to be

undertaken over several months before it can be concluded that the species is either

present or absent. This is another reason for implementing ecological surveys at the

earliest point in the development of a new route.

11.3 Certain species and habitats can only be surveyed for very short periods of time

during the year (e.g. butterflies) and it may be that surveying at other times would only

allow habitat suitability to be identified. Therefore further survey work would have to

be undertaken at a more appropriate time of year (see individual HAPs and SAPs for

further information on optimum survey times).

11.4 It should also be remembered that the Sustrans NCN BAP only includes important

species and habitats that are most likely to be encountered along the Network. Other

species and habitats could be found and mitigation will be needed for these.

11.5 Surveying

It is vital that wildlife is considered at the earliest opportunity in the development of a

new route. The table below summarises the optimum times for carrying out the

various surveys.

Survey Jan Feb Mar Apr May Jun Jul Aug Sep Oct Nov Dec




Phase 1 habitat S S S O O O O O O S S S

Botanical S S S S O O O S S S S S

Badgers S O O O S S S S S S S S

Wintering birds O O O S S S S S S S O O

Breeding birds S S O O O O O O S S S S

Reptiles I I I O O O O S O I I I

Amphibians I I O O O O O O O I I I

Invertebrates I I O O O O O O O I I I

Water voles S S O O O O O O O O S S

Otters O O O O O O O O O O O O

Bats S S S O O O O O O S S S

O = optimal time of year for surveying (best practice)

S = sub-optimal time of year for surveying, may require further surveys at another time of year

I = impossible time of the year as most or all species are in hibernation and leave no signs

SustransBiodiversity Action Plan for the National Cycle Network (December 2007)


12. Mitigation and enhancement measures for wildlife

12.1 Bridge and viaduct maintenance

12.1.1 Bridges and viaducts can support, or be associated with, a number of species that

are protected by law. Protected species include badgers, bats, reptiles, amphibians

and nesting birds. When bridges cross water, otters and water voles should also be

included on this list. Saxicolous flora (attached to masonry) and small mammals may

also occur. Any maintenance works on these structures should take account of these


12.1.2 Bridges of particular importance to wildlife are older stone bridges with cracks and

crevices in the masonry or bridges which are ivy-covered. Surveys, particularly for

bats and nesting birds, should be undertaken before any maintenance work

commences. This applies especially to pointing which could trap bats and, possibly,

nesting birds inside the masonry of the bridge or viaduct. Bird boxes and ledges, and

bird and/or bat holes/crevices should be incorporated into bridge maintenance works

whenever possible. It is also important that, where the route incorporates bridges, the

continuity of the habitat is maintained. Where possible a methodology to incorporate

a strip of vegetation, including hedgerow plants, on the bridge deck should be

included. Where the route goes under a bridge, dispersal routes can be maintained

by placing log or rubble piles against the walls. Both of these methods will ensure

that the bridges do not act as barriers to movement.

12.2 Bat bricks

12.2.1 Bat bricks are specially designed bricks that are either hollow with an entrance into

this space, or have a series of slits in them to allow bats to pass through into a space

beyond. The bricks are used in place of standard bricks and provide bats with

roosting sites as they act as artificial cracks and crevices that would naturally occur.

These may be particularly useful in bridges and viaducts where potential sites may

have been lost due to re-pointing works. The bricks can be installed by carefully

removing an existing brick to allow access to the interior of the bridge as bats will

penetrate up to a metre into the rubble fill. If this is not possible, self-contained bat

bricks can be attached to the existing bricks.

12.3 Bat and bird boxes

12.3.1 Before bird and bat boxes are installed, consideration should be given to whether

they are appropriate. Boxes sited along paths may be prone to vandalism so should

only be installed in places where there are few or no other nesting and roosting

opportunities. Boxes need to be placed as high as possible on the trees (between 2-5

metres) to minimise the possibility of predation and vandalism.

12.3.2 Bird boxes need to be fixed facing between north and south east as this will avoid

strong sunlight and the wettest winds. The box should also tilt forward slightly to stop

rain entering.

SustransBiodiversity Action Plan for the National Cycle Network (December 2007)


12.3.3 Bat boxes should be sited with the front facing south east to south west, as this

allows the box to be warmed during the day. Often three bat boxes are placed on a

single tree, each facing a different aspect as this gives the bats a choice of roosting

sites, each with different environmental conditions. Specially designed bat boxes that

attach to the underside of bridges can also be purchased. These can be fixed to the

bridge masonry and, like bat bricks, mimic natural holes and cracks.

12.3.4 It should also be remembered that bird and bat boxes should be checked

periodically, both to monitor use and for cleaning (removal of old nest material etc).

12.3.5 In the case of bats, if any signs of bats (droppings) or actual bats are found in a box

during a check, that box is then considered a roost and future checks can only be

carried out by a licensed bat worker.

