By Betsy Gorman
The BLUE campaign all started in Chipping Sodbury in 2017 with the idea that a community can band together and connect people with wildlife friendly green spaces. We worked under the principle that setting aside even a small amount of land to go wild will create some habitat for different species, and it actually worked! Many people in Chipping Sodbury embraced the wild. It was fantastic because so many people could get involved. Even a windowsill or 2m X 2m patch was creating an additive effect in the village to the point where, when more people joined in, the less it became about individual gardens, the more it became about the town. Suddenly, we had over 1 km2 of connected habitat.
Not everyone was open to the idea of having a ‘messy’ garden next to their lawn so there needed to be a simple sign that showed that this was intentional and purposeful. So, the blue heart was created. Why blue? Because it stands out against green!
This is where I came in. I had just started my Masters course at Sussex studying Global Biodiversity Conservation. I had already done an internship at Knepp wildlands in my undergrad and was enraptured with rewilding. As I took to social media to talk about this exciting branch of ecology, one of my posts on twitter drew the attention of Fergus Beeley, the chairman of the BLUE campaign, and we got talking. The idea of anyone embracing their role as ecological stakeholders no matter how small their site really struck a chord with me. It felt important that, not only in the sense of increasing biodiversity, people in urban centres were allowed the opportunity to encourage wildlife outside their doorsteps. After being made conservation officer, I got to work expanding the reach of the campaign and, through social media, presentations, workshops, artwork, and word of mouth, what started off as 90 loyal followers is now a thriving community of almost 6000 people in over 130 recorded towns!
The appeal of the campaign, I feel, derives from its simplicity. You do not have to own 100s of acres of land to make a difference and in an age of global biodiversity loss we need all hands-on deck. Whilst large sites are crucial, they can’t happen everywhere, but many people have a garden, and almost every town has a road verge/park. By encouraging people to set aside 20-30% of their space to go wild and treating the remaining space like a grazer or rootling boar, we can create habitats for wildlife anywhere. Starting from grass, wildflower and ‘weed’ growth (although I hesitate to use the word weed), you can provide resources for insects, birds, and mammals. Your own little food web. Imagine then if every garden did this? There would be a dynamic network of living, shifting ecosystems stretching across the UK, connecting large sites and people to nature.
After almost 3 years in the job, I am now the network lead, and nothing brings me more joy than seeing a new message pop-up from a council or Eco-school asking how they can join in. BLUE brings rewilding theory and practice into homes and gives people a chance to make a difference. Our community just keeps on growing and I’m excited to be linking BLUE with Rewilding Sussex so we can keep rewilding Britain garden by garden.
Want to join us? Check out our website bluecampaignhub.com or our thriving Facebook group. I look forward to seeing you there!