A recent development as Stroud Nature seeks to take its work beyond the duration of the festival and engage with other organisations in looking at the importance of urban green space and wildlife corridors.
It’s a fact that most people’s everyday encounters with wildlife will be on their own doorstep. While walks in the open countryside, visits to a nature reserve or wildlife park, will yield a greater number of species for their enjoyment, not everyone can do this regularly. For many these experiences are few and removed from their everyday lives.
There are no guarantees, but people will expect to see more species when they visit a nature reserve because they are managed for wildlife and this is generally the case. Once back at home, however, what is the legacy of their visit. The trip fades into the memory as a one off special with little relevance to where they live.
Our national parks, AONB’s, SSSI’s, local nature reserves and sites of wildlife interest are great places to visit and we applaud those who manage and look after them. Stroud Nature’s concerns are that only a tiny majority of the population enjoy the opportunity to access them.
We believe that not enough is being done to promote our urban wildlife. That there has been a focus on the conservation of rare species in the UK. That with one or two exceptions (Springwatch), our wildlife programs focus on the exotic, the glamorous, the untouchable, turning nature into an armchair experience. We take our more familiar garden birds for granted. We undervalue the importance and great diversity of the invertebrates that share our homes and gardens. The House Sparrow was once one of our commonest garden birds but has declined rapidly. Swifts and house martins have also suffered great declines.
Therefore we are making urban wildlife one of the main focus’s of our work over the next few years, bringing this into the festival and linking to the ideas emerging through Stroud Nature’s Great Green Forum, which is looking at the importance of parks, green spaces and wildlife corridors in the town and their links to the surrounding countryside. This promotes the concept of joining up habitats to allow species to move easier between them.
We hope to raise the level of appreciation for our more familiar animals, so as to encourage people to include them in their garden plans, providing food and habitats. We will also celebrate the less common species that can be found in our urban environment. In Stroud, Little Egret, Goosander, Common Sandpiper and Otter use our waterways, mill ponds and park lakes. Kingfishers and Dipper dart along our rivers. Ravens and little owls are seen in our parks.
We should recognise how and why these species come into our towns and do all we can to encourage them to keep doing so and in greater numbers. We should also recognise the important role that our gardens play in the scheme of things and how they too might provide corridors for wildlife, not obstacles. That includes not only birds and mammals, but amphibians and reptiles and maybe more importantly, insects – the pollinators on whom so many other species in the food chain depend and who we cannot survive without.