12.4 Log and vegetation piles

12.4.1 These can benefit a variety of species including reptiles, amphibians, invertebrates

and small mammals. They may be particularly effective in areas where there are small

breaks in the habitat. For example, where the route goes under or even over a bridge,

log and vegetation piles could be used to link up habitats. Piles of cut vegetation can

also be left to rot, as these provide food, shelter and nesting sites for reptiles. These

piles can be added to each year. It is also beneficial to place a criss-cross pattern of

branches on the ground first and then add the cuttings, as this increases ventilation

and makes access easier. All such heaps are best placed in sunny positions, close to

cover such as hedgerows, scrub and long grass.

12.5 Lighting

12.5.1 Lighting can impact on a number of night time species by affecting flight lines and

feeding patterns. Where lighting is necessary, low pressure sodium lights (typical

yellow lamps seen along the roadside) are recommended. These should be hooded

and point downwards as this will at least minimise the disturbance that the lighting

has on wildlife.

12.5.2 Special consideration should be given to lighting placed near bridges, which may

contain bat roosts. Under the WCA (1981) as amended by the CROW Act (2000), it is

illegal to deliberately or recklessly kill, injure, capture or disturb bats, obstruct access

to bat roosts or damage or destroy them. Therefore lighting that is placed too close

to a roost and causes a disturbance to the bats, or causes them to desert the roost,

may constitute an offence.

12.6 Tree maintenance

12.6.1 Nesting birds may be affected by tree maintenance so this work should only take

place outside the bird nesting season (March to early August). If work is required

during this time, trees and scrub should be checked for any nests before work

commences. If a nest is found then work cannot start in that area until the eggs have

hatched and chicks fledged.

SustransBiodiversity Action Plan for the National Cycle Network (December 2007)


12.6.2 Some bat species rely exclusively on trees for roost sites while others use them for

parts of the year. Often bats in trees leave little or no evidence of their occupation.

Where possible, trees should be inspected from the ground to assess their potential

for roosting bats. This involves looking for lightning strikes, lifting bark, ivy, holes,

cavities and splits together with dark staining caused by faeces, urine or oil from fur

rubbing or scratch marks below access points which might be used by bats.

Droppings can also be found below roosting sites. If a tree does contain a bat roost,

a licence will be required before it can be felled and appropriate mitigation will have

to be put in place to replace the roost site that is lost.

12.7 Path surfaces

12.7.1 Sealed tarmac surfaces are Sustrans’ preferred option for traffic free paths. Although

tarmac can tend to look stark following initial laying, it soon begins to blend in with

the surrounding area and acquires a patina the colour of the local soil. Vegetation

also quickly begins to grow over the edges. The surface is far better for cycling and

also for wheelchairs and buggies. A sealed surface lasts much longer than a rolled

stone path, however well laid, especially under trees. Consequently it requires less

maintenance which in turn causes less disturbance to the surrounding habitats. A

stone path may need to be repaired every 5 years or so, which increases the chance

of disturbance to the surrounding habitat in the process and leading to significant

‘stone miles’ as new material has to be brought in. From current experience, a tarmac

surface will last in excess of 20 years compared to rolled stone path, which may need

replacing after 2 years in urban areas.

12.8 Stone walls

12.7.2 Dry stone walls can support large amounts of wildlife both on their surfaces (e.g.

lichens) and within them (e.g. reptiles). They are often dominant field boundaries in

areas where the soil is thin and the climate too harsh for hedgerows. They provide the

same function as a hedgerow. It is important that where these walls are found

adjacent to paths, they are maintained, and in some cases enhanced, for wildlife.

SustransBiodiversity Action Plan for the National Cycle Network (December 2007)


13. Controlling native and non-native invasive species

13.1 Native species

13.1.1 Bramble Rubus fruticosus

It is very important to have patches of bramble along routes as they provide nesting

habitat for birds, food in the form of nectar for butterflies and insects, as well as

shelter and food for a variety of mammal species including the dormouse. If left

unchecked, bramble will start to dominate an area and shade out other species, so it

is important that it is kept under control. Bramble should be cut back to the point at

which it is considered acceptable and appropriate and this location marked with

posts or natural features – logs, rocks etc. The plant should then be cut back to the

same point every year in the late autumn, after the fruiting season, making sure that

any suckers are cut off or pulled up.

13.1.2 Common Ragwort Senecio jacobaea

There are a number of species of ragwort found in Britain, although the main ‘weed’

species is the common ragwort. This is often found growing on bare soil which allows

the development of the seedlings into rosettes of leaves. The following year the

flowering shoot appears that can grow amongst taller vegetation.

Ragwort is covered by the Weeds Act 1959 as amended by the Ragwort Control Act

2003. This Act only extends to England and Wales.

It should be remembered that ragwort provides an important food source for a large

variety of insects including bees, wasps, butterflies and moths. For this reason,

ragwort should only be controlled in areas where toxicity is perceived as a high risk.

This may include areas of the Network that run adjacent to land grazed by horses or

hay fields used for horse fodder.

