Nature's Connections

Tesco Bags of Help: plant pots by Rebekah O'Driscoll

Two projects have benefitted from Tesco Bags of Help funding: a project enhancing Health and Wellbeing at the Great Fen and Paxton Pits Bone Detectives scheme, both of which have fostered and encouraged greater engagement with the natural world

Nature Connections sessions have seen Wildlife Trust staff from the Great Fen team going into the community and engaging with people who otherwise would have little interaction with the natural world, through mobility issues or health issues. Mainly visiting care homes and often working with dementia sufferers, the team have also been to the Stroke Recovery coffee mornings and Dementia Cafés. These visits have been running for some time, but the Tesco Bags of Help funding has enabled employing casual staff to develop and run more sessions, as well as the purchase of equipment.

The sessions involve taking natural objects into the homes, for example scent bags with natural herbs, 'feely' bags with cones, stones, shells etc, and greenery such as plants and leaves from the Great Fen. Discussions about childhood memories help engage the residents reminisce about their experiences in the outdoors as children, while simple crafts using natural materials, planting seeds or plug plants, making colourful images using leaves, petals etc all help create a sense of wellbeing. The positive response from these sessions have had a profound impact on the staff and volunteers delivering them.

One care home worker said: ‘The Wildlife Trust ladies included each resident and family member into the afternoon, and also made sure that everyone was given a chance to speak. We would like to thank the Trust for joining us and delivering such a wonderful afternoon.’

The purchase of resources was possible, for example table top magnification lenses to assist those with poor sight, plus a large floor-scale size artistic impression map of the Great Fen area, which helped connect people with the landscape by identifying where they are - a real visual aid connecting people with the landscape.

Another Nature Connection session was with the Blind Association on the topic of bird song. To convey the different birds that they were talking about, the team used wooden replica birds’ eggs which proved absorbing and engaging; the group were amazed at the size of each egg, and from these they could ascertain which birds were larger. The team took real pleasure in delivering all the sessions, gaining a lot from delivering them as well as those who attended.

Tesco Bags of Help also delivered funding for half term activities last autumn at the Trust's Paxton Pits Environmental Education Centre. Communities and Wildlife Manager Debbie McKenzie organised a week of Bone Detectives activities, which proved very popular and received enthusiastic feedback from the families who attended. In advance of the week BBC Radio Cambridgeshire's Thordis Fridriksson visitied, recording a lively interview with Debbie which was aired on Thordis's afternoon programme, back in October 2019.

Children's experiences have also been enhanced at the Great Fen, where the funding towards the Little Bugs group has enabled increasing the frequency of the sessions from monthly to weekly and building it up to be self funding. The group encourages confidence for pre-school children and their parents/carers in being outdoors. Working outside as far as possible, children can explore at Ramsey Heights looking for wildlife and exploring natural play. The benefit to the children is obvious as they discover a sense of freedom while learning about the outdoor environment and  developing a healthy respect and love of the natural world.

For anyone wanting to volunteer/help out with Nature Connections sessions, find out more at volunteering opportunities at the Great Fen.