It’s been dark, it’s been cold but there is plenty of life in Outer Space as we get things moving despite the winter weather.
At St Catherine’s in Doncaster John Thompson from BTCV has built up a solid team of volunteers who have been working on the first major project planned for the site. The belt of mature woodland on the Outer Space site is a fabulous natural resource for the hospital and the local area but has been under used by visitors as it has been difficult to get into; mud in winter, nettles and brambles in summer. The autumn and winter have seen the laying out of a network of accessible paths which will link the woods to the main access road and the hospital buildings. The paths are being built using recycled materials from the local area, crushed concrete and brick from housing redevelopment which is compacted down to provide a surface suitable for wheelchairs and walkers. Well over a hundred tons has been moved and laid by the team, many of whom have never worked on this kind of project and who are learning some serious landscaping skills as they go. Weather permitting; we aim to have the paths completed during February in time for an early spring and hordes of new visitors.
Some of these visitors will of course be from local schools; in Doncaster 400 children have had the chance to take part in nature activity days at their schools and we will be developing projects on site for them to come and join in with. We’ll be working with teachers on ways in which access to nature can become a regular part of their learning and creative activities. In Coventry children have already wrapped up warm and joined Neil Minor from BTCV on site to plant a new native hedge which will become a great asset for the new Jubilee Nature Reserve being created around the soakaway ponds that handle the rainwater runoff from this huge modern healthcare site. There will be more planting to come in the next few weeks as this is the peak time for putting in dormant, bare root trees and shrubs.
The Coventry team have also been working with the leading organic and sustainable gardening organisation, Garden Organic, whose national headquarters are in Coventry at the wonderful Ryton Gardens. Garden Organic have helped identify and source apple trees which include local and traditional varieties and which will form the core of a brand new orchard on site. By involving local children in activities like planting we hope to establish personal connections with these natural spaces which will encourage them to take care of the trees they plant and to become regular visitors as they keep an eye on the progress of their handiwork.
And spring is on the way as this view across to the woods at St Catherine's shows!