Three Wildlife Organizations Thriving Through Lockdown

Written by Taylor Ogle

Sheffield is not only home to an abundance of green spaces and parks; it is also a hub for green groups and wildlife organisations, many of which have surged in popularity during lockdown. 

Social isolation is at an all-time high, but many people across the region have taken the time to reconnect with nature. Turning to nature in difficult times can help relieve stress. NHS Forest advises: “Nature helps improve our overall mood and reduces stress and anxiety levels. It also provides long-term benefits, including reducing the risk of developing chronic illnesses such as cardiovascular disease, diabetes, and obesity.” Several local organisations have seen encouraging upticks in support and engagement that show just how much we have come to need nature.

Fields along Porter Brook [Copyright: Taylor Ogle]

South Yorkshire and Rotherham Wildlife Trust

The Wildlife Trust has always been committed to connecting people to the natural world around them, and despite coronavirus restrictions shutting down in-person outdoor learning sessions, they have persevered.

The organisation sent out over 800 nature-inspired kits to children learning at home to promote wellbeing through engagement with nature. The packets include a range of activities from species spotting guides, boggart making kits, and nature based craft ideas. The kits, sent out to kids from preschool age to 16-years-old, were well-received by parents after hundreds signed up to take part in the program.

Amy Simcox, Head of Engagement, said: “Parents and caregivers are doing a fantastic job of home-schooling – it’s not easy, and we want to help you as much as possible by making our resources accessible to you all at home.”

Much of the funding that made these kits possible came from the People’s Postcode Lottery and the National Heritage Lottery Fund.

“Whether it inspires you to build a hedgehog shelter, start your own garden bird-watch or discover something new about wildlife with your children, we really hope you find something that sparks their interest and creativity and helps them connect with nature,” the Head of Engagement for the Trust said.

The Sheffield and Rotherham Wildlife Trust is also running a series of Nature Natters. These free informal coffee-chat style sessions are run once a week through 4 March by a member of staff to introduce the community a wide range of topics from barn owls to butterflies.

Friends of the Porter Valley

News of another national lockdown halted all volunteer sessions for Sheffield’s Friends of the Porter Valley, but that hasn’t stopped the group from hurtling towards their fundraising goal of £380,000, so far raising £337,392.

The group’s main project is the much-needed restoration of Forge Dam. The Forge Dam Heritage and Habitat Improvement Project began in 2010 after a petition made Sheffield City Council aware of the poor state of the area.

Copyright: Ian S

Forge Dam has been in desperate need of restoration [Copyright: Ian S]

The Friends of Porter Valley have been working with Sheffield City Council and raising funds through events like their annual Duck Race for years.

It has taken a massive amount of community support to maintain this momentum. Earlier this year, the group received an anonymous donation of £100,000 taking the group 88% of the way to their fundraising target.

Detailed talks with the City Council have continued, and now the final planning and work for the restoration of the dam will be able to go ahead in Autumn 2021. After nearly a decade of work, the project is set to be completed in Spring 2022.

The Peak District National Park

Daily walks have become a hallmark of the pandemic and with the Peak District at Sheffield’s backdoor, it’s no wonder people have flocked to its wide-open spaces and gorgeous landscape.

Copyright: Samuel Timson

Gorgeous scenes from the Peak District National Park [Copyright: Samuel Timson]

Once the initial restrictions prohibiting walks further away from home were lifted, the national park was flooded with walkers aching for a bit of fresh air. Unfortunately, the park was also flooded with litter, but thanks to Hulme resident Lee Spensley it didn’t stay for long. Mr Spensley was inspired by a litter-pick early in 2020 and decided to continue his efforts throughout the entire pandemic.

As of this month, his hard work has resulted in an astonishing 250kg of rubbish collected. National Park Chief Executive applauded Mr Spensley’s efforts: “Whilst our beautiful Peak District has become a vital place of sanctuary in nature during these challenging last few months, we have also seen a disappointing increase in litter in many areas. My heartfelt thanks go to Lee and countless others who have shared with us their efforts to care for their little piece of the National Park and keep it clean and tidy for us all to enjoy.”

Written by Taylor Ogle

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