Individuals and communities are at the heart of what makes a landscape special – the relationship between humans and nature has shaped the Greater Thames Marshes into the place it is today.
The Nature Improvement Area aims to work with local communities and help increase access to and understanding of the natural and cultural heritage on their doorstep. Through a series of “Nature Watch Points” we hope to promote and share what makes the Greater Thames so special, as well as give new ways for local people to get involved in looking after nature for future generations to enjoy. Details of projects supported by the NIA are listed below:
Community Art Project
Led by Essex County Council Places Services team, the NIA has commission two experienced artists (Heinrich and Palmer) to work with local community groups, such as Rethink, to create a brand new public art installation at Hadleigh Country Park.
This art project will explore and interpret the nature and landscape of the Greater Thames Marshes and produce a piece of outdoor artwork at Hadleigh. In addition to the NIA funds, this project has been generously supported by Arts Council England (ACE), ensuring we are able to involve the community in the production of this work. This project will be completed by March 2015.
Led by Thames Estuary Partnership, the NIA hosted 100 residents from Thamesmead and Poplar providing an opportunity to experience the river Thames from a new perspective. Heavily oversubscribed, these trips were designed to raise awareness of the area as being an important place for wildlife. A programme of talks and activities was provided on board the vessels as they traversed the Thames. Watch the below video to see how the trips went:
Improving Visitor Infrastructure
All around the Greater Thames there are some fantastic places to explore and get up close to nature. As a result of the NIA, we have been able to invest in new interpretation and infrastructure at three sites (Elmley Nature Reserve, Northward Hill and Rainham Marshes).
This work includes creating new visitor trails which will bring people closer to wildlife, interactive interpretation, enabling visitors to learn more about the natural and cultural heritage of the sites, as well as information which will help minimise disturbance impacts on wildlife.
Community Engagement Officer
Through the RSPB’s Futurescape Programme, EU LIFE+ have funded a Community Engagement Officer to work across the Greater Thames (view this blog for an introduction and more information). This work has been supported by the NIA to provide materials and resources to engage with local communities. Over the course of 18 months we were able to reach over 30,000 people to share and engage them in the wonders of wildlife in the Greater Thames. This has been an amazing project and we’ve learnt a lot about how local people are interacting with nature, which will inform future projects.
Big Picture: Photography Competition
The Thames Estuary is truly unique; one minute you can be engulfed in an industrial heartland, the next, sitting in solace looking across vast expanses of wild marshland. During Spring 2014, we asked you to get out and capture what this amazing landscape means to you as part of the Big Picture photography competition (this competition is now closed for entries and the project will finish in September 2014).
We received some exceptional images which demonstrate just how important it is to protect our natural environment – as well as having the opportunity to meet some great people at an awards ceremony aboard LV21 in Gillingham. The winning entries are being exhibited around the Greater Thames during Summer 2014. Visit our events page to see if there’s an exhibition near you!