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Providing communities with access to nature

19 November 2013


At a celebratory event today, TV’s John Craven will present awards to volunteers who have gone the extra mile as part of Natural England’s Access to Nature project. Funded by the Big Lottery Fund, it aims to encourage people to enjoy the outdoors and has run over 100 successful projects since launching in 2008.

In this blog, Paul Bamber, Natural Links Community Officer of The Mersey Forest, shines a light on one project in particular – Setting the Scene for Nature*.

Last year, on a beautiful sunny day in Sutton Manor community woodlands, we held The Elf & Fairy Fair, a free outdoor family festival for children and their families in St Helens that saw the forest come to life.

The event was one of several organised by The Mersey Forest as part of their Setting the Scene for Nature project – set up thanks to Access to Nature.

The day offered young participants the opportunity to enjoy crafts around the fire and watch out for fairies on stilts in the ‘secret’ Forest School and listen to magical tales in the storytelling tent.

The Elf and Fairy Fair has been one of the project’s biggest successes so far – it attracted a crowd of 1,500 people, around 600 of whom had never visited the woodlands before. It was great to hear positive feedback from families about their experience of the event; many hadn’t realised before that this beautiful spot was just on their doorstep.

Setting the Scene for Nature is working to bring local communities together through a new-found and shared interest in their natural environment. We are achieving this by providing a diverse range of free activities, events, training and support.

All the sites involved in this project have been transformed from derelict or brownfield land with problems such as vandalism and fly-tipping into rich natural resources. Dozens of tree planting, wildflower sowing and clear up sessions involving local children have supported the improvement of these sites and instilled a sense of pride and ownership.

Partners and groups are being provided with support, resources and frameworks to carry out further community engagement on these sites, making them sustainable in the long-run.

It’s fantastic to see the positive difference that projects like this and other Access to Nature initiatives across the country are making. Everyone involved is working hard to reach out to people who otherwise wouldn’t have the opportunity to enjoy and learn about nature and to make a lasting difference to their environment.

Read more about Access to Nature on the Natural England website. Visit the Mersey Forest website to watch the Elf and Fairy Fair event film.

*Please note that the Setting the Scene for Nature project has recently come to an end.

What do you think of Paul’s blog? Are you involved in a project giving people the opportunity to enjoy the great outdoors? Leave your comments below or join the conversation on Twitter using #biglf.

One Comment leave one →
  1. 19 November 2013 1:18 pm

    Reblogged this on The Three Estates Notice Board.

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