If there are only a few plants in an area then hand pulling is the easiest method in the

short term. Gloves should be worn and the pulling should only take place before the

plant sets seed. Once pulled the plant can be burnt. It should not be left on the side

of the path as the plant becomes more palatable to horses when dried.

Herbicides should be used where ragwort occurs in larger densities. Cutting is not

recommended, as it seems to stimulate side growth and encourages re-growth.

13.2 Non-native species

13.2.1 Non-native plants occur outside their natural range due to direct or indirect

introduction by humans, mainly through their use in gardens. The vast majority of

non-native species pose no threat to native plants in the UK and many now represent

important additions to the UK flora. However, a small number of non-native plants are

highly invasive. Invasive plants are able to spread rapidly and compete aggressively

with native species to form large populations that dominate a habitat.

13.2.2 Where possible, Sustrans will control invasive species along the Network, so

improving the biodiversity. It will be a material consideration on any new routes.

SustransBiodiversity Action Plan for the National Cycle Network (December 2007)


13.3 Japanese knotweed Fallopia japonica

13.3.1 Identification

Japanese knotweed is a vigorous perennial plant that can grow in excess of 2 metres

in height and is commonly seen on riverbanks and waste ground. When Japanese

knotweed colonises areas, the plant forms dense thickets that die back to dead, rigid

stems in the winter, only to re-grow more vigorously the following growing season. It

has distinctive heart-shaped leaves, and the stems are covered in a reddish/purple

speckling. It produces creamy white flowers from July through to September. Stems

are hollow and can take up to 3 years to decompose.

13.3.2 Legislation

Japanese knotweed has a number of closely related sub species which also form

hybrids, all of which come under the provisions of the Wildlife and Countryside Act

(1981) which states that “It is an offence to plant or otherwise cause the plant to grow

in the wild.” Furthermore the Environmental Protection Act (1990) classes Japanese

knotweed as ‘controlled waste’ and consequently should be disposed of at a licensed

landfill site under the EPA (Duty of Care) Regulations (1991).

13.3.3 Distribution along Network

Japanese knotweed can be encountered anywhere along the Network but is

particularly prevalent in Wales.

13.3.4 Treatment

There are various approaches used to control Japanese knotweed. Primarily these

comprise spraying and cutting, or a combination of both. Where appropriate, grazing

may also be a management option. Another alternative is covering the Japanese

knotweed with a membrane and over-planting with a quick-growing species such as


Cutting or pulling

Regular cutting or pulling will eventually kill the plant, but it is important that all cut or

pulled stems are kept on site, or disposed of at a licensed disposal site (expensive).

Any stems or crowns left to dry out on site must be regularly checked to ensure that

they are not contaminating the surrounding land or any watercourses. Burning can

also be an effective means of disposal, as long as it is burnt in situ and not taken off


Herbicide control

Herbicide control is an effective means of controlling Japanese knotweed, although it

should be noted that one treatment is rarely enough and may need to be repeated a

number of times over several years. There are a number of herbicides recognised as

being effective in the control of knotweed, but not all of these are suitable for use

adjacent to or close to watercourses or sensitive sites. The table on page 40 shows

examples of approved products for use as herbicides on weeds in or near water. This

should be checked before using any of these products as this information changes


SustransBiodiversity Action Plan for the National Cycle Network (December 2007)


Chemical Approved product Registration number

2,4-D Dormone 09932

MSS 2,4-D Amine 10183

Depitox 11149

Ragox 11145

Glyphosate Roundup 10317

Roundup Biactive 10320

Roundup pro bioactive 10330

Barclay gallup amenity 06753

Glyfos proactive 07800

Spasor 09945

Spasor bioactive 09940

13.3.5 Optimum time to treat

Japanese knotweed dies back during the winter, therefore the most effective time to

spray the plant is in early September to October, as during this time the plant begins

to ‘draw down’ all of its nutrients from the leaves back into the rhizome. Spraying at

this time means that more of the spray is taken into the plant from the leaves. Cutting

can be undertaken throughout the growing season (March – September). Some

people recommend cutting in the spring and then spraying the new soft growth that


13.4 Himalayan balsam Impatiens balsamifera

13.4.1 Identification

This is an escapee from Victorian gardens, and can now be found throughout Britain.

This annual plant grows from seed and can quickly exceed two metres in height. It

has attractive pink flowers that appear in July, and by October they have scattered

seeds by their explosive seedpods. This is the main reason for the plant’s success as

each plant can produce as many as 2,500 seeds which can stay viable for 18 months.

The seeds are often spread in flowing water, and consequently river and stream

banks are typical habitats of this plant. The seeds can even germinate under water so

any management is pointless unless the plant is being controlled further upstream.

13.4.2 Legislation

Himalayan balsam comes under the provisions of the Wildlife and Countryside Act

(1981) which states that “It is an offence to plant or otherwise cause the plant to grow

in the wild.”

