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Community engagement: working together for wellbeing and conservation

Community engagement: working together for wellbeing and conservation

A large part of our work as a voluntary sector organisation involves building relationships and working closely with the community, this includes local organisations, as well as everyone in the community, writes Jackie Marie, our Community Engagement, Communication and Development Manager.

Our growing project gives us opportunities to engage with groups we don’t usually have the opportunity to work with. The past year we have been working with the RB Mind Positive Living Group, who visit the project once a month to grow together followed by preparing lunch and eating together. Starting as a very small group of 2 or 3 we now regularly see 9 or 10 with the participants growing in confidence a little more each month. It is heartwarming to see someone come in to the growing area with little or no experience and see them grow (pun intended) into a confident gardener and even mentoring others.

We also ran a 6 week ‘learn to grow’ course for a group of 8 people from Age UK Richmond. Most of the group attended every session and at the end of 6 weeks, many have continued to participate in our regular drop-in sessions. The act of growing together brings a unique form of social interaction, one that can develop and grow if given time and opportunity.

We will run another course in spring and hope to build up to 3 a year.
As a Dementia Friendly Richmond partner, we have recently launched our first dementia friendly walk. What a wonderful experience introducing this group of people to the common and sharing in their pleasure from the simplicity of walking through the woods, picking up conkers, identifying leaves. These small acts evoked childhood memories which were shared with the group as stories. Our next Dementia Friendly Walk will be in the spring – watch this space.

Our annual events grow year on year and enable us to engage the community in our works and activities bringing people of all ages together to enjoy nature and all it has to offer. In 2023, we added a new event to the calendar – our Urban Woodland Craft Fair, funded as part of the Mayor’s Community Weekend. The fair showcased the work of local wood crafters and artists, as well as the conservation work of the team at Barnes Common. Our team members demonstrated the significant benefits of woodlands in an urban setting and how working them is beneficial for the local flora and fauna and ourselves, particularly with regards to wellbeing. The fair was a success, with visitors enjoying, woodland walks, pole lathing demonstrations, wood craft sessions, bug hunts and more. We are excited to confirm we will host this event again in 2024!

Our Autumn Fayre returned for a second year, with the community pressing apples for juice, crafting pumpkins, competing in conker competitions, and going on family nature walks and fungi walks.

With the coming of the new year, we reflect on all we have achieved in the past year and hope to achieve in the future with the help of the whole community.

We look forward to welcoming you to our events and activities soon; we love to share our knowledge and enthusiasm for nature and the outdoors.