COMMUNITIES AND NATURE
We’re supporting people in Oxfordshire to deepen their connection with nature. Getting out into green spaces can help improve mental and physical health, build self-esteem and confidence by learning new skills and provide a sense of belonging and shared purpose in our communities.
We are working with groups in our CAG network and beyond who are delivering projects and activities that connect local people to nature on their doorstep and beyond.
2023 Grant Awards
With thanks to ongoing support and funding from Oxfordshire County Council, we have awarded grants OF £500 to five groups around Oxfordshire to deliver project that deepen people's connection to nature.
International Trees Foundation (ITF) with partner Refugee Resource
This collaborative project is running a series of visits for Refugees and Asylum seekers to local nature sites in Oxfordshire, working with Refugee Resource. The project is working with adults, children and young people who are currently receiving psychological, social or practical support from the organisation, to engage them in a series of woodland activity sessions. This is with a view to improving their physical and mental wellbeing, building their confidence and social interactions and giving them the opportunity to immerse themselves in nature and all the positive benefits that brings.
The project builds on a very successful series of taster sessions held during the summer of 2022 when Refugee Resource and ITF organised several family days out to local woodlands and farms in Oxfordshire; the days were well attended and greatly appreciated by the group and they left with an enthusiasm for more.
The first ‘Healing in the Outdoors’ event at the Oxford Botanic Gardens was a beautiful day to launch the project and the group really enjoyed themselves and left excited for more! Additional events are planned in part because ITF secured additional funding for a further programme of 10 visits thanks in part to this initial funding.
This project will provide a fun day during school half term on a particularly deprived estate in Witney. HomeStart plans to provide nature activities for the families - nature hunt, bug houses, bird feeders, planting and vegetable planters. Local organisations are bringing owls, gardening equipment, and making seed bombs and the group will also promote local parks, woods and free nature activities.
Banbury CAG/Bridge Street Community Garden (BSCG)
The garden partnered with the Sunrise Multicultural Project, who were already engaging a group of 11 female refugees and asylum seekers of various ages (3 - 55 years old) and nationalities (Saudi Arabia, Ethiopia, Iraq, Syria, Iran, and Brazil). Sunrise Multicultural Project realised the women would benefit from growing their vegetables locally, as they need access to more fresh food. They expressed a strong interest in spending time outdoors in our green space with others to combat a sense of isolation. The people in the group currently live in hotels, and would benefit from the opportunity to integrate more with the local community.
Though challenging to establish, the Garden Coordinator developed a way of passing information on to as many people as possible within the hotels. There was a great turn out in part because they created a flyer that was translated into 11 languages by various multicultural volunteers involved in the garden. Additional events are scheduled including free gardening workshops inviting people from the hotels and more stabilised community members alike. The Garden Coordinator visited the group of women a couple of times, and held conversations with various participants from different parts of the world about the types of vegetables they would like to grow at the community garden. She is now in the process of preparing their own hexagonal planter for them to use when they come to the garden next. Additional funding was secured to purchase the soil needed as well as future programming.
Oxfordshire African Caribbean Mutual Association (OACMA)
OACMA are looking to set up and run a community garden in the Blackbird Leys area for social and mindfulness wellbeing. The garden will include a sensory area, bee hives, high raised flower beds and vegetable and herb patches. It would also give teenagers the opportunity to connect with nature by learning about bees, benefits of using herbs and how to set up a sensory garden. The sensory garden will be a space for people experiencing loneliness, isolation, anxiety or depression so their mood, physical fitness and health may be improved. Initial site planning is underway.
Oxford Community Action (OCA)
OCA wanted to continue organising family-friendly hikes to help address the ongoing health inequalities in certain demographics in Oxford. By organising a car sharing scheme and a hike led by experienced people from within the diverse communities of Oxford, a sense of community and fun is established! The hikes are open to everyone, offering support for novices via an established local hiking network. In May, the group took 21 people to Winnats Pass.
CAG GROUPS WORKING TO BRING PEOPLE AND NATURE TOGETHER
Below are some examples of existing projects run by CAG members that focus on different aspects of community engagement in the course of their environmental work. If you’ve got a project you’d like us to add to this list, or would like to be connected with any of these projects, get in touch: firstname.lastname@example.org.