13.4.3 Distribution along Network

Himalayan balsam can be encountered anywhere along the Network, but is most

likely to be found in areas of damp grassland, or where paths are adjacent to


13.4.4 Treatment

The cheapest and most effective way is to pull or dig up and then burn the stems

during the growing season (July –September) before the flowers have time to set

SustransBiodiversity Action Plan for the National Cycle Network (December 2007)


seed. Young plants are easy to pull up, although a big area of them can be a daunting

prospect. Spraying is also an effective means of control.

13.4.5 Optimum time to treat

The optimum time to treat Himalayan balsam is during the growing season (July –

September) and before the flowers set seed.

13.5 Giant hogweed Heracleum mantegazzianum

13.5.1 Identification

The giant hogweed was introduced from Asia as an ornamental plant. It is an

umbellifer, like cow parsley, and its appearance is similar to the native wild parsnip,

but much larger. It can reach heights of over 4 metres when in flower, with hollow

stems of up to 10cm in diameter. The stem is also covered in dark reddish-purple

spots and bristles. It flowers from May to July, with numerous white flowers clustered

in an umbrella-shaped head that can be up to 50cm across. Each flower head can

produce up to 1500 seeds which can remain active in the soil for 8 years or more.

Due to their weight, most of them fall within a 4 metre radius around the plant.

The giant hogweed has a clear, watery sap which contains toxins. If skin contact is

followed by exposure to sunlight, painful, burning blisters appear that can develop

into purplish or black scars. Contact between the skin and sap occurs either through

brushing against the bristles on the stem, or by contact with broken stems/leaves.

13.5.2 Legislation

Under the Wildlife & Countryside Act 1981 as amended/ Wildlife (Northern Ireland)

Order 1985, it is an offence to "plant or otherwise cause Giant Hogweed to grow" in

the wild. This includes spreading the species or transferring polluted ground material

from one area to another.

13.5.3 Distribution along Network

Giant hogweed can be encountered throughout the Sustrans Network, although the

plant prefers valleys and damp soil.

13.5.3 Treatment

There are a number of options available for the treatment of this species, but the

majority of these require a number of years in order to be effective. The two most

effective methods are outlined below.


This involves the clearing of above ground leaf/stem material and the removal of

ground material polluted with roots and seeds. Careful consideration must be given

to minimising the contact with the sap using this method, and it should not be

considered once the plant is over 1 metre in height.


Although this method can still take several years of treatment, it is considered the

most effective. Spraying must be carried out from March to August (growing season),

SustransBiodiversity Action Plan for the National Cycle Network (December 2007)


and in order to be most effective, spraying must be carried out before the flower sets


NEVER use a strimmer or chipper on giant hogweed material as this can cause sap to

become airborne, resulting in the injuries described above.

13.5.4 Optimum time to treat

The optimum time to treat giant hogweed is during the growing season, from March

through to August.

SustransBiodiversity Action Plan for the National Cycle Network (December 2007)


14. Education and understanding

14.1 The Sustrans NCN BAP will be available on the Sustrans website.

14.2 Where relevant, information on BAP species and habitats will be included on

interpretation and leaflets.

14.3 Staff training days on identifying BAP species and habitats will be provided.

14.4 Internal information sheets will be produced to aid knowledge and understanding.

SustransBiodiversity Action Plan for the National Cycle Network (December 2007)


15. References

Langton, T.E.S., Beckett, C.L., and Foster, J.P. (2001), Great Crested Newt Conservation

Handbook, Froglife, Halesworth (information on species and habitat action plans, and links to the

BARS website) (information on bird species)

Schofield, H.W., and Mitchell-Jones, A.J. (2003). The Bats of Britain and Ireland, The

Vincent Wildlife Trust. (National Biodiversity Network)

Child, L.E., and Wade, M. (2000). The Japanese Knotweed Manual (knotweed information) hogweed information) (Himalayan balsam information) (Himalayan balsam information) (giant hogweed information) (general species information) (Sustrans information)

Best Value and Biodiversity in Scotland – A Handbook of Good Practice for public

bodies. Edited by Joanna Lenthall. 2004

Business and Biodiversity – Site Biodiversity Action Plans. Earthwatch Institute.

Case Studies in Business and Biodiversity. Earthwatch Institute.

Business and Biodiversity – A UK Business guide for understanding and integrating

nature conservation and biodiversity into environmental management systems.

Earthwatch Institute.

Bat Workers’ Manual. Edited by Mitchell Jones A.J. & McLeish A.P. 3 rd Edition 2004.

Bats and Trees in England. Bat Conservation Trust Professional Support Series Leaflet.

Herpetofauna Workers’ Manual. Edited by Tony Gent and Steve Gibson. Joint Nature

Conservation Committee. 1998.

Cresswell, W. & Whitworth, R. (2004), An assessment of the efficiency of capture

techniques and the value of different habitats for the great crested newt Triturus

cristatus. English Nature Research Report 576.

