With communities at its heart, the Bradger’s Hill Wilder Futures Project aims to seek creative ways to engage diverse audiences and forge a new sense of place and belonging.
Surrounded by the rolling North Chilterns Chalk hills, the fast-expanding urban landscape of Luton is a bustling community which will be the focus of our project, both for inspiration and engagement. The relationships within this living landscape form the need for the project; the vital bio-diversity and open spaces of Bradger’s Hill and how the local community can benefit from and care for it. This is a landscape under pressure: relentless development, changes in land management and environmental pressures are triggering alarming wildlife declines. Nearby urban communities are increasingly disconnected with the landscape and heritage which surrounds them. Through this project the Wildlife Trust (BCN) will be responding to a local need to access to the outdoors; allowing those from a lower socio economic background, or those who feel that their connection to nature is less valid than others in different communities to gain confidence in connecting with the outdoors.The reserve is important itself as it is part of the North Chiltern Chalk and is valued for its chalk grassland wildlife and areas of conservation designation.
Nature connection is vital. Both to the environment and the people who use it. Nature connection gives people greater vitality, purpose and happiness and helps people cope with anxiety and stress. This connectedness in turn associates a greater environmental concern and increase in conscientious behaviour.
Through this nature-based heritage engagement project, the Wildlife Trust (BCN) will not only engage the local community in their outdoor spaces and create a connection for them on their doorstop to benefit their health and well-being, but also will instil a sense of belonging and ownership which will in turn foster a sympathetic approach to the landscape from those who use it regularly.
There is already some community conservation and community engagement that is delivered by “The Friends of Bradgers Hill” volunteer group and is reasonably well used by the local community. In the past, the Bushmead Community Hub (previously known as the John Dony Centre), delivered regular environmental educational activities. Due to changing circumstances, activities ceased for a number of years. The Wildlife Trust alongside it’s partner Luton Borough Council and the Friends of Bradgers Hill, want to once again deliver community engagement activities on this site and in the local communities. We will work closely in partnership with them at LBC to ensure the legacy of the project encompasses the vision and mission of the project.
The project gives people new opportunities to engage with, learn from and care for their landscape – throwing a lifeline to vanishing wildlife habitats and species. It reaches out to urban, disconnected audiences where they live, providing pathways to a greater understanding and appreciation of the natural heritage and landscape which has served urban centres for generations.
The John Dony Centre on the Bushmead estate ran ecological field trips on nearby Bradgers Hill for fifteen years until 2010. Fondly remembered by a generation of the Luton community, we aim to reinvent and revitalise the Centre, creating a hub for the local and wider community and delivering benefits to health, wellbeing and the environment. The project will expand on the Wildlife Trust’s existing activities in Dunstable to deliver health and wellbeing events for Luton residents, working with the community to diversify the activities on offer. Bradgers Hill has a deep social history that could be better shared to give local people a sense of ownership and belonging.
Working with Schools
The Project will work with selected schools and communities to foster improvements in health, wellbeing and skills development. Schools will largely be within walking distance of Bradgers Hill, to ensure sustainability of access, and will have a higher than national average percentage of students from ethnic minority backgrounds. At least one school will come from a ward identified as having high levels of social and economic deprivation.
The Friends of Bradgers Hill will support volunteer conservation work parties alongside Luton Borough Council,The Conservation Volunteers (TCV) and the Wildlife Trust.