The Wildlife Trusts – The Rothschild List: 1915-2015
31 January 2016
Charles Rothschild is a man worth celebrating. Although less well-known than figures like Sir Peter Scott or Sir David Attenborough, he deserves a special place in the history of nature conservation. A brilliant naturalist, Rothschild was one of the first to make the visionary realisation that Britain would need a system of permanent protected areas for wildlife in order to save it for the future. In 1915 Rothschild submitted a list of 284 such places ‘worthy of preservation’ to the Government. These are sometimes known as the ‘Rothschild Reserves’. Among them were stretches of the Cornish coast, Scottish mountains, Irish bogs, shingle beaches, ancient woodlands and marshes and wetlands where Rothschild and his colleagues would search for rare plants and insects. When Rothschild was proposing his ideas very few people yet understood that Britain’s accelerating population and development of the countryside was beginning to have a huge impact on our landscape and its wildlife – and not for the better. He saw that a concerted effort and plan was needed to save Britain’s wild places before they disappeared forever. Today many of the places identified by Rothschild as deserving of permanent protection have endured, thanks at least in part to his vision which was ultimately translated into legislation by the Government 30 years later. However, they too have not escaped the loss of wildlife and habitats that has affected our countryside over the past century. This short report celebrates the centenary of Rothschild’s list and, in brief, looks at what has happened to these places over the past hundred years.