Wild Sites on Your Doorstep was all about helping people to engage with and explore wild places close to where they live. We used photography, art and creative writing to enable people to discover the fantastic landscapes and special wildlife of the Stour Valley.
The Wild Sites are spread all over the area covered by the Kentish Stour Countryside Partnership (KSCP). They are very varied, ranging in size from a few acres to hundreds of hectares, from local parks to internationally important nature reserves, owned and managed by a range of bodies. KSCP felt that awareness of many sites was low and they were an under-used resource.
Project development and HLF bid:
We developed a bid to HLF on behalf of KSCP, writing an activity plan, producing activity briefs, carrying out community consultation, generating support for the project, and putting together a budget and other supporting documents. We also completed the application form, submitting in late 2012.
The bid was successful and Wild Sites was launched with a series of events that we organised in Ashford, Canterbury and some rural locations over the Mayday holiday in 2013.
The core of the project was our programme of community activities, for which we sourced providers, carried out all promotion and publicity, oversaw health and safety and administered bookings.
The programme consisted of free activities that took place at the Wild Sites. Wild Sites in Focus photography events were led by a professional wildlife photographer. Art workshops ranged from traditional landscape painting to the innovative environmental approaches of Artroots. An award-winning wildlife writer led our Wild Spaces, Wild Words creative writing workshops at Sandwich Bay. We partnered with the Wildwood Trust to provide wildlife illustration workshops.
In the summer holiday we ran a series of drop-in childrens art activities, some focusing on deprived communities. Finally a qualified teacher provided our schools outreach activities. In all cases, participants were encouraged to contribute their photos, paintings, drawings, and writing to the project.
This content became the foundation of four major project outputs – the Wild Sites website, the new printed guide to the Wild Sites, and two exhibitions of photography and painting, one in Whitstable and one in Ashford.
Volunteering was central to the project and regular participants took on a variety of roles. We provided a training course in leading guided walks and some trainees went on to lead walks in the activity programme. Other volunteers provided valuable assistance to activity leaders and to us as project co-ordinators. We trained one volunteer in website updating and this opportunity was instrumental in a career change into IT. Volunteers also helped to curate, hang and steward our two exhibitions.
We undertook ongoing monitoring and the data we gathered, together with interviews we conducted with regular volunteers, formed the basis of the half-way-stage and final evaluation submitted to HLF.