• Libby

Transcript - Urban Wildlife: Think Globally, Act Locally, with Danielle, Essex Wildlife Trust (Ep22)


Libby: You are listening to Constellations, the community podcast connecting charities, communities & causes in the two unitaries of Thurrock & Southend.

In today’s episode we chat to Danielle, the Urban Engagement Officer for Essex Wildlife Trust. As we discuss, Essex Wildlife Trust is devoted to protecting all wildlife, including the wildlife that is found in urban landscapes and the recovery of nature in those areas. Listen on to find out more about the different projects happening this year, including the Urban Wildlife Champions project…


Sharen: Welcome, Danielle.

Danielle: Hello.

Sharen: Thank you for joining us today. So could you tell us about Essex Wildlife Trust and your role within the organisation?

Danielle: Yeah. So Essex Wildlife Trust is a conservation charity. Actually started in 1959. We are committed to protecting wildlife through landscape conservation and then also inspiring a lifelong love of nature through lots of different education activities as well. So it's quite a big organisation. But my role specifically within the trust is within the landscape coordinations team and as part of our 2022 2025 wild Essex strategy, we've got a cross cutting theme of urban. So my role specifically, and what I'm responsible for is to deliver targeted urban wildlife projects for nature's recovery. So it's a sort of brand new branch of the trust.

Libby: What sort of things do you do?

Danielle: Um because the role is relatively new, I have been part of quite a few new initiatives. So my role has been creating projects for our towns, villages and local communities, but the reason we're sort of creating this new branch is because, as we all know, nature is in crisis. So we all have a role to play in protecting what's important to us. So we can do that by thinking globally, but actually acting locally. What we want to do is engage more with our urban landscapes, simply because 30% of our land is urban. But actually 80% of us live in that urban landscape, and it is growing. So within our sort of wild Essex vision, we want to engage more with our urban landscapes and really have some of those community led grassroots activism type projects going on. So to do that, to kick start that, we have launched something called the Urban Wildlife Champions Project.

Libby: Ooooh. It sounds very exciting.

Sharen: It does. Could you tell us a little bit more about it?

Danielle: Yeah, absolutely. Using community organising techniques, the project aims to recruit, empower, inspire and guide like a network of individuals across Essex who want to take action for wildlife in their local communities. So I, as the urban engagement officer, will be there to sort of facilitate, guide, advise different champions across Essex - do actions for wildlife in their local communities. And I would do that through things like face to face meetings, online support, training, webinars, tool kits, resources. Um and the actions can be fairly bespoke. But some ideas could be things like maybe campaigning to your neighbours about installing hedgehog highways. It might be talking to your council to remove pesticides for maybe one of your local green spaces. It might be installing mini meadows along your road verges. Copse planting… Any kind of species specific habitat action. Anything is really possible. The list literally could go on and on and on, so It's a very exciting new project and there will also be a, sort of a peer on peer aspect to the project where I will try and link champions from across Essex so they can share the experience and learning and knowledge. So it's quite it creates that community of action rather than it being sort of siloed individual here individual there. So yeah I'm really looking forward to getting to know people across Essex and

Libby: Sounds so amazing!

Sharen: It does

Libby: So how do people sign up when it's starting?

Danielle: Yes, good question. Go onto our website, so you sign up and then on sign up you get a PDF welcome pack and, like a starter toolkit and also an email for me so we can talk. So you get that sort of personal relationship straight away. And, yeah, if you're an individual, really, that is at the start of their journey and maybe want to take some action, then excellent - that's the place to sign up, or even if you're already part of a community group, have some project ideas, things that maybe you want to get started but need that support from Essex Wildlife Trust, then I look forward to you signing up.

Libby: I'm going to be signing it. You're going to get an email from me!

Danielle: Good!


Sharen: So have you got any plans to work with any of the local schools?

Danielle: Um, so my branch is mostly working with communities, but we do also have an education team who do currently work with schools in something called the Inside Out Consultancy. Um, so if you are a school and you want to maybe make some changes in your school grounds, we do also have a website page for that as well. So a whole education page called Insight Out Consultancy.

Sharen: So how did you get involved with the Essex Wilflife Trust?

