Walsall education programme wins at West Midlands Natural Environment Awards

Andy Street, Mayor of the West Midlands and chair of the WMCA, with all the winners of this year's West Midlands Natural Environment Awards.

The winners of the second West Midlands Natural Environment Awards were announced last Thursday evening, with a community garden in Birmingham, an outdoor education programme in Walsall, a tree planting campaign in Solihull and work to restore lost meadows picking up the prizes.

Set up by the West Midlands Combined Authority (WMCA), the awards showcase and celebrate the community organisations, educational institutions, public sector bodies and businesses who are caring for local green spaces right across the region.

They also aim to inspire new projects and increase awareness about the importance of preserving the natural environment.

This is in support of the WMCA’s Natural Environment Plan which sets out the actions required to protect, enhance and restore nature to improve residents’ health and wellbeing, and to mitigate the effects of climate change.

Almost 100 people gathered at Barclays new Eagle Lab in Birmingham city centre for the celebratory ceremony where winners were presented with their prizes by Andy Street, Mayor of the West Midlands and WMCA chair.

The winners are:

Education Award – My School, My Planet, Learning Through Landscapes, Walsall

Throughout 2023, Learning through Landscapes has been working with over 300 people from 16 schools and 11 community groups/charities in Walsall. Over 400 hours of nature-based educational sessions have been delivered on the importance of the natural environment and other issues such as climate change. These sessions aim to influence physical changes in their school grounds and community spaces to support nature, such as installing raised beds and planters, building bird and bat boxes, hedgehog houses, and log piles, planting trees, hedgerows and other native species, and creating ponds and water harvesting tanks.

Community Award – Masefield Community Garden in Northfield, Birmingham

Maintained by a team of 80 dedicated volunteers, children and adults, and visited by more than 500 people in 2023, this previously disused piece of land has been transformed into a thriving community garden, growing fruit and vegetables, flowers and trees with a thriving wildflower area and a pond. Regular activities promote health and well-being, deliver food growing skills to inspire and educate local people, and encourage more environmentally friendly sustainable and healthy eating habits.

Business Award – Making More Magical Meadows, Severn Trent Water and Warwickshire Wildlife Trust

Working with local farmers and landowners, the project has helped to reinstate more than 70 acres of meadows to improve biodiversity, soil quality and underground ecosystems for a large variety of wildflowers, fungi, bees, butterflies, bats and birds – some of which have become rare in the UK due to loss of habitats. These meadows also play a vital role in improving water quality by acting as a natural filter and tackling the impact of climate change by mitigating flooding and as a source of carbon storage.

Public Sector – Planting Our Future campaign, Solihull Metropolitan Borough Council

More than 75,000 trees have been planted across the borough in the first three years of the campaign with 700 local people taking part in community planting sessions supported by local businesses. In addition to creating new woodlands, the region’s first Commonwealth Forest and a community orchard in memory of people affected by Covid-19 has been planted along with meadow land, wildflower carpets and a large section of native bulbs and other plants. Collectively they will help nature to flourish and create communities that are healthier and more resilient to climate change.

The Mayor said: “Congratulations to all the nominees and winners at our second Natural Environment Awards. It was great to hear so many local success stories and present local people with their awards. I’d like to extend our thanks to them - on behalf of residents right across our region - for their fantastic efforts.

“Looking after our wonderful waterways and precious green spaces enriches all of our lives, whether that’s improving health and wellbeing in local communities by making it easier to spend time in nature or contributing towards a beneficial longer-term impact on our environment.

“We’ve handed almost £1 million to local projects that are connecting local people to nature and improving the region’s resilience to climate change, but it’s also important to give the passionate community groups, businesses, local authorities and educational institutions who are delivering these projects the recognition they rightly deserve, and these awards do just that.”

Beth Randall, project officer with Learning Through Landscapes, said: “The biggest highlight has been the passion and the enthusiasm that we’ve seem from pupils taking part in the project, they feel like they can really make a difference to nature in the local area.”

Kim Wildworn, community volunteer at Masefield Community Garden, said: “Masefield Community Garden has developed into the garden it is today over the last 10 years through a group of very avid volunteers, building it from something very small when it was a wasteland to the beautiful garden you see now. I really hope that the garden can become even more accessible, particularly to those who might feel isolated in the community or to young disabled families and gardeners.”

The West Midlands Combined Authroty's Community Environment Fund is still open for applications.


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