Charles Waterton: The 19th Century Visionary Behind the World’s First Nature Reserve

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

Charles Waterton, a naturalist in the 19th century, created Waterton Park near Wakefield on his family estate. The park is believed to be the world’s first nature reserve, with Waterton banning hunting and fishing and building a boundary wall to keep out predators. He also planted new trees and undergrowth cover to create new habitats for native birds, allowing part of the lake to become swampy for herons and waterfowl.

Waterton’s efforts resulted in the recording of 5,000 wildfowl on the lake during one winter and the noting of 123 bird species in the park over the years. Sarah Charlesworth, listing team leader for Northern England, praised Waterton as a visionary who recognized the importance of protecting wildlife and promoting harmony between nature and human well-being. The park served as a prototype for modern nature reserves where wildlife and humans can coexist for their mutual benefit.

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

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