Earlier this year we committed €1 million through our Explore Fund to support those companies, organisations, communities and individuals that make exploration possible. One of those organisations is Wild in the City, a London-based charity that supports and enhances the wellbeing of urban-dwelling people of colour through developing relationships with nature. To find out more, we sat down with Beth Collier, one of the directors of Wild In The City
WILD IN THE CITY
If we can highlight anything positive that has come out of the Covid-19 crises, it’s the reconnection of people with nature. When it was taken away from us through lockdowns, we realised just how important it is to spend time in nature. Time and again, nature has been the place people turn to for solace, restoration, energy and empathy.
However, 2020 has also highlighted the disparate access to nature. Nature doesn’t see us differently and welcomes us all. But for myriad reasons, from poverty to racism to persistent cultural attitudes, misinformation and lack of information, not everyone gets to enjoy nature equally.
Wild in the City is trying to change this. ‘Black and Asian people are under-represented within the environmental field and, for some, it hasn’t been a welcoming place,’ says Beth. ‘Being part of a community of people of colour, who gather in nature to learn, explore and have fun, helps people to feel a sense of belonging, that they’re not out of place.’
Beth is a nature-allied psychotherapist and at Wild in the City she teaches woodland living skills and natural history through what so-called eco therapy programmes. These programmes help people nurture a relationship with nature, perhaps rekindle one that was there before, as a child, or completely kick-start a connection with the great outdoors that’s never existed before.
A big part of Wild in the City’s work is to show people that you don’t have to travel far to access nature and tap into its benefits. London – one of the biggest cities in Europe – is actually 47% green space. It’s also surrounded by a green belt of forests, farmland and open spaces. Wild in the City believes this means it’s ‘feasible to spend at least half our time in wild and natural areas’ – wild spaces that are free and open to all.
Through its programmes – from bushcraft to nature awareness skills – Wild in the City supports people who are ‘unfamiliar with spending time in nature, particularly those who have an insecure attachment to it’. It uses eco therapy help people ‘feel comfortable in green spaces and to see spending time in nature as a healthy lifestyle choice’.
It is changing perceptions, breaking down barriers and helping to drive equity in the outdoors. And not just the great outdoors, that big wild nature that requires extra effort to get to. It’s helping people to see the small outdoors, the nature that’s right on their doorstep, and to appreciate it just as much. Because it’s not about how big and wild the nature is, but rather how often we spend time connecting to the natural world around us, that counts.
‘It’s an incredible atmosphere,’ says Beth. ‘When people join us on hikes into the countryside or in the woods around a campfire there’s lots of bonding, relaxing and just enjoying the thrill of the great outdoors.’
The story of the Wild in the City is one of many. Through the extra Covid-19 funding of the Explore Fund we’ve been able to help more than 20 different organisations and groups that make exploration possible. Here are five more of those stories: