Natural and wild places have provided a lifeline for people across Hampshire and the Isle of Wight over the past year, providing essential outside space to relax, exercise, play and spend time with friends and family. Access to these wild spaces and connection to nature is known to benefit people’s physical and mental health, leading to reductions in depression, anxiety and obesity and strengthening people’s immune systems. However, the pandemic has highlighted vast inequalities in access to green and natural spaces. One in eight households have no garden and rely entirely on public open spaces, particularly in urban areas.
In a survey conducted by the Trust in June 2020, over 96% of people said that nature played an important role in relieving stress during lockdown and expressed a need for more natural space in our towns and cities. Urban wild spaces provide many wider benefits for people and nature. They create healthier communities, reduce loneliness and social isolation and provide safe places for children to play. They also provide cleaner air, combat climate change, help reduce flooding and act as havens for wildlife as part of a county-wide Nature Recovery Network.
The Trust is asking local people to map the ‘wasted space’ in their communities, the unloved scraps of land around our houses and streets that could, and should, do much more for people and nature. This could include tall buildings with the potential to have swift boxes on, paved over surfaces which could be filled with colourful planters or simply a space which needs a litter pick and a place to sit to transform it. The Trust want local people to help find creative ways to make space for nature within our towns and cities.
Debbie Tann, CEO of Hampshire & Isle of Wight Wildlife Trust, says: “Wildlife has been squeezed into smaller and smaller spaces just at the time when people need nature more than ever for their health and wellbeing. Our Wilder 2030 campaign is calling for 30% of land and sea to be restored for nature by 2030, and for people to join us in taking action for wildlife. This is important if we are to reverse wildlife declines but it's vital for people and communities too. This must be the decade of nature’s recovery and rewilding our lives. Any area, no matter how small, will contribute to a Nature Recovery Network, and help rewild where we live. This will help transform towns and cities into places where wildlife can thrive and people are happier and healthier.”
Becky Fisher, Acting Director of Advocacy & Engagement at the Trust, says: “Access to wild spaces should not be a luxury enjoyed only by those in the leafy parts of our counties. We must work with local people to map areas that are a ‘waste of space’ across Hampshire and the Isle of Wight. Once we have found these wasted spaces, we will encourage people to join forces with their friends and neighbours to create wild spaces for urban dwellers and breathe natural life back into our towns and cities.
“Our Wilder Communities Officers, will provide support and advice, including how to talk to your local council, ways to identify what wildlife might already be living in your community, and how to make a space that benefits people and wildlife. We’ll also be engaging with local councils and landowners to get their support so they can work together with communities to make changes which create better urban spaces for everyone.”
Together we can rewild where we live.