One aspect of my community grasslands work which I thoroughly enjoy is engaging the public in new experiences. Getting visitors to some sites purely to sample the meadows, which at some times of the year can be far from an explosion of colour, can be tricky. Those that do are often dog walkers, or visit on a regular walk, but what about enticing new families? Some are worried that they are not experts and will not understand what they are looking at; well invite them along to see something they will feel familiar with first. Once you have a captive audience there’s the chance to educate and nurture the youngest and oldest of visitors.
A familiar site at the moment is the travelling Raptor display – its usually to be found at garden centres, countryside shows or school fetes. Often separated by barriers and working to a well rehearsed programme these are without doubt, enjoyed by many. How much better would it be to invite your local community to the local meadow to see these wonderful birds in a setting that is a little more natural and at a distance where they can hold, photograph and feel the true weight of some of these birds on the arm? It is fantastic to see them flying or hear the beat of their wings. Oh, and yes, while you are here, this is a meadow . . .
I held a raptor event at a local site surrounded by housing; a place that some never knew existed or had seldom visited. With a clear brief to the display team that diverged from their normal programme many families arrived, watched, held and generally went away knowing more than when they came, including things about the meadow.
Of course this type of thing costs, but with funding from the Heritage Lottery everything is possible and it’s surprising how many are now return visitors for other events or ‘wacky’ days out in their local meadow.
Martin Reeves, Community Grasslands Officer