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Conversations about Conservation, with Charlie Roberts

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Charlie is one of Nottingham City Council’s Biodiversity and Greenspae Policy Officers and gave the Nottingham Green Guardians team a bit of her time to talk about conservation across the city.

Hi Charlie, can you tell me a little bit about what you do at NCC?

Hi Sandra, well I sit within the parks department and work really closely with Greenspace Development Officers and the rest of the parks team to make improvements to biodiversity in our parks and natural spaces.

I also work closely with planning officers to review planning applications, to review them and make sure that they are abiding by the local and national planning policy with regards to biodiversity and protected species.

Quickly on to species, do you have a favourite?

That is such a good question, I think I would have to say either bats or water voles.

Continuing with the theme of favourites, do you have a favourite habitat type?

I am very passionate about wildflower meadows and making sure that we have diverse grasslands in across the city.

But personally, my favourite habitat is woodland, they are so diverse, and woodlands can host such a variety of different species, from birds to mammals and insects all in one place.

Is there anything that you are working on at the minute that people can read about and then go and visit?

We have an ongoing project, the Bee Friendly Nottingham Project, which aims to create species diverse wildflower meadows within the city. By using existing spaces within the city such as parks or grass verges we can increase the diversity within those grassland areas to establish little pockets of wildflower meadows for pollinators.

Some of the sites I have helped to create wildflower meadows in this year include;

  • Harrisons Plantation in Wollaton,
  • Arkwright Walk in the Meadows,
  • Clarewood Grove in Clifton,
  • Hathern Green in Lenton Abbey.

So I have heard that you have been working on some pretty big projects around the city this year, can you tell me a little about Ventnor Rise?

Ventnor Rise is an old abandoned allotment site in Basford, which has been decommissioned for a few years now. The site has a few natural springs on it and is along side the Day Brook so was too wet for growing food.

We had the idea to create an accessible wetland on the site. It was very wild, very unmanaged and not very good species diversity. It was mainly Bramble, Scrub and Typha beds.

By using some European Regional Development Fund (ERDF) money we have created a new pond on site and have installed a boardwalk so it can be accessed by the public for recreation purposes as well as educational purposes.

We are hoping to have the project open to the public this summer (June 2023), although some additional works such as installing signage, interpretation boards and new benches are still ongoing.

We are planning to hold pond dipping sessions with local groups and schools as well as undertake some wetland planning and hedgerow planting on site in winter 2023.

One of the other projects I know you have been involved in, is at Colwick Woods which has had a lot of work done recently. Can you give me a brief overview of the work that has been completed so far?

This is another project funded by ERDF.  This project was aimed at creating better access to biodiversity, so we have undertaken some woodland management created glade areas for the benefit of pollinators, reptiles, insects and birds.

We have also created a footpath around a path of the site that was mostly inaccessible so there is a nice new footpath for people to visit and explore the woodland which will give residents access to nature on their doorstep.

Do you have a favourite park or open space in Nottingham City?

I think Colwick Woods is probably my favourite woodland site, it’s such a great, diverse site and from that aspect is one of our best woodlands in the city.

Woodthorpe Grange Park is where I work every day and I really love the park as I have come to appreciate it more and more as the seasons change.

What do you feel is your biggest accomplishment over the last 12 months?

I am looking forward to seeing all the new wildflower meadows bloom that have been planted this spring.

What do you feel your biggest challenge has been over the last 12 months?

My biggest challenge is probably helping people who don’t have a lot to do with the natural world and biodiversity to appreciate the value of biodiversity.

So you have mentioned a little about educating people on the natural world, if there was one bit of information you wanted everyone to know about green and open spaces, what would it be?

The thing that I would want everyone to know is how many different benefits that green and open spaces provide, it’s not just for people or for species.

It’s all the other ecosystem services that they provide, especially with climate change, open and green spaces present such a great opportunity to become a climate resilient city.

We know that trees create shade, which can keep areas up to 10 degrees cooler that if they were ‘grey’.  We also know that green walls or vegetated buildings can make a massive difference of up to 20 degrees centigrade in the internal temperatures of a building and help to reduce the urban heat island effect. They can also help with large scale storm events, help to reduce flooding and not only that but they can help with our health and wellbeing. Green spaces can help improve our mental health, help people to socialise in open spaces and volunteer groups getting to know other people they may have never met. There is a whole list of benefits that green spaces can provide that you wouldn’t get if these spaces are developed.

I think we need to remember the importance to protect what we have and continue to create and improve new spaces.

Anything else to add?

I just want to say thank you to volunteers across the city, they do such an amazing job and without them we would not be able to do half of the things that we accomplish as a council.

I know it’s difficult sometimes when councils don’t have the resources that they need but having willing volunteers who are amazing people to achieve so much more for communities, Nottingham as a city and wildlife.

Whether people give an hour, half a day or more everything adds up to help make Nottingham a great city.

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