Visit to the Wild Wild West

Volunteer coordinator Jo Glazebrook took a trip to the Avon and Wiltshire Wildlife Trusts to find out more about their Wellbeing in Nature projects.

by Jo Glazebrook, Volunteer Coordinator

This summer I spent two days visiting Avon and Wiltshire Wildlife Trusts. Both trusts are using food growing and environmental activities to deliver their ‘Wellbeing in Nature’ projects so as part of my own learning and development it’s worthwhile to take time to see how other people do things elsewhere.  I love this part of the world, partly for nostalgic reasons having grown up here.  I also find the people to be warm and easy going and the grass smells different to me than in the south east, more grassy if that is even possible.

I spent the first day at Feed Bristol, Avon Wildlife Trust’s community food-growing project in Stapleton. This five acre site includes polytunnels, a roundhouse, and a range of wildlife friendly habitats and growing spaces. I went along to a ‘Wellbeing Wednesday’ session designed to reconnect people to nature to help improve their health and wellbeing. The course is delivered over six weeks, combining the Five Ways to Wellbeing actions with being outdoors in nature.  On both days it was hot, just so so hot as the temperature hit over 25 degrees and as much as I love the sun and being outside, it was really cool sitting inside their roundhouse after time spent on their community plot weeding and harvesting lettuces.
Feed Bristol pic
The staff and other participants were all so kind and made me feel really welcome even though I had just popped along for the day. It felt useful  to remember how it feels  turning up at a new place  for the first time, not knowing what the day will be like and what to expect, where to get the bus to go home etc. It was clear from chatting to those involved that the project is clearly having a positive impact on their lives from week to week, from getting involved in other nature based activities to growing more food themselves at home.

Goats, baby beetroots and ‘zero food miles’ 

There is so much going on within the AWT and across the rest of the city too. I went to the Windmill City Farm to look at their community gardens which supply the ‘zero food miles’ café.  This is a sheer joy to find within the city. One friendly volunteer gave me some baby beetroots to take home which they had been thinning out which I ate for my dinner.

If you too are a Bristol fan or you want stay in the know the Bristol Food Network is a great website. Lastly another reason to give a double thumbs up. Bristol has been named the UK’s most environmentally friendly city based on carbon emissions, recycling levels and energy consumption, alongside green space and Green Party council seats.

I spent the following day with the Wiltshire Wildlife Trust on their wellbeing programme.  WWT also use the five ways to wellbeing model with the addition of an extra one ‘Care for the Planet’. On the day we were pretty exposed working in the walled garden in Lydiard Park so when one participant offered splashing people with the hose it was most welcome.  Many projects like to have their own base but this project uses different reserves and community spaces each week on the programme. This enables participants to interact and create relationships with public spaces that they can visit by themselves or family and friends.  This is to encourage a feeling of “I did that” visible to them outside of project hours. Many course participants go on to do volunteering with WWT and with TWIGS  (Therapeutic Work In Gardening in Swindon).

Swindon is part of the Incredible Edible movement; inspiring and supporting people of the city to source grow, cook and eat more local and sustainable food. They are doing lots of lovely stuff from planting raised beds at a community centre to a ‘Three sisters’ front doorstep gardening project.

Both visits were really worthwhile in helping me reflect on how and why we run our projects in certain ways.  It’s also part of our ongoing commitment to create relationships and connections with people outside of Brighton and Hove who share our goals around connecting people and food. But probably, most importantly, it keeps my dream alive that one day we will have our very own City Farm so I can go and hang out with some goats during my lunch break.

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