Local charity Open Country’s nature force group, and its members, has grown 5,000 wildflower plug plants in a bid to help re-wild the Wakefield district. The organisation is involved in a wide range of conservation projects aimed at improving the environment for people and wildlife across Yorkshire.
The purpose of Open Country’s nature force group
The group launched its wildflower project in summer 2020 when Covid restrictions limited its wider community-based activities. Based at the polytunnels in Thornes Park, the group planted the seeds in September with volunteers watering them and protecting them from the frost throughout the autumn and winter.
The project officer of Open Country’s ‘Wild About Wakefield’, Ella Dixon, says:
“So far over 3,000 plug plants have found new homes around the district. Some have gone in private gardens and some have gone into the wider countryside to help increase the wildflower meadows. All the plants will flower into beautiful colours and provide much needed food for our all-important pollinators this summer.
“With 97 percent of the UK’s natural bee and butterfly habitat lost since World War 2, we are doing our bit to restore the lost wildflower meadows and to make an important contribution to the biodiversity of our local area.”
Raising money for the organisation and new projects in summer
The charity is asking for donations for the plug plants and has around 600 plants still available to purchase. The money raised will be reinvested into conservation projects in the future.
An exciting programme of projects in the local countryside is set to start this summer with the Nature Force group. Some of these will include widening biodiversity, creating new wildlife ponds and increasing accessibility to Coxley Woods with a new footpath. Alongside these projects will be the wildflower project, helping to maintain wildlife habitats in the longer term.
Working closely with over 45 partners, including the well-known RSPB and Yorkshire Wildlife Trust, the Nature Force group has achieved huge long-term change. In the last three years the organisation has created over 500 metres of accessible pathway, made ten wildlife-friendly ponds, planted over 5,500 trees, and maintained rare habitats with regular work parties.
Weekly activities for people with a disability or mental health problem
As well as its conservation groups, Open Country runs weekly activities including tandeming, countryside walks and wheelchair friendly outings, to enable people with a disability to access and enjoy the countryside.
The Wakefield district features 560 kilometres of public paths available to walkers and cyclists, as well as seven country parks and 16 nature reserves. Despite all the outdoor space available, the Wakefield ‘state of the district’ report for 2021 revealed that only 26 percent of adults walked, for at least 10 minutes, five times a week in 2018/2019.
A key purpose of the Nature Force group is to encourage the public to engage in physical activity in local outdoor spaces, with the bonus of improving the wellbeing of disabled members of the group.
According to the Office for National Statistics, more than a third of disabled adults say they spent too much time alone since lockdown, compared with a fifth of non-disabled adults. The research also revealed that more than twice as many disabled adults (8.3 percent) as non-disabled adults (3.6 percent) said they often or always felt lonely.
The benefits of Open Country’s Nature Force group’s activities
The activities aim to, and succeed in, strengthening social interaction and engagement between people and the natural environment. As a result, self-esteem is increased, and loneliness and social isolation are eased.
Volunteering has endless benefits, Ella says, suggesting that “[volunteers’] time and effort in the countryside enables them to make a valuable contribution to their local community”, which in turns leads to a “more fulfilling, healthy and active lifestyle”.
To find out more about Open Country visit www.opencountry.org.uk. To pre-order some of the charity’s wildflower plug plants including vetch, corncockle, poppies and chamomile or to request the services of the Nature Force group, contact Ella at email@example.com or call 07426 716677.
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