There’s lots of ways that you can protect and encourage wildlife in their local area. Whether there’s an area of land close to you, a bit of ground at your local community centre, library or school, with some work, these could be turned into wildlife havens and great places for the community to enjoy.
The number of wildlife rich areas have dramatically declined over the past couple of decades. This has often been the result of residential and commercial developments.
By creating a structure regardless of size (even on a small area of land), communities will play an important role in the protection of the wildlife around them.
Before you start your project, research your local community to see if there are others (including community groups and your local authority) who may be interested in supporting you. This will be a great opportunity for you to gain volunteers, funding and even equipment.
As a group, you will also need to identify exactly what it is you are trying to achieve. Jot down all creative ideas and think about how you will fund each project. You’ll need to seek permission from the land owner at this stage and identify which roles people will play in the project. Ensure that you consider peoples abilities when delegating a role.
It’s important for any community space to ensure that other local people know what you are doing and agree with your aims. Local meetings in libraries and community centres can help you to gain public support towards your project.
Once you know what you want to do then you are ready to investigate your site further.
Investigate and survey your chosen site
Before you finalise the planning of your project, you should investigate your chosen site and carry out surveys on wildlife, plants and natural resources already present.
A detailed map of the site would be useful, your local authority or local community groups may be able to help you to do this. We’ve featured some websites below that can use to produce detailed aerial views of many locations.
Once you have your map, you should outline or pinpoint the following:
- Types of wildlife habitats (example: woodland, pond, grassland).
- Conditions (example: sunny, drainage issues, access).
- Man-made features and regulations (example: preservation orders, underground pipes, paths, buildings, overhead lines).
- Potential problems (example: flooding, erosion, vandalism, littering).
- Your local Wildlife Trust may also be able to help you to carry out this task.
Refining your project plan
Know what your aims are, what your site users want and what the site is like. It’s now time to finalise your aims and your ideas about how to develop the site.
It is a good idea to carry out research around what your ideas are. For example;
- What types of plants do you need to attract certain butterflies?
- What types of plants are already there?
Questions like these ensure that any plants you add are more likely to survive and attract the wildlife you want to see.
Remember to also take time to visit other community gardens and wildlife areas to see what they have done and learn from their successes, and failures.
Turning your idea into a design
Having a design allows you to explore ideas and break them up into manageable tasks that can take place over a number of weeks, months or years.
Numerous factors will affect the design such as land use and existing features; and it might change over time, but a good design is essential at the start.
- Review your aim, if your aim is to create a pond to allow children to go pond dipping, then a pond has to feature in your design somewhere.
- Review your site investigations, where are the areas that are already good for wildlife? Where is wet already and is therefore a good place to dig your pond? What can you not do because of the shade cast by any nearby buildings?
Your design needs to reflect the resources you have available. Building a 100 metre long dry stone wall might not be a good idea if you have no access to stone or enough people to learn the right techniques to build the wall.
Ensure that you know how much the work is going to cost. For example, think about the costs of the tools, materials, plants, skip hire and training courses.
Think about how you can raise funds or apply for funding to meet these costs. Don’t forget to budget for lots of tea and biscuits!
Make sure that some of your group are trained in risk assessment and first aid as this will help you make your project safer and enable you to react if accidents do happen.
Develop an action plan
Once you’ve completed your designs, the next step is to develop an action plan. This will allow you to identify how you will create and manage the site.
Your plan should include:
- Implementation: How will you develop your site? What will you do? What time of year will you do certain activities, and who will be responsible for those activities?
- Sustainability: How will the site be maintained? Is everything documented in case the group changes and new people come in? How will you continue to fund the project?
- Task plans: A task calendar can be very useful at this stage, highlighting jobs over the coming year. Consider things like when should grass be mowed? Or when is it safe to clear out the pond or fell a tree?
Your local Wildlife Trust or local authority may be able to offer help to you to carry out this task.
Create and enjoy your site
Once you have fully designed and planned your wildlife haven, it is now time to start creating your site.
By working with professionals or other local community groups and following your aims, designs and plans, creating your wildlife haven should be simple.
Once your site is created, make sure you take time to celebrate it. Show off your good work by hosting a launch event, inviting local press and the local community.
An event might also bring in more volunteers to help with the up-keep of the site and provide you the opportunity to obtain futher donations or even sponsorship.
Make sure you spend some time just enjoying what you’ve created and watch out for the wildlife that will come flying, running and crawling in.