Ten ways we can all help nature in Sheffield from our doorsteps

There are dangers in declaring a Nature Emergency says Lucy Watkins of the Sheffield and Rotherham Wildlife Trust’s Connecting Steps project.

Tuesday, 1st June 2021, 11:09 am
Updated Wednesday, 2nd June 2021, 4:14 pm
National Trust volunteer monitoring plants and insects in Grouse Inn Fields hay meadow.

“It’s too easy to get anxious because the loss of birdlife and bees and pollinators seems all doom and gloom, and feels like too big a problem,” she says.

“But I think there’s a balance of knowing what the issues are, celebrating what we have and doing our tiny little bit to help. If we keep talking and encouraging others to do the same it can make a difference.”

This June sees the ’30 Days Wild’ project when the nation’s Wildlife Trusts suggest people try a daily ‘Random Act of Wildness.’

Holly Hagg Farm community open day - pond dipping.

For Sheffield inspiration there’s an ‘Open Farm Sunday’ at Our Cow Molly on June 27, a national ‘Big Wild Camp Out’ on June 19 and SRWT is working with the ‘Beat the Street' initiative on nature based explorations of The Outdoor City.

You can also help nature from your own doorstep, says Lucy. “You don’t have to wait for someone else, you can get out there and improve things yourself. It’ll give you a sense of achievement and will also inspire others.”

Lucy’s 10 Random Acts of Wildness:

Set up a picnic in a nearby green space with family, neighbours or work colleagues and think about the trees, flowers, birds and insects living there. Consider how the space could be improved, and after the picnic, see if you can collect a few pieces of litter left by previous visitors. Draw a map before setting out on a walk from your door, trying to place what you’ll see and where. Then draw a new one during or after the walk and see how they compare. Try the route again adding more detail, and maybe add the time it takes to get to local destinations on foot. How long would it take by car or on the bus? Try a new map in a different direction. Find the nearest tree (on your street, or in a nearby park or woodland). Ask some questions: are there any birds in it at the moment? Does it have beetles or lichen on its bark? Try and find out what species it is. Do you think it’s older or younger than you? Grow a new oak tree. Collect acorns in autumn, take them out of their cups and sort them in a bowl of water - healthy acorns ready for planting will sink. Plant in a small pot with a thin layer of stones or gravel under soil or peat free compost. The first leaves should appear next spring, and after careful watering over summer the young tree should be ready to plant out the following spring. Help reduce litter and micro-plastics circulating by buying unwrapped food and products, always carrying a carrier bag for shopping and taking your own mug to the cafe for a takeout drink. Make a bee house or insect hotel using twigs and short lengths of hollow bamboo tied together in a bundle and hung in a sheltered spot in a hedge or bush. Watch and follow the bees as they visit and pollinate different plants. Which ones do they like best? Learn the names of flowers you spot on your travels, using a phone app or guidebook. Draw some in your note book, then find others, see where they grow, and which insects they attract. Make a date to get up early with friends or family and watch the sunrise in the east (before 5am just now!). It’s a reliable and humbling event that happens every single day. Stay still and listen as the birds and animals wake up for the day. Talk to neighbours about local wildlife. Could you make a hedgehog highway together, by leaving holes in hedges and fences to help hedgehogs roam for food and find a mate? In the summer, go barefoot whenever you can! ‘Grounding’ helps your feet and your mental health, and reconnects you to the planet you live on. Try streams and ponds, and even mud!

Ben Keywood from Sheffield and Rotherham Wildlife Trust (left) identifying butterflies wih David Baston at Warsdend Cemetery in 2017.

Visit www.wildlifetrusts.org/actions or www.wildlifewatch.org.uk/activities

Sophie Watkins litter picking.
Lu Watkins' muddy feet.
Refugees from British Red Cross helping repair a wall near Froggatt with the National Trust.
Scything and raking in a Sheffield woodland.