Connecting Communities – Update by RSPB Project Officer, Clare Whitelegg

Published: 9th September, 2020

RSPB Connecting Communities Project at Strumpshaw Fen works with the communities local to the reserve to connect them to nature in the Mid-Yare Valley and Strumpshaw Fen itself. We are working with local primary schools, close to the reserve, delivering outdoor learning in school and out on the reserve. We have a trained, committed team of wonderful volunteers who deliver this work led by a Project Officer.

The overall outcomes will be: 
• A sense of pride related to this special place amongst local communities
• A greater awareness among local children and their families about the special wildlife that inhabits the Mid Yare Valley and the wider Broads.
• More people inspired to give nature a home in the Broads landscape and to get involved at their local nature reserve.

The objectives of the project are to:
• further develop relationships with at least six local Broads primary schools local to Strumpshaw Fen and Mid Yare nature reserve
• deliver a programme of activities at each school led by RSPB volunteers
• support schools in working towards RSPB “Wild Challenge” awards, developing outdoor learning and actively supporting nature
• support school and community events through provision of nature-themed activities
• facilitate and lead school or community group visits to Strumpshaw Fen
• encourage local families to visit Strumpshaw Fen by developing and promoting relevant events and activities through these school partnerships
• Support community engagement initiatives developed by other WMM partners by ensuring they are maximized in these six neighbouring schools and their communities.

In the first year of the Project in 2019, we developed a committed team of enthusiastic volunteers to deliver the programme. The volunteers then delivered Birdwatching lessons to over 600 pupils between January 2019 and February 2020 from 4 of our partner schools.

Pupils from 3 schools have also enjoyed school lessons which are linked to the Science and Geography curriculum and visits to the reserve. Our theme for the educational programme is ‘Exploring and Adventure’. On the reserve, pupils have enjoyed pond dipping, environmental art and minibeast hunting. Every pupil visiting the reserve so far, has seen an iconic Swallowtail butterfly or Marsh Harrier!

We can attend local community events by running activities at School Fetes, as we did in Summer 2019.  We often work in the Broads Authority’s Exhibition Trailer, the fabulous ‘Joyce Lambert’ and with our partners at the Broads Authority. Our volunteer team enjoy delivering fun, nature- based activities. A number of community groups such as local cubs, brownies and Scouts have also had reserve visits. Blofield Scout group also took part in some practical conservation work on the reserve, which is just what we are aiming for in the Connecting Communities Project.

In 2020, we are developing our programme of community events and activities. Watch this Space… and follow us on Facebook RSPB StrumpshawFen and Twitter @StrumpshawFen