Researching & Engaging With Nature With Maria Billington

Researching the natural heritage of Boundary Way, and using the research to engage the local community with nature is a huge part of what we do here at Boundary Way. To to help us with our research, and to discover the uses of the different plants found on the site, we have enlisted the help of local herbalist, Maria Billington. So far, Maria’s role within the Boundary Way Project has been to map all the plants within the community garden area over the changing seasons and to research the identified plant’s uses. To help her achieve this we have been working alongside plot holders and local schools to explore the Community Garden, using short workshop sessions and a variety of other methods to engage participants in connecting with nature with great success. Today we are going to talk about the in depth natural history work that we are doing at the project and how you can get involved.

Sunflowers at the Allotments (photo by Geoff Broadway)

Sunflowers at the Allotments (photo by Geoff Broadway)

Schools exploring the Sensory Garden & Community Garden

Schools exploring the Sensory Garden & Community Garden

Examples of the many ways Maria has been engaging people with nature & the natural heritage of the site include tasting and learning about edible plants, making nature art using hammers, photographing plants and using photos, id books and tree wheels to identify plants. There are so many ways to learn about nature and appreciate it and as our project progresses we are learning so much about our environment from Maria, who has been continually sharing her amazing knowledge, which comes from her training as a herbalist & her love of the natural world.

Maria teaching everyone about uses of natural plants

Maria teaching everyone about uses of natural plants

Here Maria talks about how we are sharing the work that we are doing surrounding natural heritage and also how her work at Boundary Way will be progressing over the coming months…

“From these workshops and my time exploring the community garden myself I have made display boards detailing all the plants that we have found and identified so far and given a basic listing of their uses by man and in nature – all of plants found so far have some sort of use!”

Moving forward over the next few months we shall be researching the medicinal benefits of the plants in more detail and well as their other uses. We will also be teaching plot holders about the more about the medicinal side of things and creating an educational resource for the site from the information we have discovered. Alongside this we shall also be doing further workshops with the local children and community to map any changes year on year around the site and potentially start incorporating weather statistical data to see what effect changing weather patterns have on the flora and fauna.”

Web of Life Activity with Springdale School before Plant Hunting

Web of Life Activity with Springdale School before Plant Hunting

Flowers at the Allotments (photo by Geoff Broadway)

Flowers at the Allotments (photo by Geoff Broadway)

As you can see, there is so much to learn about the natural heritage of our site and so much we want to share about. By engaging the Boundary Way plot holders, the local community and local schools in helping us to research what we have on the site, we have been able to teach a huge amount of people about about the value of nature and how many amazing uses there are for all the plant life on site, both for humans & wildlife. And as we discover more plants as the seasons change, we will be continuing to share our natural heritage & developing ways in which you can get involved. Keep an eye on our Facebook page @BoundaryWayArts to hear more about workshops and open days that are coming up on site.

Maria running a tasting session with pupils from Springdale School

Maria running a tasting session with pupils from Springdale School

As well as working on our wonderful project Maria also runs Gatis Community Space in Whitmore Reans, which runs a range of different projects, including a community café, community garden, real junk food project, clothes swap, home education hub, Tree Huggers group and lots of craft and nature activities.  In the future Maria will also be looking at developing similar projects and workshops with other groups locally and nationally.

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