Big Ecosystems Survey

When one tugs at a single thing in nature, he finds it attached to the rest of the world“.

                                                                                                                        John Muir

The Sustainable Land Trust is launching the Big Ecosystems Survey, a pilot citizen science project starting in Rutland to inspire people to learn about their environment and address issues such as climate change and biodiversity loss.

The protection of the natural environment is a major priority for us all, and whilst people do want to take action, the job can seem too big.  This project brings it to a level that people can firstly understand their own environment, and then really start to make a difference as a result.

The project trains volunteers in how to survey their housing estate, village, school grounds, or community garden to identify all of the services that nature is providing to their area.

So if you are a school, community group, resident on a housing estate, or are just keen to help your local village, then get in contact and become a Natural Leader!

Training will be given in a wide range of environmental survey skills such as measuring carbon stocks in trees and soils, biodiversity richness, water and soil quality, and pollination. Surveys will also include measuring how areas can contribute to health and wellbeing and the contribution nature makes to the local economy.  Volunteers will learn how to communicate their findings and explore ways to influence change. Training will be held mainly at Oakham Heights, Barleythorpe  and along the Oakham Canal.

The project is supported by Rutland County Council, the Barleythorpe Community Trust and the Melton and Oakham Waterways Society.

To register your interest email us at or register on one of our training events and become one of our Natural Leaders!

Measuring your environment

There are hundreds of way to measure the services that nature provides to society. This project focuses on those that have the most relevance to what is happening in our environment, and have the ability to be carried out at low/ no cost.

The following surveys will form the basis for information gathering:

  • Carbon sequestration potential in soils and trees
  • Pollination opportunities provided by habitat type and management
  • Soil quality (biodiversity, pollution)
  • Water quality (biodiversity, pollution, role in flood alleviation, sedimentation)
  • Habitat quality (biodiversity)
  • Health and wellbeing (mental and physical, recreational)
  • Cultivated and wild food plants and resources for craft materials
  • Aesthetics and visual beauty
What level is this at?

You need no experience or special skills! We wish to make the surveys as fun and interesting as possible so that everyone can join in.

What do I need?

The aim is to enable to people to carry out surveys with very little equipment, or equipment that can be made from household items.  Where specialist items are needed, people can hire them from the Trust.

What will happen to the information?

All information will be collated centrally by the Trust, and where possible, mapped. Volunteer Natural Leaders will be able to monitor their progress and survey results as they go along. At the end of the surveys, participants will be given guidance on how to use it to improve their local area.

Natural Leaders

The project volunteers will become the Trust’s Natural Leaders, whose skills will be used to influence how their local environments are managed and improved.

The ultimate aim is to create Natural Leaders across the UK, focusing on both urban and rural land to promote the value that nature has in both helping society and protecting the environment.

Natural Leaders can be individual people living on a housing estate or in a town/village with public open space, or they can be groups who manage or maintain community spaces.

Skills and training will be provided, and our team will mentor Natural Leaders as they carry out their new skills in their own patch.  Natural Leaders are encouraged to share their findings, pictures and experiences with each other.

If you wish to be involved, see our Training and Events page to see dates and times.  To register email us at or ring us on 01664 400150 (between 8am and 4pm weekdays).

When will training take place?

Training sessions will be provided on regular Mondays with sessions running between 1.30pm and 3.30pm and 4pm to 6pm.  See our Training and Events page for updates.

Project Launch

Come and join us to kick start the project!

Monday 13th May 2019 – 10.00 am
Whissendine Room, Kings Centre, Main Street,
Barleythorpe LE15 7WD

(previously Rutland College)

10.00 – 11.00

  • Presentation from the Sustainable Land Trust about the Big Ecosystems Survey and Natural Leaders project
  • Presentation from the Barleythorpe Community Trust about Oakham Heights
  • Presentation from Melton & Oakham and Waterways Society about the Oakham Canal

 11.00- 12.00

  • Training Session 1 – Measuring biodiversity and basics of plant identification

13.00- 15.00

  • Putting it into practice – plant biodiversity recording around Barleythorpe

16.00- 18.00

  • Putting it into practice – plant biodiversity recording along the Oakham Canal

Training sites

Oakham Heights

Oakham Heights is the name of the new development in Barleythorpe with entrances opposite Land’s End and Catmose College.  The site comprises several areas of natural and amenity space and is a great site from which to show people different aspects of their environment.  It includes a range of habitats and open spaces that are often seen in towns and villages, including:

  • hedgerows and stands of trees
  • grasslands, meadows and parks
  • ponds, streams and drains
  • play and recreation areas
  • community areas
  • amenity and kerbside planting
  • allotments

The Trust have been working with the Oakham Heights community for several years.  Once all of the houses have been built, residents will be able to take on the management of their parks and open spaces.  The Big Rutland Ecosystems Survey will provide them with information that will enable them to create sustainable management plans and show how the site supports its local community.

Oakham Canal

The Trust is working with the Melton and Oakham Waterways Society, the Oakham Angling Society, and Rutland County Council to eventually create a new green infrastructure corridor starting at Springfield Way and leading to Ashwell. The corridor will provide walking, cycling and recreational opportunities and will be managed to maximise biodiversity and ecosystem services.

The site gives our Natural Leaders an appreciation of how habitats and ecosystems have developed over time, often in response to man’s activities.