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  • Marina Pacheco

Help Save the Planet

This may sound like an over the top headline for a blog, but it isn’t. We all know the planet isn’t in great shape. We’re loosing thousands of species of animals and plants, even some of our most common species like bees are under threat. On top of that we have climate change bringing additional challenges. These are huge problems and you might feel there is nothing you can do about it.

The good news is that you can do something. Every day people take action for the planet, from recycling and reducing plastic use to walking and cycling rather than driving. A lot of people also do their bit with wildlife friendly plants in their gardens or getting involved in community projects at nature sites or community gardens.

It’s easier than you think to get involved, but knowing where to start can be a hurdle. The Kingston Biodiversity Network was set up to support individuals and local groups to do conservation and this blog aims to demonstrate some of the easy ways you can get involved.

Find your niche

If you’re reading this blog then I’m willing to bet you already have an idea of the area you’d like to tackle when it comes to making a difference for your neighbourhood. This will probably come from personal experiences or from the needs that you can already see are not being addressed or you may have a unique way in which you want to tackle a problem that hasn’t been done yet. That’s great, I urge you to start trying out your project.

On the other hand you may not be sure of what you want to do. There are so many issues that need to be tackled, there are such huge problems you may feel overwhelmed, or uncertain what you’d like to focus all your energy on. Or you may genuinely not have a clue what you can do, you’re just driven by a sense that you have to do something.

Start local

Take a look around your neighbourhood and see whether you spot any needs that you’d like to address. These can be you taking the initiative on an entirely new project, or it can mean joining a local green group.

Volunteers planting a disease resistant elm tree
Planting a disease resistant elm at Kingston Cemetery

You might feel that a local park is looking particularly unloved, there’s a wasted patch of ground that’s only being used for fly tipping that could be turned into a community garden or the verge in front of your house could use a few more bee friendly plants. There really is nothing preventing you from kicking off your own project. People worry that they’ll get into trouble if they start something but you don’t need to worry. As you’ll mainly be working with plants, anything you do is reversible so if you do something that people disapprove of it’s easy enough to undo the work. In the majority of cases people are actually pleased to see something is getting done. A number of Councils I’ve spoken to have also told me (unofficially) that it’s better to just start a project and see how it goes without getting permission from them first. The line used was, “it’s better to ask for forgiveness afterwards than permission before”. If you do ask the Council for permission it can slow the project right down as they have to jump through a number of hoops first around safety and planning. They might turn you down due to overcautious rather than for any other reason. But if you can demonstrate that your project works, and is generally liked by your neighbours then you’re likely to be left alone.

If you don’t have a project you want to tackle on your own, feel you don’t have the skills or are nervous about doing your own thing then join a local group. Kingston has loads of options so you’re bound to find one that suits you. It may be a local Transition Town group, a birdwatching group, a community garden or a recycling project, the examples are endless.

Here are a few Kingston groups you can join:

Broad Oaks Community Garden. Behind Tolworth Broadway, KT6 7HB

Regular gardening and tidy-ups,

Canbury Community Garden. On the edge of Canbury Gardens, between Kingston Riverside (tennis) Club and Kings Passage, best approached via the shared driveway from the end of Lower Ham Road, KT2 5AJ

Kingston Cemetery Friends. Bonner Hill Road cemetery main entrance.

People removing cherry saplings from the meadow in the Kingston Cemetery
Conservation work being done at Kingston Cemetery

Kingston Permaculture Reserve. Group gardening with soup over the fire, Knollmead Allotments, Tolworth, behind Knollmead Primary School at KT5 9QP

Hogsmill Community Garden. on Swan Path, along the Hogsmill River.

Kingston Orchard Project. Knollmead Allotments Tolworth, KT5 9QP

Kingston Environment Centre Community Garden. 1 Kingston Road, New Malden. KT3 3PE.

Parkfields Community Garden, Parkfields Allotments, Parkfields Road, Kingston KT2 5LL

The Environment Trust

Lower Mole Partnership

Kingston University Biodiversity Biodiversity Action Group

It will all be worth it in the end

Starting something is a marathon, not a sprint. It will take a while. You’re learning as you go and you will make mistakes. This takes time, be kind to yourself because you know you are doing something of value. It will pay dividends in the end even if at the start you’ll be looking at a muddy mess and wondering whether the project will ever look good. A couple of years later you will see the benefits. You’ll have flowers and more bees and butterflies, you’ll have got to know more of your neighbours and it will all feel worthwhile. Take a moment to celebrate that sense of achievement. You’ll have earned it!

Bumblebee foraging for nectar in a community garden
Bumblebee enjoying the veg at the Hogsmill Community Garden

Blog post by Marina Pacheco

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