Five reasons to take part in City Nature Challenge

Becky Dyer, leader of #TEAMINVERTS gives us five reasons why everyone should take part in City Nature Challenge…

“With the Bristol and Bath region City Nature Challenge 2018 only a few days away, some of you may be thinking…. Why should I get involved? What’s in it for me? I’m so busy, how will I fit it in? I’m not a naturalist, I’m not going to be able to help!

So with this is mind I have written a little blog to help encourage you that the City Nature Challenge is aimed at absolutely everyone, young and old, amateur and professional alike and is all focused on having fun, whilst getting outdoors in the fresh air, meeting new people and learning new skills. All you need to have to contribute is curiosity and enthusiasm!

Here are my top 5 reasons for taking part in the Festival of Nature’s first ever City Nature Challenge:

  1. Top of this list is ‘Wellbeing’. Studies have shown that spending time out in the natural environment in green spaces, parks, meadows and woodland can have a significant benefit to your mental health, stress levels and overall mood. Spending just 10 minutes outside in the fresh air, surrounded by the sounds of nature, beautiful green plants and foliage can have a dramatic effect. So even though our modern lives can be rushed and demanding, try taking time out to visit your local green space, even if that’s your back garden! We could all benefit from giving ourselves more space and time in the natural environment. And while you’re there, why not have a go at recording what you see? You might be pleasantly surprised by how many different species make your green spaces their home!
  2. The second is ‘Physical exercise’. Most of us are guilty of not getting as much exercise as recommended nowadays. Many of our jobs are office based and quite sedentary, a large number of people commute long distances to work, so tend to drive or take public transport there and a lot of us have other commitments once work ends, which can prevent us from regularly being able to get out to a class, gym or other activity. The City Nature Challenge is the perfect opportunity to get out in your local area, exploring and recording the species you find and ‘exercising’ as you go! Even a gentle walk is a great activity to start stretching those limbs and boosting your metabolism. If you are new to the Bristol and Bath area, or don’t know where to start, consider joining one of the Bristol Natural History Consortium’s pre-planned survey events, which have been organised all across the Bristol and Bath city region and will take place in some beautiful green spaces, with lovely landscapes and scenery.
  3. Three’s a charm for ‘Community’. The City Nature Challenge is a community citizen science project. Citizen science is all about encouraging the study area’s local community to get involved in that research, discovering specific information about their local area. These projects can have a direct, positive effect on the local residents, and the place they call home. It connects people to their neighbours and to important changes and events happening in their local area. The idea around this event is to empower people to go out in their local green spaces, connecting with the natural habitats around them and helping to forge stronger links between the local residents and the organisations that manage these habitats, thereby building a stronger community.
  4. Number four links on from number three and is ‘Learning’. The common attitude in our society seems to be that learning pretty much stops once you leave the education system. This should not be the case! Lifelong learning is such an important part of society. It protects the plasticity of our brains, helping to stave off de-generative brain conditions like dementia. It also helps to boost memory, increases self-esteem, keeps us interested and engaged and creates opportunities for meeting new people and making new friends. Adults nowadays can be incredibly nervous and wary of learning new skills. We seem to have an in-built super embarrassment and shame trigger, that clicks in if we are anything less than perfect on our first attempt! That severe inner critic can dissuade us from even attempting to learn a new skill if we think it might be complicated, or risk failure. Children do not have this; they try and fail and try again! The old adage ‘Practice makes Perfect’ is totally true! If you can remember any part of your childhood, or your children’s childhood, think back to how long it took to learn to ride a bike, or swim, or even to tie shoelaces properly!
  5. And last but not least is ‘Environment’. One of the main aims of City Nature Challenge is looking at our local environment to discover, how many different species are present, in what different habitats and in what population numbers. All across the various different green spaces and natural habitats of the competition area. Knowledge is power so the more we know about what species are present in what areas, the more we can do to protect and enhance their habitat for the generations of species to come. Whilst also allowing our generations to come to continue to enjoy the biodiversity of their local green spaces. The more people that take part, the more recordings we will get and the more data we will have available to build up a really clear, high quality picture of how our local parks, woods, meadows and gardens are providing for their wildlife species.

So I hope I’ve encouraged you to have a go at getting involved, even if it’s only spending that 10 minutes in your back garden, during the City Nature Challenge event weekend (27th – 30th April) and seeing what different species you can spot. If you have a smartphone the free iNaturalist app is easy to download and start recording your sightings on. It is incredibly user friendly and even uses the photos you upload to help you with identification suggestions! Just don’t forget to join the ‘City Nature Challenge 2018: Bristol & Bath’ project so any observations you make during the event will automatically be added to the project and count towards the competition. No matter how busy you are, the smallest contribution can make a difference and we would really love to show the other 64 competing countries worldwide, how great our little green island can be for its wildlife and community spirit, especially in the wonderful Bristol and Bath area!