Transition Stroud Newsletter Editor Josephine Murray (JM) talks to Tamsin Bent (TB) a Project Officer with Stroud Valleys Project (SVP), a community-based charity working in Stroud district with people for the environment.
See below for three things you can do today!
JM: When did you first become involved with SVP and what prompted you to get involved?
TB: After graduating with an environmental biology degree, my first job was working for the University of Georgia (USA) as an environmental educator. I discovered that I really enjoyed working with young people outdoors and this inspired me to start teacher training. After qualifying, I worked for the Countryside Education Trust in the New Forest and then at Wiltshire County Council’s Field Centre in Devizes. I relocated to Stroud and took a career break to have a baby after which I decided to stay at home with my son. Once he started school, I wanted to return to working in the environmental sector and I was very lucky that a friend spotted an advert for a job for a family learning tutor post with SVP, which ticked all the boxes! I was very lucky to get the job in 2006/7.
JM: Could you tell us about the SVP projects you're involved with: Wildworks, Stratford Park and Wild Classrooms?
TB: After the Family Learning Project finished, I applied for another position with SVP in 2011 called Get Growing, which was based around food growing in schools. Over the years this project developed to include running environmental education workshops and also creating educational resources. The latest educational resource we’ve developed is www.wildclassrooms.org. It is a wildlife spotting website which aims to get everyone outside to observe and experience what’s going on in the natural world on their doorstep, while also incorporating elements of the primary curriculum for children. Each month, users are issued with a challenge to spot five different plants and animals (listed on the Challenges page). They then go out and spot that month’s species. Most of the plants and animals are relatively easy to see, with perhaps a couple needing a bit more of an adventure! By the end of the year, the user should be able to recognise/identify sixty different species which we named the See-able Sixty. I think it is very important to be aware of our local wildlife because although we are all familiar with tigers on the television we are less so with the Tiger Moths in our own gardens!
I have been very lucky to work with the great creative team of Robin Layfield and Sean Nolan, who have turned my ideas into a working website! The lockdown provided the perfect opportunity to promote the website and we had a flurry of people join. However, as with most things we did in lockdown such as making banana bread, the initial enthusiasm has worn off and we no longer have as many active users. We’re constantly tweaking the website and adding new features and the more people with have on board the better it will be, so if anyone feels like joining our online community, it would be great to have you along. It provides a real opportunity to get outside as see what wildlife we have on our doorstep and to find out what it is! This is so important because, to quote the author, Robert MacFarlane, “We find it hard to love what we cannot give a name to. And what we do not love we will not save.”
As well as running our educational projects I also take out weekly conservation volunteer groups and coordinate community engagement for our work in the sensory garden in Stratford Park. So you are very likely to see me out up to my waist in a pond or planting seeds in the garden. It is a wonderful, varied job with amazing people.
JM: Are you involved with any sustainability or environmental initiatives outside SVP?
JM: What do you do in your spare time?
TB: My spare time is very much a busman’s holiday as I enjoy gardening and walking, all the time looking for wildlife (although I still have lots to learn!). I’m trying my hand at all sorts of crafts, some more successful than others. At the moment I’m experimenting with lino-cutting but was given pottery lessons for my birthday, so that might be the next thing!
JM: How long have you lived in the Stroud district and what do you like about the area?
TB: I’ve lived in Stroud since 2002. It was a very happy accident that I ended up here as it was almost down to a sticking a pin in a map of Gloucestershire and hoping for the best! I’m so grateful that it did turn out to be the best. Stroud is such a beautiful place with the added bonus of a vibrant and quirky community. It now truly feels like home.
|Three Things You Can Do Today
1. Come out and volunteer with us. We go out most days of the week and volunteering is a great way of meeting new people while taking care of often neglected green spaces for people and wildlife. For more details check out the SVP website stroudvalleysproject.org or pop into our Ecoshop on Threadneedle Street.
2. Sign up to www.wildclassrooms.org and find out more about the wildlife that shares Stroud’s valleys and how we can protect it.
3. Bring in packaging that can’t be recycled at kerbside for recycling at our eco shop and also refill your household products.
Find out about more local Stroud Transitioneers
If you would like to share your sustainable living story, please contact Josephine on email@example.com