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'Building' a better nature reserve

26 January 2018

The Green Flag Award celebrates the very best, most well-managed parks and green spaces in the country. Places that are constantly looking to improve their sites now and for future generations. Staff and volunteers are trying new ideas, taking risks, and involving others to improve their sites.

Each year we celebrate the very best innovations occurring across Green Flag Award sites, with our Special Innovation Awards. And each week we are sharing the winners' stories, including Northamptonshire Community Award-winning Mill Park Reserve.

This site has gone from a coal yard to a refuse tip and is now, happily, a popular wildlife and nature reserve. Beginning with just a hedge, a few shrubs and rough grass, this pocket park now has trees, bushes and hedgerows planted and maintained (with stream-side willows pollarded). 

Two ponds have been established, as well as a bog garden, bird hide and stream-side observation platforms. The reserve also contains a small butterfly garden, a human sun clock, a kingfisher bank, a wildflower meadow, and mini woodland comprised of trees commonly found in Northamptonshire. 

Working parties to manage the site take place weekly, or more often as jobs require and weather permits. But the management committee wanted to do more to, and encourage more people - young and old - to be able to enjoy this special place. Whilst we may think of nature reserves and new building works being in opposition, but this reserve have combined the two to everyone's benefit  ..... and that's why they've achieved our special innovation award.

Thanks to hard work, dedication and Big Lottery funding, a log cabin style mini-field centre has been created from sustainable materials, with other green features including solar lighting. The project had a number of aims, but all involved improving the site for both people and wildlife. 

By providing resources and shelter for visitors and volunteers alike, they aim encourage more older or less physically active people. At the same time the space provides for local children to get involved in 'Forest Schools' activities. It welcomes both the general public and local groups, to use the resources, discover and further enjoy the reserve. 

In the committee's own words, the new field-centre is "a clear focal centre in the village for the enjoyment, practice and study of conservation for all, in keeping with the reserve's diverse areas of wildlife habitat."

Congratulations to everyone involved - you've shown how thoughtful building work can benefit both people and wildlife.