Danielle: So I've had a bit of a wiggly career path, but I've always had sort of a big passion for protecting wildlife and also sharing the joy it brings. So I've been a teacher for five years, previous to this primary school teacher within that are trained to become a forest school teacher, and that kind of, I guess, shifted my transition. And when this job role came up to sort of protect and enhance our urban wild spaces, I went for it simply because I've always lived in an urban area as well. So I know how important those slices of habitats can be for wildlife and people as well. So yeah, I just thought it was the perfect role for me.

Libby: I'm just thinking in my head about how exciting and I'd like to sign up and everything. In my garden at home.

Danielle: Yep

Libby: We last year tried to do like a massive patch of grass where we didn't mow the lawn. What kind of things like that could me or anybody that's listening that's got a little bit of garden space do?

Danielle: I'm really glad you said that because, actually, although there are many, many actions you can take in your garden, that is actually one of the most effective and easiest from experience. So yes, as you say,

Libby: it's nice, easy

Danielle: Yeah it is, you can choose, even like a small section. doesn't have to be your whole lawn, and then it encourages wildflowers to pop up and then in turn, you’re providing for those pollinators. But there are lots and lots of things you can do so if you don't have a lawn. Another way to do that is by getting some wildflower seeds and putting them in a plan to making sure you choose a sunny spot and then you're providing for all those pollinators things like bumble bees, spiders, insects, things that are really going to help also pollinate the flowers that are in regarding and maybe even if you've got vegetables helping them as well.

So some other things you can do really simple actions could also be installing bird boxes, bat boxes and then also one of the other things I suggested really thinking about providing water for wildlife as well, which is sometimes not always thought about having simple ways not necessarily a pond, but just some simple ways of providing water, because that's also really important for our pollinators, too, because they don't just need nectar. They also need the water, too.

But if people are really interested in how to provide for wildlife in their garden, we do actually have some really handy guides on our website whole section called Action for Wildlife. And there's loads of stuff on there and how to do it. Things like creating a bug hotel. How to provide for birds, nesting birds, what sort of bushes to maybe put in your garden that sort of thing.

Libby: Fantastic sounds great. We will pop the link to that in the show notes for the episode.

Danielle: Yep, no problem

Sharen: Isn’t it called No Mow May? Isn't that that is a thing?

Danielle: Yeah, that's plant life, and it is a really, really good way of introducing that because it's just one month of not mowing, and it is a really good time because most people tend to mow in Spring. And what you're doing then is you're creating an issue where the wildflowers don't pop up and then you don't have those things like daisies and dandelions and clover and selfheal and all those things that I guess, are traditionally seen as weeds. But then they don't pop up, and then you're not providing for the pollinators. So May is a really good time not to mow if you can hold out and not moment all the way through to autumn. Then that's even better.

Libby: Oh wow.

Sharen: Yeah, I'd quite like to do that.

Danielle: Exactly! Less jobs!


Sharen: You are incredibly knowledgeable about all this. You've obviously always had an interest in it, have you?

Danielle: Yeah. Absolutely. but yeah, I've really enjoyed working for the trust and that simple sort of knowledge that you're part of yeah, a charity that is providing for wildlife makes me feel wonderful. So I've been able to dive straight in, get my hands stuck in with projects, learning about everything that's happening. And it's been fun. I'm glad. I sound knowledgable.

Libby: So we were talking about wild flowers and seeds, and you mentioned before we started recording the Big Wild Seed Sew.

Danielle: So, yes, and actually it ties in with what we've been talking about throughout this whole podcast. We did it last year, and it was really successful, so we're relaunching it this year, launching around July-August. And it's a campaign where you can actually get your hands on some free seeds. So, last year. You could go to your nature discovery centres and collect them. There'll be other ways to do that this year - look out at your local nature Discovery Centre and there will be some free wildlife seeds.

Libby: Fabulous! My kids loved that last year, so we'll be doing that again.

Sharen: Yes we did it as well.

Libby: So what do you love about your job?

Danielle: That is hard. I've definitely loved getting stuck into the projects and creating them. But one of the things I've loved the most is actually meeting people from across Essex, and it's just amazing listening to some of the ideas and the passion that people have for wildlife, and it just kind of brings that sense of hope. For example, I was chatting to a lady just a few weeks ago who wants to do a project all around wildlife gardening. And instead of doing more sort of a digital campaign, she wants to get a group of volunteers in her local community that's going to go around to different households and help them with those small transitions to then provide for wildlife in their garden and also to create those relationships. Have fun in your garden, experience nature. So that idea I was like, wow, that's amazing.

