All posts by willhirstle

Wild Sites on your Doorstep

The Sites:

Hambrook Marshes, Canterbury

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.

Project delivery:

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.

CLIFF FALLS NEAR DOVER

Living on the coast I sometimes see how a storm that lasts just a few hours can make a lasting impression on a coastline.

One of my favourite places to see this dynamic process in action is the towering Abbot’s Cliff between Dover and Folkestone.

The soft chalk cliffs are exposed to everything the English Channel can throw at them. New landscape features and habitats are always taking shape here, from the small-scale to the dramatic. Enormous rock falls  expose new cliff faces, and natural processes create some unusual niches for wildlife. It really does go to show that coasts like this are ever-changing landscapes.

The soft chalk cliffs are exposed to everything the English Channel can throw at them. New landscape features and habitats are always taking shape here, from the small-scale to the dramatic. Enormous rock falls  expose new cliff faces, and natural processes create some unusual niches for wildlife. It really does go to show that coasts like this are ever-changing landscapes.

REVEALED – the most tranquil places in kent

Just at the moment, tranquillity is something people need more than ever. But can it still be found in South-East England? I decided to look back at places I’ve been to in recent years that still possess remoteness, peace and quiet in this busy, built-up corner of the world.

My starting point was a tranquility map that has been produced by the Campaign for the Protection of Rural England. They have looked at factors like noise levels, visual intrusion, naturalness, and remoteness from roads and settlements. The end result charts tranquility across England – the deeper the green, the deeper the calm!

I looked more closely at those green patches we have in Kent and thought about some of the peaceful spots I’ve discovered. This is the first of six posts about these secluded corners.

A lost settlement on Romney Marsh

Perhaps unsurprisingly Romney Marsh is the largest green area in Kent on the tranquillity map, and there are plenty of out-of-the-way places to choose from on this unique peninsula.

Many are drawn to the other-worldly landscapes of Dungeness, but I find the visual intrusion of the power station too great; what’s more, word has got out about this remarkable place and it now gets many visitors.

Dungeness
Dungeness – as visually bizarre as it is ecologically unique

Walland Marsh is the part of Romney that is most remote from roads and settlements, but it too is impacted by power generation – in this case a wind farm. Of course I’m all for renewable energy, but the turbines are just too prominent for me to feel that removal from civilisation.

The wind farm at Little Cheyne Court

My choice for a quiet corner of the Marsh is Eastbridge. Now, even people who live on the Marsh on reading this may be saying, ‘I’ve never heard of Eastbridge’! That’s because it’s a lost settlement. It once stood between Newchurch and Burmarsh but was abandoned in the Middle Ages. All that remains today is a ruined church.

The ruin of Eastbridge church

The surrounding countryside is a patchwork of pasture and arable, home to hares, marsh harriers and scattered farmsteads. The power station and wind farm are distant on the horizon, instead the beautiful Lympne escarpment is the backdrop. The only thing that might disturb the quiet is the mystical call of lapwings or the distant whistle of a steam train on the Romney Hythe and Dymchurch Railway.

Please check current restrictions before travelling to any locations mentioned.

What we do…

At Clarity Interpretation we help people discover, explore and engage with natural and historic environments.

We plan, write, design and supply interpretation of all kinds, using both traditional media, such as interpretation boards, and new technology. From developing ideas to the finished product, we can provide everything required at every stage of a project.

We organise and deliver community activities, volunteering, training and school education programmes, for heritage and conservation projects.

Our clients, who are mainly in the countryside, conservation and heritage sectors, range from the smallest community groups to national organisations, including Woodland Trust, Natural England, the Wildlife Trusts, Forestry Commission and the National Trust.

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Our main areas of work are:

Interpretive planning

Community activities

Interpretation panels

Leaflets and other print

Exhibitions and displays

Signage and waymarking

Mapping

Illustration

Clarity Interpretation was founded by CEO Will Hirstle in 2000.

Find out more about:
Our recent projects
Our values