A film “trailer” for The Wind In The Willows starring leading British actors, which calls for action to help nature, has been unveiled by the Wildlife Trusts.
Sir David Attenborough, Stephen Fry, Catherine Tate, Alison Steadman and Asim Chaudhry all have roles in the animated trailer – which brings to life the 21st century threats facing the characters from the children’s story.
It marks the launch of a new campaign by the Wildlife Trusts and backed by the celebrities, for a “wilder future” which is calling on people to take action to help UK wildlife recover from current declines.
The animation shows how the lives of Badger, Ratty, Mole and Toad from Kenneth Grahame’s classic tale of life on the river bank are disrupted by roads, water pollution and intensive agriculture.
In the trailer, which will be shown in cinemas and on social media, habitats have been destroyed, the river polluted, and Toad hangs a memorial picture of a puffin entangled in plastic on the wall of Toad Hall.
The Wildlife Trusts warn that in the century since The Wind In The Willows was written, many of the UK’s wild places and the plants and animals that rely on them have been lost.
Four-fifths of heathlands, which are home to sand lizards and nightjars, have been lost, 97% of lowland meadows which support flowers, insects, mammals and birds have vanished, and only a fifth of rivers are considered healthy.
Ratty, the water vole, has been lost from 94% of the places where it was once found, while Toad has lost nearly 70% of his own kind in the last 30 years alone, the conservationists said.
The UK is one of the most nature-depleted countries on Earth, due to habitat loss from intensive farming, inappropriate development and the lack of strategic planning, and compounded by climate change, the Trusts said.
The trailer aims to inspire people to contact politicians to call for strong laws to help nature recover, and to take action in their local area by volunteering or creating wildlife-friendly features in their gardens and neighbourhoods.
Fry said: “I’ve acted in and narrated Wind In The Willows in the past but this version is different – it really, really matters.
“I adore what’s left of Britain’s wild and precious places and I’m a passionate supporter of my local Wildlife Trust which is restoring a huge part of the fens for nature.
“We all need to get behind The Wildlife Trusts, rise up and call for a wilder future – otherwise it’ll be too late to save Toad, Ratty and all the residents of the riverbank and beyond.”
Sir David, president emeritus of The Wildlife Trusts, said it was “desperately sad” that so much of the country’s wildlife had been lost since Kenneth Grahame wrote Wind In The Willows.
He said: “We have damaged our rivers, built too many roads and lost too many ponds and meadows.
“All of this has happened because our systems and laws that should be keeping nature healthy are failing, and we are losing touch with wildlife. Everything is becoming disconnected.”
And he said: “This country of nature lovers needs to give its wildlife every chance to survive, thrive and expand its range.
“I am backing The Wildlife Trusts’ campaign to rally people to secure a ‘wilder future’ by restoring large areas of wildlife habitat, in city and country.”
Stephanie Hilborne, chief executive of The Wildlife Trusts, said: “Our film is a sad version of The Wind In The Willows – showing how Ratty and Toad have hit the buffers – but it ends with a message of real hope.
“It’s not too late to create strong laws which will help our wildlife make a comeback – and it’s not too late to establish a nature recovery network which will enable us to plan a wilder future.”