Funding from Esmée Fairbairn has enabled us to undertake our Wildlife Connections Project – connecting people to their local wildlife sites.
Belfast has many green spaces and small areas of great wildlife value. Areas of potential are dotted around local communities and housing estates. This is particularly true for urban fringe areas where residential districts are hemmed in by the steep slopes of the Belfast Hills along the west and north of the city. The rivers and streams coming off these slopes often flow into the city along narrow wooded valleys between housing estates. Sometimes these have become interfaces or ‘no go’ areas between different Belfast communities. In a few cases these sites have been forgotten, becoming hotspots for fly-tipping and antisocial behaviour, or lost to development. Other sites, whilst well maintained by their owners, could benefit from further engagement with local communities on what additional improvements they would like to see for the benefit of wildlife.
Through the Wildlife Connections project the Belfast Hills Partnership supports local communities to address these issues by:
- Creating plans for key sites in the fringes of the Belfast Hills for community action on site. Plans will be drawn up in conjunction with key local community voices through a long term process of ongoing engagement and involvement.
- Carrying out further surveys and gathering information on the sites. This will range from detailed information on ownership and planning status to practical wildlife and access surveys.
- Planning and initiating practical environmental improvements as identified and agreed with site owners and local communities. An emphasis will be placed on multiple site themes such as wetlands, woodland, hedgerows or insect pollinators.
- Holding community events on sites to boost local involvement, share local success and raise awareness of current and planned work.
- Providing opportunities for volunteering both for local and other people outside of the locality. This will be on a practical environmental and specialist skills level according to requirements and skills.
- Identifying and providing required training and skills development for staff, volunteers and site managers to encourage sustainability of the project aims, future projects and career development.
- Developing links between sites and communities, at management, physical, environmental and social level. Hopefully this will encourage long term development of the sites and related community support and development.
- Fostering a multiple site approach which would initially concentrate on key issues such as management of invasive species, fly-tipping and long term species and habitat management.