Inspired by the many fabulous environmental initiatives taking place in Portsmouth, Pens of the Earth was set up to encourage writers to celebrate existing projects, and to imagine what might be. This week Andy Ames reports on efforts at rewilding Portsmouth, and what you can do to help.
Wilder Portsmouth is a partnership project between the Southern Co-op and Hampshire & Isle of Wight Wildlife Trust (HIWWT). The focus of this jointly-funded initiative is around encouraging people to take action to create and enhance wild spaces where they live.
It is essential that we increase the space for wildlife and help make the natural world an important part of people’s lives. By improving and connecting wild spaces, we also aim to reconnect and strengthen local communities.
Wildlife is in free-fall and we are witnessing dramatic declines in many species and important habitats. We know that a healthy, wildlife-rich natural world is essential for our well-being and prosperity.
We believe that part of the solution must be individual and collective action by people in their own homes and communities.
2020 is a critical year, a turning point. Decisions and actions taken in the next ten years will affect the next thousand years. By 2030 we must see nature recovering, wildlife returning and ecosystems restored. We can’t defer, we can’t wait for more data or better reasons to act. The evidence is already there and we know we must act.
Who are you? A nature lover, mother, brother, business leader, politician, teacher, artist or scientist? There is no one without a role in this plan and we can only succeed together. Yes, these may be big global issues, but your voice matters and local action counts. Everything counts. It all adds up. We need different people playing different parts – rebels and advocates, funders and supporters, doers and thinkers.
We Can Be The People That Fix This
We’ve lost so much already, you might not even notice or you might have even forgotten. You might remember that the state of nature was different when you were growing up, but subtle changes easily go unnoticed. Subsequent generations have unknowingly accepted this creeping impoverishment. Wildlife is in freefall and yet, for many, the present dearth of nature is seen as normal.
Image of Andy Ames and Laura Mellor by Helen Salsbury
Hedgehogs, bats, sparrows, song thrushes and stag beetles are all amongst our declining species in the UK, but if we manage our city to benefit wildlife, these creatures and many more will find refuge.
‘My daughters are eager to see a hedgehog, they have only ever seen them in books and on TV. It would be great to see and hear more birds too.’ Local resident Laura Mellor. Laura and her family are working with HIWWT to rewild Francis Avenue. She also organises Playing Out events (read our Streets for People article for details).
There is so much to gain. The people of Portsmouth could be here in years to come and see purple emperors flit amongst the canopy and hear turtle doves churr. They might not even notice, it could be normal in our city. Our vision is beautiful and vital. We want nature recovering, wildlife returning, ecosystems restored. We want great places to live that are good for people and good for wildlife. We want nature to be normal, for children to grow up with wild and green spaces to explore. We must restore and re-wild our city and shoreline and tip the balance in favour of nature. We know this is what’s needed for our food, oxygen, physical and mental health, our prosperity and for a strong and vibrant society. We know that nature’s recovery can help tackle the climate crisis.
In Portsmouth we have started and as the mighty oak comes from the small acorn the seeds are beginning to be sown by individuals and communities. In Francis Avenue we are developing our first wild street with churches, pubs and businesses joining local residents in making positive changes, from adding bug hotels and bird boxes to planting pollinator plants. In Tamworth Road residents are making similar additions alongside tree planting and adding pollinator plants into their local park.
Image of bug hotel by Hampshire and Isle of Wight Wildlife Trust
‘It means that we’re helping nature as a community and we’re making our street a pleasant place that we can all enjoy. We’ve added plants to our front forecourt with a bin shelter that has a green roof.’ Laura Mellor
Portsmouth has a rich variety of wildlife spread all across the city and by enhancing our local communities we will be able to better connect these spaces and help encourage our wildlife and nature to thrive. It may be neighbours getting together to create a corridor for hedgehogs by linking gardens with hedgehog size doorways or adding in pollinator friendly plants to attract bees. Simple additions like adding pots to concrete patios and driveways or a bug hotel to our gardens will all add up and help make our city a little more wildlife friendly.
Image of Wilder Portsmouth bin shelter by Eve Mellor
Why bugs, you may ask. Insects are crucial components of many ecosystems, where they perform many important functions. They aerate the soil, pollinate blossoms, and control insect and plant pests. Many insects, especially beetles, are scavengers, feeding on dead animals and fallen trees, thereby recycling nutrients back into the soil. As decomposers, insects help create top soil, the nutrient-rich layer of soil that helps plants grow. Burrowing bugs, such as ants and beetles, dig tunnels that provide channels for water, benefiting plants. Bees, wasps, butterflies and ants pollinate flowering plants.
The Wildlife Trust is encouraging residents, local businesses and community groups to think a little ‘wilder’ with information and events to be held across the city. Information on how and why can be found here.
‘Organising this kind of initiative as a street is really exciting. I think it encourages individuals and households to know that their neighbours are also contributing: the shared endeavour brings an optimism about what we can achieve together.’ Laura Mellor
Whilst public concern about the environment is at an all-time high, behaviour change is lagging far behind. The science shows that if 1 in 4 people take action, this is enough to change the minds and behaviour of the majority.
Our Future Has to be Wilder
Pens of the Earth is about environmental tales from a positive Portsmouth – encouraging writers to celebrate existing environmental initiatives, and to imagine what might be. This year, we will also be supporting two charities, one global, one local. Help us to support our global reforestation charity Tree Sisters and plant 2,000 trees by March 2021.Click on the logo above to donate via Pens of the Earth’s TreeSisters page. Every £10 plants around 25 trees. More about our plans to raise money for our local charity, WilderPortsmouth, in the coming weeks. Learn more about Pens of the Earth: www.pensoftheearth.co.uk. Sign up to the Pens of the Earth mailing list. Follow Pens of the Earth on Facebook and Twitter to stay informed.
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Main Image by Hampshire and Isle of Wight Wildlife Trust
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