Conservation inspiration: wild education

Schoolkids swot up on minibeasts and bee hotels at Herts park

Primary school youngsters enjoy fresh air learning in the wildlife-rich wooded grounds of Takeley Park

Environmental education is a vital part of the work that David Bellamy Conservation Award Scheme parks undertake. One park that has done great things in this area of work, is Takeley park in Hertfordshire. After revitalising an area of woodland, the park then invited its local primary school in to use it as an outdoor classroom, developing a new Forest School Learning Initiative along the way.

“We wanted to enhance an area of woodland which had fallen into disrepair by former owners,” says deputy group manager, Rebecca Peachey. “The area seemed to be a forgotten part of our park and represented a missed opportunity to provide an area of amenity value for our residents and their visitors, whilst increasing biodiversity at the same time.”

The Essex Wildlife Trust visited Takeley to provide information on the wooded area and on what plants should be introduced. The actual work saw the park’s on-site maintenance team creating a new woodland path and tackling overgrown areas, chipping all cuttings and putting the chips back into the area. The park’s residents then took over planting woodland flowers. They also made bat, owl and bird boxes as well as bee hotels and insect homes. In addition, the park added benches and bird feeders to the area, along with a notice board detailing the wildlife that lives in the wooded area, which has been very popular.

“Feedback from our residents has been positive,” says Rebecca. “People have enjoyed making new friends as they helped with the planting and other work. It has improved a previously unloved part of our park and created a lovely woodland walk and bird feeding area for all residents and visitors to enjoy,” says Rebecca. “It has also allowed us to create a relationship with our local primary school who regularly use the area for interactive learning.”

The activities that the children undertake at Takeley include minibeast hunts, nature drawing classes, wildlife observations, making feeders and developing their awareness of the impact people have on the environment. The relationship with the school has become so good that the children visit at Christmas and sing carols for residents, which everyone thoroughly enjoys.

Rebecca’s advice to parks who want to do a similar project is to communicate with all residents or guests as soon as possible and to get as much buy-in to your scheme as possible. “Engagement with residents is key so everyone can benefit,” she says.

Seeking inspiration for new ways in which your park can help protect the natural world? In these articles, Rufus Bellamy, head of the David Bellamy Conservation Award Scheme, highlights some of the latest initiatives being taken. For more ideas, visit http://stayuknews.co.uk/conservation/