Some thoughts by Adam Manning
The beauty of nature really inspires me. The glorious sight of nature in all its abundance is wonderfully invigorating and uplifting. It can make me feel enlightened and excited but also at other times refreshed and calm. It’s easy to forget in this age of environmental worries that our world is still a paradise, at least in terms of the sublime beauty it can possess, and this has been such a gift to me in my life that I’ve always felt the need to do something by way of repayment, no matter how meagre.
I grew up in Netley in Southampton and spent a lot of my childhood playing on the Conkerfield near Netley Abbey and in Westwood. With friends and family we also liked to walk down Weston Shore. It didn’t occur to me at the time but I was very fortunate growing up an in area with an almost an embarrassment of riches for natural beauty. Weston Shore in particular was almost like a good friend but with one an interesting character. Whilst no one could deny that on a sunny day it was a lovely place to be, it was also the butt of innumerable insults and put downs. A lot of people used it but a lot of people also abused it. It was well known for being strewn with litter – but it retrospect a lot of the rubbish on the shore came from shipping passing by in Southampton Waters and not just day trippers enjoying the sun’s rays.
The issue of litter is a serious problem for our society. Not only does rubbish in our natural environment reduce our enjoyment of nature’s beauty it also can be a major environmental problem. There are of course the reports of areas in the oceans in which the rubbish our society produces conglomerates. Turtles and other sea living creatures try to digest the bits of plastic mistaking it for food. Seagulls and other birds get caught up and strangled in the plastic binding round beer cans.
The urge then was to do something about this problem. What’s been so exciting has been how easy it has been to get involved, how many people want to help and the thrill of actually making a difference.
Starting in the mid nineties, some friends and I made a regular practice, at least once a year, of going down to Weston Shore to try and clear up the litter and rubbish we found. Cue many happy hours of snatching empty drinks cans, drink cartons (including a miniature forest of the straws that go with them which never seem to rot away), crisp packets and chocolate bar wrappers, cigarette butts and dead fireworks. Other finds include enough bits of cars to make our own new one and lots of shoes and trainers, but only ever one of a pair which makes you wonder at all the people leaving the shore with only one shoe on.
We have always been greatly helped by Southampton City Council who provided lots of advice and assistance to us. Then during the late noughties, the Council suggested we set up the Friends of Weston Shore group to help expand these activities.
Weston Shore was at this time awarded the prestigious Green Flag which is given out to parks of a certain environmental quality. This was a wonderful day – a place that had in previous years been the laughing stock of the local community had been recognised as an area that should be celebrated.
The Friends of Weston Shore has gone on to carry on these clean ups. As always we are very grateful for the kind assistance of Southampton City Council. There are local residents who are down at the shore very regularly cleaning it up which makes a lot of difference. Being involved with the Friends of Weston Shore has been a pleasure and a source of a lot of satisfaction. To see the shore looking so much better after just a bit of effort is a wonderful feeling. It often seems even the seagulls enjoy the shore looking clean as well – they always congregate in the bits we have cleaned up. They don’t like the rubbish anymore than anyone else!
I’ve also got involved with a group for an area nearby in Southampton called the Sholing Valleys Study Centre. This is a large area in Sholing in Southampton that has been set aside for nature. It contains some very pleasant woods with a large, open meadow. Miller’s Pond is also to be found here, a habitat with lots of fish, ducks and also the delightful Common pipistrelle bat.
The volunteers at Sholing Valleys made me feel very welcome and it was great being able to help out cleaning up the area. They carry out conservation work to improve the diversity of species of plants and animals there. This year, 2012, is a breakthrough year for us at Sholing Valleys as the area has been awarded Local Nature Reserve status. This shows a real commitment by both volunteers and the Council to maintain and improve the area. Sholing Valleys has its own study centre which is a wonderful resource to use.
All of this activity got some friends and I wondering. There was clearly a lot of interest in getting involved in conservation and environmental issues. Wouldn’t it be a great idea to have a website where all the conservation and environmental events in the area were listed? That way, if you wanted to take the plunge and get involved, this would be an easy way to find out what was going on in your area and take action.
This is where the idea for Green Hampshire came from. Plug And Play Design have taken this initial seed of an idea and worked it into something rather remarkable. It’s an idea with a lot of promise and we hope that people will find it an inspiring and useful resource. We also hope that the events and groups we highlight with Green Hampshire find it helps them succeed in all the marvellous work they are doing.
If you are part of a conservation or environmental group in Hampshire, we would be delighted to hear from you. We want to help promote what you are doing – to get the word out there so people can get involved. Together we can make a difference!
The Green Hampshire site is at : http://www.greenhampshire.co.uk/ and you can also follow them on twitter and facebook.