23. Greening Up with the John Muir Award

Theme: Community engagement and participation

Objectives:

  • Improve local knowledge and understanding of the river and the issues facing it
  • Increase public access to and involvement in the river
  • Promote the river as a community and educational resource

Project description

A free course for adults suffering from or at risk of mental ill health that harnesses the healing power of nature.

Groundwork ran two Greening Up projects in spring 2016, with thanks to funding from Thames Water Community Investment Fund, Steel Charitable Trust and Wixamtree Trust.

The first took place at Riverside Walk (behind Bide-a-While) and the second in Leagrave Park. Both projects offered participants the chance to achieve a John Muir Discovery Award, which celebrates people exploring, understanding and conserving a local wild area, and sharing their experiences with other people.

For both cohorts recruitment targeted adults suffering from mental ill-health and other conditions that affect mental wellbeing, such as housing difficulties, learning disabilities and unemployment.

Tasks included:

At Riverside Walk

  • Orientateering using OS maps.
  • Fixed point photography - making picture frames out of found materials and hanging interesting natural aretefacts in them for passersby to see and admire.
  • Hedge planting - restoring an original feature hedgerow of the site using local variety whips.
  • Observing and recording the first signs of Spring.
  • Guided health walks along the river to learn more about its natural history and significance.
  • Photography - the group then shared their photos with each other.
  • Twig and fungi identification.

At Leagrave Park

  • Guided health walks around the park to learn more about its biodiversity and historical significance as a neolithic settlement.
  • Bird watching.
  • Improvement works to a footpath leading through Rotten Spinney - sourcing fallen tree limbs from around the site to create path edges and wooden stakes to fix them in place.
  • Brash clearance in areas of the site where brambles were taking over.
  • Building insect homes for the group to take away and share with other people, encouraging greater biodiversity in their own and other people's gardens.

18 people participated in the project which was designed to specifically support participants to use the outdoors as a place where they can build up confidence, knowledge, skills and experiences to help combat any personal issues they may be dealing with.

Project lead: Groundwork Luton & Bedfordshire
Project partners: Mind
Funding source: Wixamtree Trust, Steel Charitable Trust and Thames Water Community Investment Fund
Project start: 26 January 2016
Project end: 13 June 2016

Design by LTD Design Consultants and build by Garganey Consulting.