SustransBiodiversity Action Plan for the National Cycle Network (December 2007)


16. Glossary

HAP Habitat Action Plan


Species Action Plan


Local Biodiversity Action Plan


Biodiversity Action Plan

Sustrans’ NCN BAP SustransBiodiversity Action Plan for the National Cycle Network


United Kingdom Biodiversity Action Plan

Biodiversity Biological Diversity


Royal Society for the Protection of Birds


Local Records Centre

WCA Wildlife and Countryside Act 1981

CROW Act Countryside and Rights of Way Act 2000


Department for the Environment, Food and Rural Affairs

BARS Biodiversity Action Recording System

SustransBiodiversity Action Plan for the National Cycle Network (December 2007)


17. Useful contacts and websites

Sustrans Head Office

National Cycle Network Centre

2 Cathedral Square

College Green

Bristol BS1 5DD

Tel: 0117 926 8893

Fax: 0117 929 4173

Sustrans Cymru

107 Bute Street

Cardiff CF10 5AD

Tel: 029 20 65 0602

Fax: 029 2065 0603

Sustrans Northern Ireland

Marquis Building

89-91 Adelaide Street

Belfast BT2 8FE

Tel: 028 9043 4569

Fax: 028 9043 4556

Sustrans Scotland

Glenorchy House

20 Union Street

Edinburgh EH1 3LR

Tel: 0131 539 8122

Fax 0131 539 8123

Countryside Council for Wales

Maes y Ffynnon



Gwynedd LL57 2DW

Tel: 01248 385500


Information Resource Centre

Lower Ground Floor

Ergon House

c/o Nobel House

17 Smith Square

London SW1P 3JR

Dry Stone Walling Association

Westmorland County Showground

Lane Farm



SustransBiodiversity Action Plan for the National Cycle Network (December 2007)


Cumbria LA7 7NH

Tel: 01539 567953

Environment Agency

Tel:08708 506 506

Environment and Heritage Service for Northern Ireland

Commonwealth House

35 Castle Street

Belfast BT1 1GU

Michael Woods Associates

Overlea House



Somerset BS28 4JZ

Tel: 01934 712500


(retained ecological consultant to Sustrans)

Natural England

Northminster House

Peterborough PE1 1UA

Tel: 0845 600 3078

Fax: 01733 455103

Scottish Natural Heritage

Great Glen House

Leachkin Road

Inverness IV3 8NW

Tel: 01463 725000

Fax: 01463 725067


The Wildlife Trusts

The Kiln


Mather Road


Nottinghamshire NG24 1WT

Tel: 0870 036 7711

Fax: 0870 036 0101


SustransBiodiversity Action Plan for the National Cycle Network (December 2007)


Websites - An up to date list of all the biodiversity officers in

Wales, along with the areas that they cover and their contact details. - Information about biodiversity in Scotland. - Information about biodiversity in

Northern Ireland. - Contact details of all BAP officers for England, Scotland, Wales

and Northern Ireland as well as information on the contents of the BAP itself.

SustransBiodiversity Action Plan for the National Cycle Network (December 2007)


Ways for Wildlife

Wildlife, cycle paths and traffic




This information sheet looks at

some of the ways in which cycle

paths can benefit wildlife. Cycling

is one of the least disturbing

activities and often allows you

close views of animals and birds. It

is also a very sustainable mode of

transport and many conservation

charities are encouraging visitors

to arrive by bike in order to

reduce the urbanisation of the

countryside by motor traffic. If

your visiting the countryside,

why not try out a National Cycle

Network route near you?

Cycle Paths Benefit Wildlife

Over the last 20 years, Sustrans and

its partners have built over 1,000

miles of traffic-free paths, often on

disused railways, towpaths and other

spaces. Unlike roads, sensitively

planned cycle paths provide safe

habitats where wildlife can thrive and

safe corridors for species which need

to move from one habitat to another.

By 2005 Sustrans plans to have put in

place 10,000 miles of National Cycle

Network, one third of which will be

traffic-free and beneficial to wildlife.


Hedgerows on York to Selby path Route 65

© Sustrans

The hedgerows alongside cycle paths

are far safer for wildlife than those

beside roads and are a much more

stable asset than field boundary

hedges as they are not subject to the

vagaries of central government or

EU agricultural policies. In the British

countryside as a whole there has

been a tremendous loss of hedges

- 72,600 miles between 1984 and

1991. (1)

Some of the richest habitats in

woodlands are the edges and

good hedgerows are effectively

two woodland edges back to back.

Hedges are very valuable for nesting

birds, for flowers and insects and

for a variety of small mammals.

The rare and protected hazel

dormouse, which is supported by

English Nature’s Species Recovery

Programme, actually lives at higher

densities in species rich hedges than

in woodlands which are considered

to be its more usual habitat. (2)

Hedgerows also form interrupted

links between larger areas of

woodland and are used as corridors

by species such as squirrels.


Nowadays wildlife corridors are

considered to be a key feature in an

increasingly fragmented countryside.

