EVERY year millions of us head to the great outdoors to enjoy the fresh air and commune with nature.  

However, it might not be immediately obvious just how much work goes into maintaining many of these ‘natural’ landscapes.

Far from being left to run wild, the meadows, woodlands and wetlands require regular human intervention and management.

In Cumbria, environmental contractor OpenSpace are specialists in 'preserving and restoring' these habitats, while its sister business Cumbria Wildflowers supplies the native plants required for such projects. Jonny and Andrea Rook own and run both companies.

Jonny set up OpenSpace with Andrea in 2003 as a nature conservation company with both habitat contracting and ecological consultancy.

The vision of the business was to offer consultancy, scientific advice and a habitat restoration service drawing on Jonny’s wide experience of managing habitats and species.

Andrea, who worked in the rail industry before setting up the business, oversees the business admin.

The majority of OpenSpaces’ projects involve working directly for nature conservation organisations who carry out habitat restoration work directly funded by government money or through grants. About a fifth involve carrying out mitigation work in the wake of major infrastructure projects.

“OpenSpace work with large infrastructure companies, such as wind farms and new road companies to find solutions to minimise or offset their environmental impact,” said Jonny.  “We restore the temporary damage or work off site on what’s known as ‘compensation land.’"

Cumbria Wildflowers originally began in 2007 as a way of supplying the plants OpenSpace needed for its own projects. It now sells native wildflowers to organisations such as the RSPB and the National Trust, as well as to private landowners.

"It was always designed at the start to facilitate OpenSpace for all the habitat restoration work that we do,” said Jonny. “From that it's grown into something which stands on its own two feet.”

Jonny says the best way to combat the many pressures on the environment and wildlife in the UK is to help people understand more about how the natural world works and how we can live and work sustainably.