When you have a huge mission, partnership is essential. Alongside Bradford Council’s Countryside & Rights of Way Team, who are the landowners and support us with improvements and land management tasks, we also work with The Youth Association, local schools, colleges, a fantastic community garden in Wibsey, our local parks, community centres, playwork teams and some dedicated councillors and ward officers from Bradford Council.
Deprivation means that people have less access to green spaces. Many don't leave the city to experience bigger natural places, and often urban green spaces are undervalued or seen and used as wasteland – even when they are beautiful and nature-rich. We saw this during the pandemic where our parks and nature were left strewn with litter. Reclaiming green space has so many positive effects for the community - it improves health and wellbeing, and provides a local cost-free day out playing and learning.
The areas we work in lack green space, and people and landowners favour low-maintenance surfaces like astroturf, reducing the space for people’s connection to nature and wildlife to flourish. Despite the huge amounts of barren wildlife space, it amazes us that what seems like the smallest of opportunities can create a chance for nature to flourish. Every effort made in parkland, gardens, car parks and verges, contributes to this web of life, migratory corridors, places for shelter and food. Deep in this maze of concrete we recently saw a Roe deer, behind a huge supermarket, just a mile or so away from the city centre.
Connection with nature is often passed down through generations, and diverse cultures have different attitudes to the concept of ‘the wild’. Everyone has a different starting point and BUD aims to bring people together to connect with nature in a way that lasts. We find games and activities that encourage children to become immersed in nature, slow down and use their senses.
As part of our plan to improve people’s connection with nature, we have been running Climate Action-funded sessions to teach people about the folklore, medicine and play properties of wild plants and herbs, including: making herbal balms; simple herbal first aid fixes; and making window boxes from pallets.
These activities give nature a context. They transform people’s experience of walking to school or work or weeding their garden. These new experiences help people embed their love of nature in their everyday life and sparks motivation for people to help nature and the environment. By distributing carbon reduction posters, during these events, we show people how we can help nature by taking care of the planet.
Changing attitudes is a very slow process, and not always smooth. Huge amounts of people live in urban areas with little access to nature. People have enough worries and concerns day to day and many people switch off when confronted with overwhelming global issues such as climate chaos, biodiversity crisis and ecosystem collapse. The BUD project starts at the beginning of a long journey, helping people to realise that being outdoors can be fun, relaxing and interesting – and that wildlife is wonderful, not scary or dirty. Building connectivity is a crucial building block for people feeling that they might make personal changes to help with these global planetary issues and join in with campaigns or advocacy. There is no quick pathway in these situations, it is essential that you commit to a community, build trust, find allies and keep going.
Our work is partly educational, partly about improving access, and lots and lots of compromise. We want to show people that the spaces are being managed but this doesn’t mean controlled or manicured. We want to give people spaces and settings that they are more familiar with to help them begin their journey - places where the grass is cut short, where children can kick a ball about, a place to sit in an area that is more like a community garden, signs to make people feel welcome, pathways where they are not going to get wet or muddy feet. While also keeping the space wild for exploration, discovery and wildlife to flourish.
We have really struggled to engage adults in the green space improvements and we are hoping that with more time we will find people locally, who will decide to come and join in. We are so reluctant to parachute in volunteers from wealthier areas to fix problems but often find ourselves stuck with big tasks and no help. Children and young people are always keen to help but not useful for every job! Engaging local colleges and groups working with young people on citizenship or community tasks can be a good way of solving some of these problems and getting tasks completed while not compromising community ownership.
Nature connection surveys.