We have 26 partner organisations who we are working with to create beautiful wild spaces across the UK where both nature and people flourish, and increasingly to cut carbon too. This year we welcomed ten new Partners to our flagship Partner in Action (PIA) conservation network. This included our first cathedral partnership in Nottinghamshire, an amazing outdoor activity and education centre run by Scripture Union near Stirling in Scotland and a wildflower restoration project not far from Belfast, Northern Ireland. This expansion has been made possible through the generosity of supporters in responding to our Autumn 2019 PIA appeal.
Despite the impact of the pandemic, there has been a surge in interest in our PIA programme from organisations wanting to join, as more Christian land managers recognise the importance and urgency of addressing the twin crises of biodiversity loss and climate change. Members benefit from being part of a wider network working towards the same clear goals, and having a forum to share learning, joys and struggles. As we come to the end of 2021, there are more than 40 more Christian projects with land who have approached us to explore membership and awaiting site visits by our small team.
Over the next 12 months we will be visiting and assessing as many potential partners as we can, with a priority on expanding into areas of the UK where there is little coverage to date. We will also be offering further training and learning opportunities for existing partners in the network, focusing on the generation of habitats as part of our Target 25 Scheme. Please pray for our Conservation Team leading this work and for the partners themselves, as together A Rocha UK and partners scale up joint efforts to protect nature, address climate change, and provide access to nature for communities across the UK.
Wolf fields Update
Despite high Covid cases in the surrounding area, Wolf Fields Urban Nature Reserve has continued to provide a space of worship, enjoyment, learning and community in Southall, west London in 2021.
This year so far, we’ve partnered with over 30 local groups to provide a number of events and outdoor services for the local community. Activities have included an Art and Nature day hosted by the University of the Arts London, constructing two raised beds as part of a disability project with the support of Southall Lions Club, and planting over 300 flower bulbs in the sensory garden and wildflower area. We have also hosted people referred by local GPs as part of the Social Prescribing Project promoting mental wellbeing; and we’ve begun the design and groundwork for the proposed Labyrinth project spearheaded by the Grace network of local churches.
In October we were informed that A Rocha UK had won a London Faith & Belief Community Award for its work at Wolf Fields. The award is testament to years of work, through thick and thin, by a committed group of local volunteers and national supporters funding the work. In 2022, we look forward to working with new and existing partners in the Southall area, as well as extending our reach further afield in West London which has many other areas of considerable ‘nature’ deprivation. Please watch this space for our third Church Demonstration Day where we invite church representatives to come, taste and see what God is doing with our patch, so they can be inspired and go forth and do the same in their own church spaces and communities.
Foxearth Meadows Update
After lockdown, the Foxearth Meadows team lost no time in restarting the planned calendar of public events and activities (though they continued maintenance work in social-isolation during the lockdown). The team brought people closer to nature through events such as a Moth Night, Dragonfly Identification walk, Bat walk and ‘FoxeARTh’ art days. It was ‘full house’ for the first ever Church Demonstration Day in July and the two outdoor worship services proved as popular as ever.
Our dedicated volunteers are key to the practical conservation management of Foxearth Meadows and the running of our events. From digging shallow ‘foot drains’ or ‘grips’ to keep the surface water returning to the river, coppicing willow to create dense regrowth and laying blackthorn scrub to give dense low scrub habitat, their help is invaluable in maximising the opportunities for as many species as possible on our 11-acre site.
Volunteers continued to lend a hand even throughout the lockdowns, demonstrating the strong community spirit, as they maintained a patchwork of different habitats and structures on our rural reserve – all at a safe social distance from each other.
A key strand of the work at Foxearth Meadows is inspiring children and young people to engage with nature. This year, the team welcomed youth and special needs groups (with the help of toasted marshmallows!), and guided a BBC cameraman to our dragonflies for the next series of Cbeebies ‘Teeny Tiny Creatures’. The team also hosted work experience students and social placements for trainee ordinands in the Church of England as well as a visit from the Suffolk Wildlife Trust children’s Watch Group. Further links have also been forged with local home education networks and we expect schools to return to us in 2022 as we are their local outdoor classroom.
Image: The annual Partner in Action retreat 2021
Find out more about our PIA network here.
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