Portsmouth Play and Youth centres supporting a Wilder Portsmouth

Wilder Portsmouth has teamed up with the Portsmouth City Council’s Adventure Playgrounds and Youth Centres to connect more of the city’s children to the nature on their doorsteps.

There is increasing evidence that contact with nature provides a wide variety of benefits for children. Being in nature provides many benefits by encouraging kids to be more active, nurturing their creativity, teaching responsibility, and reducing stress and fatigue. The wide range of learning opportunities give the children a chance to develop an interest in and understanding of nature. At the same time, there is an increasing global concern that children are getting fewer and fewer opportunities to interact with nature as increasing development destroys natural landscapes and access to the few green spaces is limited by economic and social barriers.

Wilder Portsmouth, an initiative run in partnership between the Trust and Southern Co-op, have teamed up with the City Council’s Adventure Playgrounds and Youth Centres to connect more of the city’s children to the nature on their doorsteps.

Lin Atkinson, a Food and Health Project Worker for the centres, promotes the wellbeing of young people in the city.

“The majority of sites of our playgrounds and centres have large open spaces and I have been very lucky to team up with Andy Ames, the Trust’s Wilder Communities Officer. Together, we aim to help foster awareness of the values of nature in our city from growing and eating naturally to creating wildlife habitats for our city’s wildlife.

Working together we are encouraging the sites to attract more wildlife and to help connect to nature on their doorstep. The staff have been busy building bug hotels, bird and bat boxes.”

The information that Andy sent through about how to build: a bug hotel, a bird box, a bat box and a solitary bee home have been greatly received and some sites have already started building.
Lin Atkinson, Food and Health Project Worker

So far, the sites have been given a selection of seeds to plant for visiting pollinators, including wildflower mixes, cornflowers, and sunflowers. Andy has offered the sites support and advice for their projects and the staff are keen to attract solitary bees and are planning on installing nests for them.

Lin has sourced three different types of bird feeders filled with peanuts, fat balls and seeds to provide for the birds at each site. In January staff and children joined in the RSPB’s Big Garden Bird Watch and were surprised at how many different birds they counted in one hour.

The adventure playgrounds are spaces dedicated solely to children’s play, where skilled playworkers enable and facilitate the ownership, development, and design physically, socially, and culturally with the children playing there. They are enclosed to signal that the space within is dedicated to children’s play and to enable and encourage activities not usually condoned in other spaces where children play, such as digging, making fires, or building and demolishing dens and other constructions.


The playgrounds and youth centres offer opportunities in which children have the freedom to determine the nature of their play, where they can feel that anything is possible. There is compelling research evidence that children greatly benefit from playing in and with the natural environment and this is an integral part of what the sites can offer.

Geoff Chapman site leader at Landport Adventure Playground says “the kids love being outdoors and taking action for nature. The children have enjoyed making bits and pieces for the squirrels, birds and bats on site. The site is for the children as much as it’s there for the wildlife so seeing the kids involved in attracting more wildlife makes it more special. Whether it’s gardening, construction, discovering wildlife, making friends or simply getting messy with water, mud and sand, there’s something for everyone to get involved in.”

Two girls crossing a wooden bridge holding hands

Wildlife is an important component of the environment, even in highly built-up urban areas such as Portsmouth, wildlife can positively influence the quality of human life.

Studies show that urban areas with wildlife habitats constitute a better environment for people than areas largely devoid of wildlife. In addition, urban wildlife programs are useful in educating people about the basic principles and values of wildlife management, thereby stimulating greater support for regional, national, and global wildlife programs.

Our green spaces need to be inclusive and welcoming, activities in or near green spaces, such as adventure play can bring spaces to life and create opportunities to connect with nature. Nature can provide us with one of the best solutions to make Portsmouth a safer, greener, happier place to be in.


- Andy Ames

Wilder Communities Officer, Hampshire & Isle of Wight Wildlife Trust

Twitter: @FearFiain

Girl hanging from monkey bars

© Anja

Inspired by Wilder Portsmouth

If you're part of a community group in Portsmouth and would like to find out how you can become Wilder,  get in touch by emailing wilder@hiwwt.org.uk!

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