Wild Spaces is Butterfly Conservation’s flagship engagement programme, set up to help people from diverse communities across the UK experience butterflies and moths and connect to nature. The programme has been developed to engage and inspire a wide variety of different groups of people, with a particular focus on younger people living in urban areas, people from diverse ethnic backgrounds, and people with limited access to green space on their doorstep.
Friends of the Earth’s Green Space Gap Report (2020) found that almost 40% of people of BAME backgrounds live in England’s most green space-deprived neighbourhoods, highlighting the clear need to create Wild Spaces in the heart of these communities to provide spaces people can access and enjoy.
A Wild Space can be defined as any area transformed to provide space for butterflies and moths. Wild Spaces will vary greatly in size and type – from balconies, patios and private gardens, to larger community spaces such as churchyards, allotments, public parks or amenity spaces. What unites them as a Wild Space is that steps have been taken to improve the space – from adding native plants in pots, growing a climber such as honeysuckle, to leaving an area of bramble or nettles, letting a lawn or hedge grow, or leaving a pile of dead leaves and sticks. Each of these actions can help create spaces where butterflies and moths can complete their lifecycle and feed, breed and shelter.
As a way to begin to explore the wonderful world of butterflies and moths, Wild Spaces can be seen as offering a simple first step for people at risk of disconnection from nature to get involved and be inspired to do more to help as their interest and enthusiasm grows.
The development of Wild Spaces builds on existing projects being run by Butterfly Conservation, with the aim of replicating successful approaches across locations. One such project is Big City Butterflies, working across London’s inner boroughs to inspire people to discover butterflies and moths in their local green spaces.
Several demonstration Wild Spaces have been created as part of this project, transforming community gardens and amenity spaces with the help of the local community. The spaces have been used for workshops and community events, including family activities to help engage and inspire the next generation and increase opportunities to connect to and enjoy nature in inner city locations.
Whilst there is a long way to go to meet our 100,000 Wild Spaces target, we have already made a good start with almost 1,500 Wild Spaces registered. These include spaces in gardens large and small across the UK, as well as urban balconies and patios that have been cleverly transformed using a few pots, planters or hanging baskets.
The good news is that several species that can be grown in small urban Wild Spaces – including nasturtiums and wild herbs – are also edible and can be harvested for use in the kitchen!