Countries such as Holland, Canada

and France are actually constructing

special habitat bridges to ensure that

wildlife can cross roads safely (3) and

a part of the Department for the

Environment, Transport and the

Regions (DETR) now has a similar

responsibility for encouraging such

links in the UK. Sustrans owns around

1,000 bridge structures, mostly over

or under roads, and many are ideal

for use by wildlife. Where practicable

they are already used by badgers,

foxes, deer and even otters. Sustrans

is now carrying out research to see

how it can improve its bridges for use

by other species.

These bridges are also used by bats

which roost inside the masonry of

arched bridges. For these scarce and

protected mammals, paths can be a

vital resource. They provide excellent

feeding grounds, long, uninterrupted

flight lines with a variety of habitats

yielding a range of different insect

species upon which bats feed. In fact,

according to “Managing Landscapes

for Greater Horseshoe Bats” published

by English Nature under the Species

Recovery Programme, converted

disused railway lines match very

closely the criteria required for

suitable habitat for these bats. They

are also essential to enable some of

the smaller bats to move around.

These tiny creatures use hedgerows

and other linear features as

guidelines when navigating through

open countryside and disused railway

lines and canals are effectively long,

continuous spine routes for flying

bats. (4)

Ponds and Wetlands

Ponds have been disappearing from

the British countryside since the turn

of the century. Cheshire, reputedly

the county with the most ponds, lost

25% between 1969 and 1985 when

numbers fell from 22,644 to 16,964.

Meanwhile, between 1910 and 1970,

Bedfordshire lost 82% of its ponds. (1)

It is often not possible to establish

a pond as part of a road scheme

because roadside banks naturally

provide a well-drained environment

which limits the range of habitats

which can be established. Wetland

communities must be developed

outside the road corridor. (1)

Opening up old, flooded and


overgrown railway cuttings during

cycle path construction can

considerably improve them for

wildlife. By placing the path on a

raised causeway, (5) water can be

retained alongside the path providing

an ideal environment for a rich variety

of plants and invertebrates as well

as essential facilities for amphibians.

Drainage ditches alongside paths

can also be provided with removable

dams to create a series of elongated


Disused railway routes are particularly

noted for supporting reptiles. The

variety of embankments and cuttings,

with their different aspects, provide

an ideal environment for lizards, slowworms

and snakes. Furthermore the

loose or stony material from which

A causeway in a flooded railway cutting

creates an ideal wildlife environment

- Lochwinnoch Loop path, Route 7 in

they are built and the fact that rabbit

holes are often found on these sites

gives these creatures places in which

to hide and to hibernate.

Meadows and Grasslands

Meadows and permanent

unimproved grasslands form another

© Sustrans

Cycle route verges provide ideal conditions

for wildflowers, Route 7 in County Durham

habitat which is rapidly disappearing

from the British countryside. Between

1949 and 1984, 95% of lowland

neutral grasslands were lost and

between 1934 and 1972, more than

75% of chalk grassland had gone. (1)

And this disappearance of grassland

has continued. Between 1992 and

1997, a further 122,000 hectares were

lost, the equivalent of 100 football

pitches every day. (6)

When hundreds of miles of branch

lines were closed in the mid 1960s

and with the change from steam

to diesel or electric power, lineside

management changed and many

thousands of hectares of previously

flower rich grassland alongside

railway lines were lost under blankets

of bramble while others are under

increasing threat from other species.

There is still time to rescue some

of these grasslands, especially in

cuttings, by removing scrub and

small trees, and one of Sustrans’ main

management aims is to encourage

diversity by only planting trees where



There is increasing evidence that

cyclists cause very little disturbance

to wildlife. This is because their

movements are predictable, in that

they tend to stay on metalled paths

© John Grimshaw

rather than wandering at will, and

they stop infrequently. A study

carried out on open grassland on

the Dutch island of Terschelling

between July and September when

relatively high numbers of tourists on

bicycles were present, showed that

cycling was the least disturbing of the

activities taking place in the area (see

table below). (7) In an internal report,

the Royal Society for the Protection

of Birds (RSPB) has said that “the swift

passage of a cycle through a wood is

probably the least disturbing human

activity possible”.

The National Cycle Network now

passes through a wide range of

different wildlife sites without any

apparent problems. For example,

Route 93 follows the foreshore

alongside Belfast Lough in Northern

Ireland, an Area of Special Scientific

Interest, (ASSI, the Northern Irish

equivalent of the SSSI), a Specially

Bird watching on Route 93 overlooking

Belfast Lough

Protected Area (SPA) and a Ramsar

Site. In order to screen users, a bund

with planting and fencing has been

erected with a viewing area for birdwatching

cyclists. In the late winter

of 2000, the local senior conservation

officer of the RSPB confirmed that the

numbers of waders had not fallen in

spite of public access. (8)


© Julia Bayne

Source of Curlew Gull Oystercatcher Bar-tailed



Small aircraft 39 27 18 23

Walking person(s) 31 17 65 32

Agricultural activities 10 7 4 8

Cows 1 1 0 1

Cyclist(s) 0 0 0 1

Natural 11 24 0 16

Unknown reason 8 24 0 16

Disturbance to birds expressed as

a percentage of the total visible

disturbance. The movement of cyclists

was predictable as they preferred

metalled cycle paths.