Libby: Such a good idea

Danielle: I would never have thought of that and gives that sort of sense of locality. It's all people in the same area

Libby: Yeah

Danielle: Going towards the same vision mission. So that was really exciting. Also, another another person I was talking to locally to here, actually. Hhe has a large verge area in front of his house in the middle of two roads, and he's hoping to maybe work with the council a little bit and trial, keeping an area unmown between spring and autumn because he has that vision of people sort of popping out their front doors, seeing the colours of the wildflowers and seeing the bees going out, checking it, looking. And I think he's like really keen to get that started. And it's just lovely to hear these ideas. That's my favourite part.

Libby: Fantastic.


Libby: So how can people get involved in different ways, are there volunteering opportunities available?

Danielle: Yeah, so aside from the Urban Wildlife Champion Project, which is a very different opportunity, we do have our sort of normal volunteer roles, things like practical activities, managing reserves, teaching the next generation about wildlife or assisting in our centres. So if you if you're interested in those sort of roles, we do have a dedicated volunteer page where if you go on, you'll find an inquiry form and also a number and an email, and you'll be able to talk to our volunteer coordinator who can sort of direct you where your skills might be best used or where your interests lie. So, yeah, there's so many things you can do to get involved.

Yes. Actually, the website is - because I have spoken a lot about the website - is www.essexwt.org.uk. So you know we've got lots of different pages on there

Sharen: Great. And are you involved in any other local community projects?

Danielle: Yes. So outside of my role uh within Essex Wildlife Trust, I do actually lead a litter picking group in Leigh-on-Sea called Litterless Leigh. A bit of alliteration there.


Danielle: And uh we meet monthly to simply litter pick some of the very local, vital wildlife habitats that we have, like Belton Hills Nature Reserve, Leigh Marshes, the area towards Two Tree Island, Old Leigh and then also Marine Parade as well. So it's very much if you're in the local area, come on down. I've got all the equipment so you don't need to bring anything. I've got the pickers, I've got the bags, I've got the hi-vis the gloves, anything you could need. And then, yeah, we spend maybe one or two hours picking in the local area and we do that monthly.

Libby: Sounds great. How can people find out when and where you're going to be?

Danielle: Yeah, so my main sort of area of communication is Facebook. There's a group, so if you type in Litterless Leigh, you should be able to find us on there, and I post up usually sort of 3 to 4 weeks in advance when the next meeting is going to be here. So

Libby: Sounds great.

Danielle: Yeah.

Sharen: Is it something that you would recommend families could do together as well?

Danielle: Definitely. Yeah. We've been going, I'd say coming up to six years now. So it's been going on a long time. And through that, we've had quite a few families come along and join. And especially if it's a nice day. It's a lovely area to walk. Look at the views and pick as you go along. So it is. I think it's quite a nice activity to do, and people do get quite obsessive with it, so it sounds like a not very nice thing, but you get that feeling of joy and you're pleased with the work you've done.

Libby: Yeah it’s a sense of accomplishment.

Danielle: Yeah, that’s the word I’m looking for

Libby: So other than the website, if anybody wants to get in touch and find out more about what you've got going on, where can they find you on social media?

Danielle: Yeah so Facebook and Instagram are our best places because we tend to post up our updates our recent campaigns or anything that you can get involved with. So I say there are definitely the best best places. And also you get to see some of the fantastic photos of what some of our members have captured across our reserves.

Libby: I love looking at those!


Danielle: Yeah, I say that those two are the best places

Libby: Brilliant. We'll pop those into the show notes too

Sharen: So thank you for joining us today. And for all your advice.

Libby: It's been lovely meeting you and we'll both be in touch, I think.

Sharen: Yes

Danielle: Oh amazing! Oh I’m glad I’ve maybe got at least two potentially champions in the room.


Danielle: But yeah thank you for having me. I've really enjoyed it.

Libby: Thank you very much.


Libby: Thanks so much for listening! As always, please visit our website at constellations-podcast.org for a full transcript of this episode, as well as show notes listing links & information about organisations & groups mentioned in the episode, including the sign-up page to become an Urban Wildlife Champion (and yes, I have signed up myself already!).

Thanks again and remember to tune in next week for our next episode. Bye!

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