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  • Writer's pictureClare Snowdon

Dreaming Nature-Connected Neighbourhoods into Being

As I write these words, I am sitting with the intention of offering something that can be used by our communities to create visions of the future we want to bring into being for the benefit of our whole (human and wild) community. It is natural and right that this process carries at its heart a sense of the legacy we want to offer for future generations.

Nature-Connected Neighbourhoods is of and for our community – the human and wild community, so it is important that this document is just a starting point, to be shaped and brought to life by the people and wider nature it serves. It was written sitting with hawthorn, oak, the land and the river and all the community and nature kin who came to visit as I put the words that came to paper.

We sat with the question “What will life be like in 2030 for our wild community and our human community?”

Before starting, it felt right to offer a ceremony of sorts:

“We dream this vision together as Nature.

Starting by feeling the support of the Earth beneath. Grounded and stable. Held and supported.

Breathing the oxygen, gifted by the plants and trees and ocean plankton. Inspired and nourished. Feeling the breeze, clearing the dust and breathing fresh life into our project.

Noticing the sunlight filtering through the leaves and dancing on the water. Bringing energy and lighting the way as we work together.

Ripples on the water as the acorn drops into the river. Carrying our creation outwards to touch many lives. Allowing the flow of Nature to carry and guide us.

This place is a testament to what can be achieved in a relatively short time and also to the power of community spirit. Offering thanks to the Friends of the River Crane Environment.

Offering deep and heartfelt gratitude for the many gifts shared by our community. Asking that we may work with and for all of Nature.”

The Dream

What will life be like in 2030 for our wild community?

In 2030, there will be a network of nature- thriving corridors and habitats connecting woodlands, scrub, heathland, chalk downland, acid grassland, peatland, coast and other wetland and many more, all through our built environments. Our gardens, allotments, buildings and streets will be teeming with diverse life and providing an assortment of habitats (ponds, hedgerows, log piles, wildflower meadows) that might only be possible through the care and guardianship of humans. Ivy and other plants will add greenery and insulation around buildings as well as habitat and food for pollinators. Green roofs will be abundant.

Streets will be lined with hedges, which are filled with the chatter of sparrows and other birds. Community fruit trees and corner gardens will provide free food and a place to come together. Herbs and perennial plants will provide much of the food we eat as a community. There will be many more allotments and community gardens.

Outdoor spaces will be filled with native flowers, bees, butterflies, beetles and many more. Hedgehogs will roam freely and safely. Most gardens will have swapped their fences for hedges or “fedges.” Gardens will have layers of life – no longer just flat, cropped lawns or paving, but instead tree canopies, shrubs, climbers and layers of plants at all levels. Water will be harvested at every opportunity from rainwater and grey water, both in private grounds and public areas. Our outdoor spaces will help to capture carbon through healthy soil, filled with plants and trees and we will know how to help these spaces to be more resilient. In turn, they will help with adaptation to a changing climate, through shading and cooling and reducing flooding. Our actions will help as a Nature-Based Solution to climate change and we will have a better understanding of how to care for our spaces to ensure water flows through the system for the maximum benefit and minimum harm. We will no longer be using harmful chemicals and we will have a strong sense of connection to our wider place.

Many areas will be allowed to rewild – to flourish and thrive and provide for the needs of all nature and provide an extension of existing habitats, offering mobility to the flora and fauna. In this way, we can help species thrive and deal with changes in the environment such as climate change.

What will life be like in 2030 for our human communities?

We will be far more connected with our neighbours. The sense of isolation, loneliness and any barriers between us will have dissolved. In its place we will be sharing tools, skills and food. People will all have easy access to outdoor spaces, where they can relax. Those who have struggled with their garden due to time or physical mobility issues will have the opportunity to connect with those without access to outdoor spaces to share the care of our gardens. However, even those living in apartments will be surrounded by greenery and micro-habitats such as pond bowls, climbers and window-box meadows.

Homes and buildings will be welcoming to swifts and bats, with swift tiles and bat boxes and a huge improvement in light pollution. In some places barn owls will feel safely at home alongside us.

Our ideas about how an outside space should be will be defined not by neatness, but by the life thriving within it. We will have a sense of community pride, where wild spaces hold a place of special affection and are free from litter. Our attitudes towards nature and sharing our spaces with soil and trees and invertebrates will be transformed. We will have a reverence for all life.

Our children will know the song and name of the song thrush and chaffinch. They will spend much of their time outdoors. Schools and nurseries will be a core part of this thriving community, recognising the value of outdoor learning and nature connection and the learning opportunities offered by providing nature corridors and diverse habitat.

People will be benefitting from a renewed connection with nature. The UK will lead the way in nature-connectedness. We will have a sense that our lives are rich and full. Our lives will be filled with meaning and purpose and a sense of community. We will know ourselves as nature. Our physical and mental wellbeing will be improved and there will be a sense that, although there may be challenges, we are resilient and supported by community and able to weather any storm.

We will have a sense of our gardens and towns as ecosystems. We will be filled with a sense of belonging to these ecosystems, to our community and that everyone is useful and valued.

Closing in gratitude

This is just a start. The conversation continues. Deep gratitude is offered to all who work so tirelessly for our communities and for the nature that supports and inspires us.

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