The course provided an opportunity to visit a wide range of different habitats within West Pomerania including wet hay meadows, xerothermic grassland, beech forest, oak forest, reedbed and coastal dunes. This allowed us to see not just a wealth of wildlife but also gain an understanding of a range of influences on these habitats as a result of the complex land use and political history of this area. Given the background and expertise of the group we were able to discuss a variety of aspects of nature conservation, from practical land management issues, project and organisational funding and support, through to policy and political influence. However, given the roles of the majority of the group there was a particular interest in how the conservation sector can secure support through work with local communities and influencing decision makers, stakeholders and funders. One factor of significant importance to land management in West Pomerania was clearly the changing relationship of people living in the area to the land. This connection was broken as a result of national boundary changes after 1945 and the resulting forced settlement of the area. The subsequent rise and fall of Communism also had a significant effect on how people view their connection to this land. The influences remain today and continue to have implications for how people invest in land management and the development of local or traditional products. It is this issue of connection to the land that is explored in this report.
For each of the five case studies we visited, a description of what we saw and learnt during the visit is provided. Drawing on comparisons with our experiences working in Scotland has then allowed us to make some conclusions about the challenges facing nature conservation in West Pomerania as the funding, political and land ownership context continues to change but also to make some recommendations for where we see opportunities in the future.