The Children’s Allotment
The Children’s Allotment was founded by a group of parents, community members and educators who found a disused plant nursery and decided to convert it into an educational outdoor space.The space is a welcoming local resource where local families can spend time with their children, meet other parents and build social networks. Activities include an after school club, Forest School, family music sessions and bike mechanics courses for kids.
Stoneshill Community Garden
Stonehill Community Garden provides outdoor learning experiences for diverse groups from the communities in South Oxfordshire. They provide a safe space which offers more than purely a gardening experience. They bring together people of different ages, backgrounds and abilities to get active through learning practical skills around growing, building and working outdoors. Whilst creating the opportunity for people to be outdoors and connecting with the natural world, a sense of community is created through skill sharing and group activities. Stonehill Community Garden welcomes individuals, groups and organisations into the garden each Wednesday.
Banbury Community Action Group was set up in 2013 to run free local community projects on food, waste, transport and energy. Amongst many projects, they run the Bridge Street Community Garden. It aims to create a sociable space where people can connect with food and nature, to showcase a productive urban green space, educate people on how to grow their own food and the benefits of healthy eating, produce food for people who need it, and enhance links with other community groups and gardens. Key examples of their activities include an LGBTQ+ and Friends Gardening group and Mindfulness Meditation sessions.
Oxford City Farm
Oxford City Farm’s Growing Well Together project is designed to support people with known mental health problems and under-represented ethnic minority communities, through inclusive farming volunteering sessions which run on a regular bi-weekly basis. Strong relationships with local mental health organisations provide a clear pathway for referral and all staff have been trained in Mental Health First aid.
Oxford Urban Wildlife Group: Boundary Brook Nature Reserve
Boundary Brook Nature Reserve is a 3-acre nature reserve in East Oxford, managed by Oxford Urban Wildlife Group (OUWG). In addition to its core conservation work, OUWG has built several collaborative partnerships for learning, community engagement and wellbeing, including partnerships with local schools and nurseries, a family centre, a community college and Restore. Amongst many projects, they also run Mindfulness in Nature sessions.
Down to Earth Community Cafe
Down to Earth Community Cafe recognises the need for equitable access to healthy food and to information about how to cook healthy meals, alongside community building and addressing environmental issues. Led by cooking volunteers, the groups run food surplus climate cook-ins. These are creative pop-up cooking sessions for all, that culminate in a sharing of meals on a ‘pay what you can’ basis. They are guided by the ‘One Planet Living’ strategy, to put social well-being and environmental sustainability at the heart of what they do. Benefits include improvements to physical and mental health, building skills and improving a sense of belonging.
Witney Food Revolution
The Witney Food Revolution is a network of businesses, volunteers and hunger relief organisations committed to reducing food waste in Witney and surrounding areas. Their volunteer-based initiative collects perfectly good food that local businesses would have thrown away, and redistributes it to the public.
Low Carbon Oxford North
Low Carbon Oxford North (LCON) is a charity set up by local residents to support ambitious CO2 cuts through local action. They work with their community, offering practical ideas, information and activities, to help combat the climate crisis. This includes inspiring action on home energy, transport, tree planting, consumption and waste and food. They collaborate with other groups and engage with our city and county councils, to influence climate action across Oxford. They also provide monthly Climate Cafes as a forum for people to share their responses to climate change in a friendly, low-key setting.
One Planet Abingdon Climate Emergency Centre
One Planet Abingdon Climate Emergency Centre aims to provide a vibrant community place where people can come together to promote the conservation, protection and improvement of the physical, natural and social environments in the town of Abingdon. They build community ties by working collaboratively with local groups and individuals, educating the public, local business and other local bodies on the impact and mitigation of, as well as adaptation to, climate, ecological and social challenges. They also work to develop understanding and create a sense of purpose to act on the climate, ecological and social issues that affect us all in order to deliver positive changes.
There are over 100 Community Action Groups in the CAG network. See our members page to find more groups and get in touch with those locally or that interest you to get involved.
The Communities and Nature grants programme was made possible with support and funding from Oxfordshire County Council