Source: Tensen and van Zoest


© David Hall

© Toby Smedley

Visiting cars destroy the countryside their

drivers have come to see

Cycle paths provide a valuable

resource for wildlife education both

for members of the public and as

part of school projects. Wildlife which

lives alongside well used paths

becomes accustomed to the presence

of people. This applies in particular

to birds, so that good views can be

obtained of otherwise shy species.

Paths which reach into towns - green

corridors through urban areas -

frequently pass schools or are easily

accessed by them, enabling these

areas to be used to study ecology

and practical conservation. Many

schoolchildren benefit from cycle

routes as part of their practical

environmental education, as well

as, of course, using them to travel to


Traffic and the


In 1992 the Countryside Commission

(as it then was) warned of a trebling

of traffic in country areas by 2025

unless trends could be changed. (9) It

indicated that this would completely

transform the countryside. (10)

But, unfortunately, there is little

sign yet that this trend is changing

and, indeed, every year road traffic

volumes in Britain are rising. The

number of cars and lorries on Britain’s

roads rose by 33 per cent between

1979 and 1997 and an area the size

of Leicestershire is now taken up

with roads. (11) In 1994, 59% of all

countryside day journeys were by car,

yet nearly half of these trips were five

miles or less, (10) a distance easily

covered on a bicycle.

Wildlife and Traffic

More than 50,000 badgers, a seventh

of the adult population, are run over

on Britain’s roads every year. (12)

A total of 2,000 individual animals

were killed on just 32 miles of road

in Surrey between 1987 and 1993.

The number of corpses in 1993 was

double that in 1987. (13)

A recent study by the Hawk and Owl

Trust of a typical stretch of English

trunk road recorded 155 owl deaths

between 1995 and 1998 of which

102 were barn owls. Extrapolated

nationally, this accounts for almost a

fifth of the adults and a quarter of the

juvenile population. (14)

Every spring when amphibians

migrate to their breeding ponds,

increasingly large numbers are

squashed on the roads. Between 20%

and 40% of the breeding populations

became road casualties each year in

the late eighties. (15)

Pollution and Habitat


Not only do new road schemes

threaten wildlife and its habitats

but road traffic itself is extremely

polluting. Motor vehicles are

responsible for 28% of the carbon

dioxide produced in Britain

every year. (16) CO 2 is the main

greenhouse gas contributing to

global climate change and increasing

numbers of major “weather events”

are likely to occur world wide as

a consequence of this pollution.

“Nine of the past eleven disasters

to which we have responded have

been caused by extreme weather

conditions.” said Malcolm Rogers,

Head of Policy for Christian Aid, in

May 2000. (17) Such disasters are

man-made and should no longer be

considered natural. (18) Their effects

continue to be devastating not only

to people but to wildlife too.

Noise and general disturbance from

roads can cause problems for a range

of bird species living as much as a

mile away. More than half the 43

songbird species in a recent survey

were found in lower densities close

to roads, probably due to traffic

noise. (19)

Countryside Traffic

Much of this traffic is, in fact,

generated by countryside attractions

such as wildlife reserves and country

houses, the opportunity for country

walks or drives through our beautiful

countryside. With at least 5 million

people belonging to various wildlife

and heritage organisations, there

is a real opportunity for those

organisations and bodies who attract

visitors to the countryside to consider

ways of encouraging their guests to

arrive by means other than the car.

The National Trust, in partnership

with Sustrans, has included in its

handbook for the year 2000 details of

the National Cycle Network. For each

of its sites lying within three miles of

the Network, there is information on

the nearest route and its number. All

Cycle paths built on disused railways are

excellent corridors for urban wildlife - Bath

to Bristol Path, Route 4.


Route 4 through Richmond Park, London

the Wildfowl and Wetlands Trust sites

are within five miles of the Network

and to encourage visitors to arrive

by bike, some sites have secure

locking facilities. In its handbook, the

RSPB includes details of the nearest

railway station to each site and is

working with Sustrans to connect

as many as possible of its 20 most

popular sites to the National Cycle

Network. English Nature is also keen

to promote non-motorised access to

wildlife sites.

Cycling is clearly a valid option and

sites, centres and other attractions

need to cater for bike riders in a

positive way.

Getting There

Cycle friendly routes should be

planned from the nearest station

and National Cycle Network route,

if necessary negotiating permissive

paths to create links. The creation of

a separate cyclists’ entrance keeping

them away from cars and allowing

them shortcuts to a privileged cycle

park can help promote cycling.

