Felixstowe’s Community Nature Reserve was founded in May 2015. Our principal aim is to try and stop the decline in wildlife populations across its local area in southeast Suffolk. We do this by encouraging gardeners and allotment owners to allocate at least three square yards of their land for wildlife-friendly plants, ponds and insect lodges. The result is a “community nature reserve” composed of many pieces of private land, but between which insects, birds and other wildlife can fly and develop sustainable biodiversity.
The idea for the Nature Reserve was born out of my frustration with politicians during the 2015 General Election debate. None of them even mentioned the catastrophic decline in bee and other wildlife populations. Clearly, we needed action from local grassroots. People understood wildlife populations in Felixstowe and elsewhere were falling. They wanted to help, but they simply didn’t know how.
Without a large plot of land for the reserve, the only way it would work was by using a network of gardens, allotments and private land. It was important to make participation in this initiative as simple as possible, defining a nature reserve as being three square yards turned over to wildlife. We aimed for 1,666 people to take part. That combination would give us a total area of 5,000 square yards – the area of a football pitch – an image that everyone could imagine.
The project has been so successful that we’ve not only created our football pitch-sized area of new habitat, but it has inspired eleven other groups across the UK to begin similar community-based conservation projects, as well as one in Portugal.
In 2018 we started a citizen science group to measure the success of the Community Nature Reserve. The group shares their data at the local county level through the Suffolk Biodiversity Information Service. Across the UK, Felixstowe’s citizen scientists share their results with the National Biodiversity Network. Across Europe, data is shared through the European Citizen Science Association. Features have also been written for journals in the United States and Canada. Each month, Felixstowe’s Citizen Science Group publish the results of a new project in support of their overall aims.
At the beginning of 2022, local people asked Felixstowe’s Community Nature Reserve to support climate justice. During the first six months of this year, Nature Reserve team members listened to the anxieties of local people and discussed solutions to the challenges of climate change in which local people could participate.
On 2 July 2022, Felixstowe’s Community Nature Reserve organised a march along Felixstowe seafront. The march was intended to signal an end to simple talk about climate justice and encouraging local people to engage in as many climate-friendly solutions as possible. These are the six the group identified:
- For those who can, walk and / or cycle on local journeys to reduce their emissions
- Use more public transport wherever possible
- Recycle old and obsolete digital devices through envirofone.com and similar groups
- More use of PV solar panels on local homes, schools, public buildings and business premises
- Eat less meat to reduce demand for land to grow cattle feed and therefore reduce deforestation
- Encourage family, friends and neighbours to do the same
To promote this initiative, the group commissioned a film which was created by local musician and artist Lisa Tyte.
Each month since our march, Felixstowe’s Citizen Science Group has published data from its local research on its Facebook page to support these six solutions.
More recently, Felixstowe’s Community Nature Reserve has published six more solutions which it is encouraging local people to adopt:
- To encourage local people to own electric and/or hybrid cars
- Use smart meters to monitor and manage domestic energy consumption
- Adopt car sharing wherever possible
- Use more home insulation to reduce demand for energy
- Support Felixstowe’s Fairtrade Forum
- Local school children to encourage their families to adopt these solutions
Felixstowe’s Community Nature Reserve and Felixstowe’s Citizen Science Group are promoting a radical and visionary programme of environmental change. I hope this article will inspire other communities to also adopt and adapt these ideas for their neighbourhoods.