Earthwatch Europe’s community nature project, Naturehood, has been awarded £200,000 from the National Lottery Reaching Communities Fund to bring nature to disadvantaged communities in Oxford. The areas of focus are Barton, Sandhills, Risinghurst, Wood Farm and Rose Hill.
This new National Lottery funding will enable Earthwatch to empower communities in Oxford to create thriving networks of wildlife-rich space that create better, healthier places to live. Naturehood will be particularly focusing on connecting with young people aged 16-24, minority and disadvantaged communities, who traditionally have had limited access to public green space.
The project aims to engage with over 6,000 people, both in-person and digitally. It will begin this autumn and run until June 2024. Initially Earthwatch, working in partnership with local charity partner Oxford Hub, will run listening exercises, workshops and planning sessions with local residents to create action plans for their communities. Further activities may include installing nature features such as ponds and wildflower verges in community spaces, and community events such as pond dipping, planting days, bird box building, wellbeing sessions and nature walks.
Bringing Naturehood to communities in Oxford
Through the creation of 'Naturehoods', neighbours work together to develop a thriving network of wildlife-rich green spaces that benefit both people and nature. The Naturehood project began in 2018 with a two-year pilot in Oxford and Swindon, funded by the National Lottery Heritage Fund. Since then it has attracted a digital following of 30,000 people around the UK, with a number of ‘Naturehood leaders’ using shared resources to green their communities.
In this new project, Earthwatch is keen to reach those who feel less empowered and have limited access to the benefits of nature.
The partnership between Oxford Hub and Earthwatch will use existing networks and activities to better understand the local issues and needs of residents. This will enable the project to build on the strengths, skills and interests of the communities the project is supporting. Community workshops and sessions will be held to help identify solutions to any issues that are raised during this process.
Naturehood will help develop shared spaces, bringing greater access to greenspace in Barton, Sandhills, Risinghurst, Wood Farm and Rose Hill. The changes will begin at the grassroots level, building on local knowledge so the outcomes reflect local voices and needs.
This means that the form Naturehood takes in each areas will be largely down to what the communities choose for themselves.
Sarah Staunton Lamb, Senior Learning and Engagement Manager at Earthwatch, said:
“What makes this project so exciting is the potential for creating a blend of nature-based activities and spaces in neighbourhoods that truly reflect the desires and experiences of the people who live there. We’re thrilled that, with support from the National Lottery, we can work with communities in Oxford to create greater access to the wide range of benefits that nature can bring people.”
Katharine Howell, Development Manager at Oxford Hub, said:
“We are delighted to be involved in the Naturehood project and excited about the benefits of this involvement for us and the communities that we serve. As an organisation, our vision is for an Oxford that is better for everyone, where everyone who lives here can thrive, participate in their community and feel a sense of belonging to the place where they live. Naturehood will help us to achieve these goals, by helping to create better places for people to live and building more connections within and between Oxford’s communities.”
Making a difference for people and wildlife
Naturehood will bring a variety of positive long-term benefits to the people and wildlife in Oxford.
The goal is to engage and empower people of all backgrounds to come together to create positive change for their community. Looking at ways to improve their local natural environments will be central to the project.
Another priority is to improve mental and physical wellbeing by encouraging people to spend time outdoors in nature, enabling them to have experiences with others which will create a sense of purpose and belonging. Learning experiences and opportunities to give back to the community will also be offered to the communities involved.
Mark Hanger, who lives in Sandhills, joined Naturehood as a Community Leader in 2021. He said:
“This is exciting news as not only do Naturehood support us with all the information and educational resources but with this additional funding and support we are able to plan and action some of our bigger goals taking significantly bigger steps to helping the wildlife and people within our community. It also gives us the confidence to think bigger and more ambitious, enabling real action at a local level and also playing our part globally.”
About Earthwatch Europe
Earthwatch Europe is an environmental charity with science at its heart. We drive the change needed to live within our means and in balance with nature. We do this by:
- Connecting people with the natural world
- Monitoring the health of our natural resources
- Informing the actions that will have the greatest positive impact
About the National Lottery
National Lottery players raise over £30 million a week for good causes across the UK. The National Lottery Community Fund distributes a share of this to projects to support people and communities to prosper and thrive.