On Arrival

Free, secure and well-located cycle

parking should be provided, with

some form of surveillance. Alternative

locking facilities instead of Sheffield

racks, which are not always

suitable for a countryside

setting, can be provided -

see Sustrans free leaflet FF17

Cycle parking in rural areas’.

Encouraging Cyclists

A cheaper entry fee for

those arriving by sustainable

transport works well and

can often be recouped in

the café or tea room where

© Julia Bayne

This document is printed on recycled or environmently friendly paper

hungry cyclists will buy more than

sedentary motorists.

Other Facilities

On large properties and estates,

cycle nature trails, which go further

afield than those for walkers, can be

provided using estate roads, tracks

and paths. Guided cycle trips are

another possibility.

Who will benefit?

The encouragement of more cycling

in rural areas could help slow down,

and eventually reverse, the increase

in car usage. It will also help to

change attitudes so that, instead

of improving country lanes for

cars to go faster, we start to install

traffic-calming measures or impose

speed limits which encourage nonmotorised

use and make the roads

safer for wildlife.

At the same time, the positive

provision of segregated cycle paths

presents an opportunity to establish

and manage facilities of significant

benefit to wildlife.

What You Can Do

You can insist on walking and

cycling routes being included in the

management and development plans

of your favourite sites.

You can also walk or cycle whenever

possible. Distances of two miles or

less are quite walkable and you can

easily cycle up to five miles. Try to

think of these alternatives rather than

simply jumping into a car.

Ask any wildlife, heritage or

countryside organisation of which

Badgers often dig their setts in the banks of disused

railways converted for cycling and walking.

© Michael Woods

you are a member to promote cycling

as an integral part of its operation

and as its positive contribution to the

transport debate.


1. Roads and Nature Conservation (1993)

English Nature.

2. Bright, P. and MacPherson, D. (2000) What

makes a hedgerow good for dormice?

Paper given at The Mammal Society

Conference, University of Newcastle 14-16

April 2000.

3. Reynolds, P. (1999) From badgers to bears

- the importance of being well connected.

Paper given at The Mammal Society

Conference, Reading University. 26-28


4. Walsh, A. and Harris, S. (1996) Factors

determining the abundance of

vespertilionid bats in Britain - geographical

land class and local habitat values. In The

Journal of Applied Ecology 33, pp. 519-529.

5. Sustrans (1994) ‘Making ways for the


6. Meadow Madness (March 1999) Report

published by the Council for the Protection

of Rural England.

7. Tensen, D. and Zoest, J. van 1983.

Keuze van hoogwatervluchtplaatsen

op Terschelling. Unpubl. Report L.U.

Wageningen/RIN Texel: 71pp. Cited by Cor

J. Smit and George J. M. Visser in ‘Effects

of disturbance on shorebirds: a summary

of existing knowledge from the Dutch

Wadden Sea and Delta area’ for Wader

Study Group Bulletin 68, ‘Disturbance to

Waterfowl on Estuaries’ edited by Nick

Davidson and Phil Rothwell.


9. Countryside Commission, (1992)

For further copies of this or

other factsheets please call the


0117 929 0888

Monday - Friday 8.30am -5.30pm

Saturdays 10am - 2pm

(March to September)

or visit

35 King Street, Bristol BS1 4DZ

Tel: 0117 926 8893 Fax: 0117 929 4173

Charity no. 326550




Appendix 2 – Phase 1 and 2 habitat surveys methodology

Phase 1 habitat survey

This is the standard method for habitat survey in the UK. It is a qualitative method based on

mapping the distribution of habitat types across a site by using the standard field

methodology set out in the ‘Handbook for Phase 1 Habitat Survey – a technique for

environmental audit’ - Joint Nature Conservation Committee, 1990 (2003 edition).

It aims to provide a record of the semi-natural vegetation and identify wildlife habitat on a

site and is based principally on vegetation, augmented by topographic and substrate

features. There are around 90 standard habitat types identified according to characteristic

vegetation and other environmental features. Mapping of habitat types usually uses

standardised colour codes.

Extended Phase 1 survey

Most Phase 1 habitat surveys will include surveys for vertebrate and invertebrate fauna as

well as flora. This is known as an extended Phase 1 survey. This combined approach is

likely to include protected, BAP, notable and even lists of species found or observed during

the survey. The purpose of extending the habitat survey is to make sure that all features of

conservation interest are identified as a purely botanical approach does not always highlight

key features.

Phase 2 survey

Where further detailed survey work is required, this is known as a Phase 2 survey. For

vegetation, this is a (semi)quantitative method based on the National Vegetation

Classification (NVC) system. For many faunal species, further survey work usually follows set

protocols that must be adhered to. These may include requiring licences, setting restrictions

about when and how often to survey, appropriate methodologies and the extent of survey

effort required.

SustransBiodiversity Action Plan for the National Cycle Network (December 2007)


Sustrans is the UK’s leading sustainable transport charity.

Our vision is a world in which people choose to travel in ways that

For more information visit or call:

0845 113 00 65

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