OCND Visits Slovenia - A Review

OCND Visits Slovenia - A Review

By Jenny Price and Lyndsay Wayman-Rook

 

In July 2022, the Old Chalk New Downs project, alongside colleagues from Medway Valley Countryside Partnership and Hadlow College, visited the Goricko Nature Park in the Prekmurje region of Slovenia. The project was organised by Grampus Heritage and Training and was funded by Erasmus+. The visit was an opportunity to explore the habitats and environmental management practices in the region, and to share knowledge and experience of habitat management and environmental education and training. Our hosts were Erna Vöröš and Branko Bakan from Zavod Logarica, an environmental NGO in the Prekmurje region of Slovenia. 

 Traditional Meadow Management

We visited five meadow restoration areas during the trip. The wet meadows of the Goricko Nature Park were traditionally grazed by cattle, but now grazing is rare with most meadows being cut by machine. Arisings from the meadow cuts are used for animal bedding. Cutting regimes have been adjusted to benefit wildlife populations. Meadows are cut twice a year, and previously were cut from the outside in. Altering the cutting pattern (see diagram) prevents wildlife species from becoming trapped and leaving areas uncut provides insect banks to improve populations. One species that has benefited particularly from this approach is the Marsh Fritillary, which feeds on Devil’s-Bit Scabious. 

Environmental Interpretation

Throughout our trip, environmental interpretation was used to provide guidance on accessing and appreciating natural spaces. A lot of the interpretation is interactive, using touch and sound to engage audiences as well as words. This encourages people to explore their surroundings in different ways. Accessibility to nature is also considered, with boardwalks improving physical access to wet habitats, and braille interpretation included on information boards.

This region of Slovenia lies close to both the Austrian and Hungarian borders. The Goricko Nature Park engages with visitors from these countries as well as further afield. As a result, the interpretation is often present in multiple languages and easy to interpret imagery. QR codes are used to supply additional language translations.

The interpretation within Goricko Nature Park carefully links the cultural history of the region with the natural history. For example, Grad Castle Museum includes an exhibition on local wildlife. 

Agricultural

The Prekmurje region of Slovenia includes a lot of agricultural land. Key crops include maize, sunflower and vines. Government support for agricultural production is available in the form of funding support and grants, a proportion of which are aimed at environmentally friendly practices and support for young farmers. To assist with the high demand for food production, modern farming practices are well established in the region, including the use of new technology to monitor and increase yield. As in the UK, there is a mix of old and new practices. For example, natural pollinators are being used in soft fruit production, but in one local glasshouse, the bumblebee species were imported from Holland and maintained within controlled environments. 

Partnership Working on an International scale

Zavod Logarica receive students and adult groups from visiting countries several times a year via the PEATS project, working since 2002.  The student placements focus on developing environmental skills associated with modern nature conservation and traditional farming.  The adult placements also facilitate cooperation across regions, sharing knowledge and good practice with professionals from other areas. For example, Old Chalk New Downs had the opportunity to share knowledge of habitat condition assessments during the visit and how they can be used to monitor meadow restoration projects. 

The Goricko Nature Park in Slovenia lies alongside international borders with Austria and Hungary. As a result, ecological projects within the area rely on excellent partnership working, across borders and language barriers. Different countries use different designations for the wildlife habitats within the region. In Slovenia, the Goricko Nature Park has the designation of a ‘Landscape Park’. However, there are higher designations for the Mura River Biosphere Reserve in Slovenia and the Mura Valley Biosphere Reserve in Austria, which are united within the Biosphere Reserve Mura-Drava-Danube, which was the first UNESCO site to cross 5 countries. 

Natura 2000 is a network of nature protected areas, declared in all countries of the European Union with the purpose of nature protection. Goricko Nature Park was chosen as a Natura 2000 site for Slovenia. It names 14 species of birds, one plant species, 24 animals, and 7 types of habitats for protection. These names species and habitats are a focal point for nature conservation in the region. 

Overall the trip was a fantastic opportunity to learn about the rich culture and environemantal changes and management practices in Slovenia. Collaborative working proved to be a vital role throughout our visit, reconfirming its importance to our own project. 

We really enjoyed the opportunity to thank our volunteers at our summer BBQ this week! Volunteers have been involve… twitter.com/i/web/status/1…
5 days ago
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