Guardians inspire communities to get involved

Connecting people with nature is at the heart of our Guardians scheme. Hands-on activities based around access to wildlife and our amazing valleys landscape, give people the chance to learn new skills and get involved in their local community.

The Valleys Regional Park has seven Guardians covering the valleys region from Carmarthenshire to Torfaen. With expertise in practical conservation, sustainability and health, each Guardian is there to guide people through the sessions; no experience necessary!

One of the Guardians, Heather Manson, shares with us what it’s like to work on the programme:

“Our first aim is to make people feel welcome and have an enjoyable time at our sessions. That’s key to people coming back. And there’s no typical day in the life of a Valleys Regional Park Guardian; you have to be prepared for anything!”

Making a bird-box, building a flower-planter or assembling a poly-tunnel is good fun and gets people active. But there’s also some serious environmental education going on. How do you know what species will visit your proudly finished bird-box?

Becoming an eco-literate region is one of the over-arching aims for Valleys Regional Park. That means that all adults and children should have an opportunity to learn the basics of why nature is important to people and planet.

Hard work goes on behind the scenes to create fun and safe sessions; even more so, now, with current Covid guidelines. People often join sessions not knowing quite what to expect but many find their wellbeing is improved by connecting with nature.

“Before sessions, we sort out paperwork and prepare the resources and tools needed for each group. After the sessions we record things like how many people attended, how we made a difference to the environment, and how we made a difference to people’s wellbeing”.

Evidence is stacking up to show the health benefits of connecting with nature and the Guardians scheme allows Valleys Regional Park to add more evidence to the picture. This has never been more important, as our communities face uncertain times. Groups across the region are enjoying the scheme and it’s not a one-size-fits-all approach.

“We consult with groups to plan projects, finding out what’s important to their community. Most days we are out on the ground delivering environmental sessions with people; in all weathers!”

With just seven Guardians and only four months of activity due to lockdown restrictions, they’ve so far worked with 178 people (and counting!), 120 school pupils, and set up ten projects with seven more on the way. We can’t wait to find out what the future has in store for the Guardians scheme, inspiring more people to get involved and connect with nature.

The Guardians scheme is currently funded by Welsh Government and is part of Valleys Regional Park, delivered in association with Groundwork Wales. Special thanks to Heather Manson at Groundwork Wales. Thanks also to the staff at each of the Discovery Gateways for welcoming the scheme to their venue.

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