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How to crowdsource a nature reserve

By James Robbins

What do you do if you want to create a nature reserve, but don’t have the land for one? This is exactly the problem that faced the residents of Felixstowe last year. The solution they came up with was to crowdsource it from the community.

The project was the brainchild of Adrian Cooper. Adrian was frustrated by the catastrophic decline in bees and wildlife he was seeing all around him, and with little action coming from official bodies, he decided the only option was to take matters into his own hands. He started to speaking with the local community in Felixstowe and quickly managed to gather together a small team of volunteers willing to help. Everyone loved the idea of a local nature reserve, but getting access to a single plot of land would be complicated and expensive, so the team had to think of a different way to achieve their goal.

The solution they eventually came up with was that each participant would allocate three square yards of their own garden or allotment to become part of the nature reserve. If they could get 1,666 people to take part in the scheme it would create a reserve with an area of 5,000 square yards – roughly the size of a football field. This way the community could create their own ‘community nature reserve’ created from many small pieces of private land containing wildlife-friendly plants, ponds and refuges for insects. No space was excluded and even window boxes or balconies could make a contribution.

The project initially began as a Facebook page which gave residents regular advice about how they could contribute, suggestions of plants they could grow, and  how to take care of them. As word of the scheme began to spread the idea quickly gained traction as more locals started to sign up. Thanks to coverage from local newspapers, TV and posters around town the following started gaining momentum. Even other towns villages have started to use the same model to create their own community nature reserves and the idea could potentially be used all over the country to encourage more people to do more to preserve wildlife.

This brilliant project shows clearly how people power can make a huge difference. One small contribution by one person, when combined with thousands of other people doing the same, quickly becomes a huge contribution.

James Robbins @gardeningtrials is a gardener at a large private family garden in Hertfordshire called Dew Pond House. You can read more of his thoughts from his time ruminating in the garden on his blog Reflections on the Dew Pond. You can see regular updates from the Felixstowe Community Nature Reserve on their Facebook page.

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