We are not alone!

Indeed, we are not alone! This is not about extra-terrestrials or little green men from other planets but about volunteers in local organisations doing similar work to our volunteers in the Norwich Fringe Project. There are many volunteers out there beavering away managing the countryside and our urban areas to conserve our green spaces and protect the environment. This was highlighted in a series of presentations at an Outdoor Projects Network (OPN) meeting recently organised by Norwich City Council (NCC). There are many groups working on specific sites in and around Norwich but also other groups that work at various locations throughout Norfolk. Here are some of the groups that presented at the event:

Heavenly Gardens

The group “aspires to revitalise the medieval churchyards of Norwich to create an interconnected botanic garden for community use”.  There are 32 churchyards in Norwich that need looking after and volunteers currently focus on 9 of these with 23 churchyards awaiting improvement. Volunteers tidy up the churchyards and implement a planting plan with the aim of creating an environment for wildlife and for people to enjoy. The work is based within the City so easy to reach. Further volunteers welcomed to help the group achieve their aims. More information about their work can be found on their website here.

Grapes Hill Community Garden

The Group acquired a run-down piece of land near Norwich City centre in 2008 and through hard work converted it into a Community Garden. It is now well stocked with plants and trees. Volunteers regularly meet to maintain the garden which grows edible plants for community use as well as other plants and trees. Volunteers always welcomed to assist with the maintenance. The gardens are also open for visitors every day. See their website here for further information.

Norwich Environmental Weekenders (NEWS)

This group of volunteers from Norwich meets most Sundays to undertake conservation work in the wetlands, woodlands, heathlands, grasslands and coastal areas of Norfolk. NEWS is a TCV Community Network Group and undertake similar projects to those of the Norwich Fringe Project – woodland work in Autumn/Winter and grassland and fencing work during the Spring and Summer months. The NEWS website has further information about how to get involved here.

Butterfly Conservation

The Group are keen to help any local organisation with advice on both what butterflies they have on their site, and how to encourage them. Volunteer recorders visit sites to monitor butterflies and keep a record of what is found – we often see the recorders when we are working at sites such as Marston Marsh. They also run butterfly and moth identification walks and organise moth traps. Their website can be found here. The speaker encouraged attendees to submit lists of wildlife (including wild plants and fungi) on their sites to the Norfolk Biodiversity Information Service (NBIS) via their website here, and get help with identification of species via the Norfolk and Norwich Naturalists Society (Norfolk Nats) via their website here.

The Conservation Volunteers (TCV)

This is a national organisation that run several groups around Norfolk including the Norwich Environmental Action team which has conservation activities on most weekdays. Activities are very similar to those of the Norwich Fringe Project and NEWS are run during the week in and around Norwich. The speaker talked about Mindful Mondays Community Action Group which combines conservation work and walks to encourage people to connect with their local green spaces. More information on their projects and about opportunities for volunteering can be found on the TCV website here.

The Norwich Fringe Project supports many Friends of Groups around the area through direct support on conservation activities and developing management plans for sites which the groups follow. Our volunteers have worked with Friends Groups at Ketts Heights, Greening Wymondham at Ketts Park Wymondham, Friends of Train Wood, Friends of Danby Woods, Friends of the Tud Valley, Draituna Trees in Drayton, Marlingford Community Conservation Group, Old Library Wood Collective in Norwich, and many other groups. Several of the groups speaking at the meeting praised the support they have received from us to help them get established and guide them in their work. All of these groups have teams of volunteers supporting their activities which means that in and around Norwich there must be a few hundred people regularly giving up their time to support the local environment.

And there are other regional and national organisations that run volunteer groups for conservation work around Norfolk and several of our Fringe Project volunteers also work with these. The groups include: RSPB, Norfolk Wildlife Trust, Broads Authority, Natural England and the National Trust. So plenty of opportunities for people to get involved in conservation work to preserve the environment in both active and more supportive roles. Also, have a look at the Norfolk Biodiversity Partnership website here, where they have a list of community volunteer groups to consider.

The Outdoor Projects Network (OPN) periodically organises meetings for representatives from outdoor projects around Norwich to come together to see and hear about the work of the many groups. Meetings are usually held outside at a particular site and include a walk around the site and a discussion on their work so that attendees can share experiences and learn from other projects. The January meeting was held in a warm St Martins at Palace Church in Norwich and included a talk about the Norwich Historic Churches Trust which manages this and other redundant churches around the City. A keynote speaker from the National Federation of Parks and Green Spaces highlighted that there are around 6000 Community groups throughout the UK and praised the work of the 70 or so local OPN’s which encompass thousands of groups where people come together to exchange news and views, share good practice, and raise issues of common concern. The Norwich OPN is run by NCC and is a great way for projects to network.