Accessible boardwalk at the new Woodberry Wetlands reserve

#Attenborough90: Why nature should be accessible for all

Ellie is one of our Scope for Change young campaigners. Here she talks about how David Attenborough inspired her to fall in love with nature, and why she believes everyone should have the opportunity to enjoy it. Ellie standing in a corridor, wearing a blue jumper with a dog on it, and smiling

An inspiration

From a young age, I remember waiting in anticipation on a Sunday evening for the latest wildlife programme, narrated by the voice of the natural world, Sir David Attenborough. He’s ensured the BBC have covered a wide diversity of animals from dung beetles to red kites, to snow leopards over the years. This week he turned 90, and the nation has been celebrating by re-visiting many of his iconic TV highlights, such as when he was preened by mountain gorillas in 1979 for Life on Earth.

David Attenborough has inspired many people in this country and the world to stand up and take notice of the animals and plants we share the earth with. As a result, people are more actively involved with local and national wildlife charities, learning about conservation and many have been inspired to work in the industry.

Everyone has a right to enjoy nature

Only a couple of weeks ago, David Attenborough opened Woodberry Wetlands, a new nature reserve owned by the London Wildlife Trust, which is accessible to all. In an interview with BBC news, he talks about the importance of access reserves:

“We are part of it and if we lose contact with the natural world, you lose contact with a great source of pleasure and delight which is your birth right.”

Disappointing experiences

I regularly walk to my local community garden. It’s brimming with wildlife and it’s where I take many photos of toads, grasshoppers and buzzards. My favourite animals are insects, especially butterflies.

Last year I looked into volunteering with my local butterfly conservation charity, as I wanted to learn how to survey species and the different tools used to conserve them. I don’t drive because my cerebral palsy and learning difficulties effect my hand-eye coordination. So I tried to find alternative public transport to get me to the nature reserve, but because I live in such a large county, a lot of the transport isn’t very regular. You have to really plan in advance to make sure you can get home.

In the end, I decided not pursue the role because of the practicalities in getting there and back. It made me feel down because I knew in my heart it was something I really wanted to do, but due to circumstances it wasn’t realistic. It’s a shame there aren’t organisations working with the major environmental and wildlife charities to support more disabled people to get into conservation. I very much doubt I’m the only person with a disability who’s wanted to be involved in this area and been let down.

Getting my ideas together

Though not all has been lost! I’ve had really positive experiences with my local Wildlife Trust. I’ve been involved in various activities, such as getting teenagers interested in getting outside, and supporting primary school children to build insect hotels. At the beginning of this year I was invited along with four other volunteers to be part of Darwin’s Childhood Garden project. We were all asked to contribute something to the project, and I decided to run a workshop for children with disabilities from a local school. We’re now in the process of waiting for funding for it, but in the meantime, I’m wanting to create greater awareness about why nature should be accessible to all.

My campaign to make nature more accessible

‘All for nature and nature for all’ is the name of my campaign. I want to further educate those working in the conservation sector to make sites of natural interest as accessible as possible: providing ramps up to bird hides, having blue badge parking spaces, braille or audio information boards, allowing assistance dogs, and accessible toilets. I’d also love more exclusive workshops that allow disabled people to participate as much everyone else, and having resources such has easy-read, Makaton and BSL signers and accessible transport when needed. Opening up the senses in particular for those with profound and multiple disabilities is so important – and where better to do that than a national park?

I would like to see that nobody is left behind in my campaign. This week, wildlife presenter Chris Packham opened up about his life with Asperger’s. It really highlighted to me that we need to do more, so that many other disabled people feel they can be involved with the natural world.

Ellie would love to hear from disabled people about their experiences at nature and wildlife reserves – the good and bad! Whether you volunteer yourself at your local wildlife park, or have an experience to share from a trip to your local nature reserve, it will really help Ellie to build her campaign. Please leave a comment below. 

6 thoughts on “#Attenborough90: Why nature should be accessible for all”

  1. Hi Ellie, I work for an organisation called Nature Workshops in Cornwall and we are running Forest School-inspired sessions with Parent Carer Council Cornwall over the next 12 months (funded by Big Lottery). We would love to support your campaign to make the outdoors accessible for all!

    1. Hi Alexandra that sounds brilliant. I would really like your support for my campaign. Could we exchange emails? From Ellie Forrester

  2. Great article Ellie. We’re looking forward to you doing lots more with us here at Shropshire Wildlife Trust.
    Diane Monether
    Volunteer Co ordinator SWT

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