Waterton Park Added to Heritage List as World’s First Nature Reserve

Unveiling the Legacy of Charles Waterton: The World’s First Nature Reserve

Charles Waterton, a naturalist in the 19th century, created Waterton Park as an example of landscape design aimed at protecting wildlife. The park, located near Wakefield on the family estate of Charles Waterton, is believed to be the world’s first nature reserve. Waterton banned hunting and fishing on the grounds and built a boundary wall to keep out predators, making it the first known example of a landscape designed to protect wildlife.

Waterton also planted new trees and undergrowth cover and created new habitats for native birds. He allowed part of the lake to become swampy for the benefit of herons and waterfowl. As a result of his work, he recorded 5,000 wildfowl on the lake during one winter and noted 123 bird species in the park over the years.

In addition to his efforts to prevent disturbance and predators, Waterton actively encouraged people to visit the park to connect with the surroundings. Sarah Charlesworth, listing team leader for Northern England, praised Waterton as a visionary who recognized the importance of protecting wildlife and the link between nature and human well-being. With Waterton Park, he created a prototype for the modern nature reserve where wildlife and humans can coexist for their mutual benefit.

John Smith, chair of the Friends of Waterton’s Wall, expressed hope that the new status of the park and wall would bring Waterton’s life and work to a wider audience, locally and nationally. The recognition of Waterton Park as historically significant site celebrates his efforts to protect wildlife and promote harmony between nature and humanity.

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