By Rick Lockwood, Connecting Communities Project Lead

It’s hard to believe, but we are now six months in to our Connecting Communities project, making it a good time to pause for a moment and reflect on how the project has evolved and what has been achieved over this time.  

The project is funded by the Government’s Green Recovery Challenge Fund and aims to connect, engage and inspire more people to access, care for, and play their role in protecting the great outdoors.  

The three trainee Environment and Engagement Rangers employed through the project began their time with us from the end of January. Laura, Ethan, and Chamonix between them have brought a wealth and variety of skills and experiences with them into their roles and have been developing into a formidable and complementary team who work really well together.  

They have been put through their learning paces with lots of training necessary for their development as rangers. As well as the usual statutory requirements, they will have also completed the Outdoor Learning Leader Award and the Level 2 Forest School Assistant qualifications that will help them to organise interesting and rewarding events and activities for people visiting the three lakes where the project is based – Tamar Lakes, Wistlandpound Reservoir and Stithians Lake 

Trainee rangers at Discover Wild Tamar event. Greenery and lake in background.

Over the Easter holidays they ran their first public event at Tamar and also helped with other Easter family events at Siblyback and Burrator 

Most of their training has been during their first few months with us. From the beginning of June we will be moving more into the delivery of public events over the summer period and working to form partnerships with local community groups and organisations.

In June and July we are running a pilot project with One Northern Devon that will offer ‘Woodland Wellness’ sessions at Tamar Lakes for local people that want to attend through social prescribing for nature, giving them opportunities to more easily access the benefits of time spent in nature. We will provide experiences and activities in a camp setting in a secluded woodland area for people to relax and engage with their surroundings. 

Then during the summer holidays our team will be hosting two three-day family events at Tamar Lakes and Stithians Lake with a variety of environmental arts and crafts and experiences where people can learn more about the nature and wildlife at these special places. 

As the Connecting Communities Project Lead my role has involved ensuring the trainees gain the training, skills, and experiences they need to grow and become the rangers that take the vision of South West Lakes into the future. Part of that vision is to work more closely with those people in the community that find it especially difficult to visit and experience the nature on their doorstep. Through providing facilitated activities we hope to provide the ways and means by which more people can access the mental and physical health benefits that can arise when we are able to take the moments to slow down, connect and appreciate what nature unknowingly provides us.  

lake view on clear day with blue sky

The next six months will see us reaching out to partner with local community groups and organisations and exploring ways that together we can provide meaningful and fun experiences for people to further enjoy our wonderful lakes. If you are reading this and have a project idea, or you work in your community and would like to help give people better access to nature and wellbeing we would love to hear from you. My email is [email protected]    

The Connecting Communities project is funded by the Government's Green Recovery Challenge Fund. The fund was developed by Defra and its Arm's-Length Bodies. It is being delivered by The National Lottery Heritage Fund in partnership with Natural England, the Environment Agency and Forestry Commission.