As you would expect, nature reserves have a significant impact on local wildlife. Providing refuge from habitat loss, reserves are managed to create homes for all kinds of nature. What is often overlooked is the fact that nature reserves also have an impact on local human communities.

When people spend time outdoors, it can have a profound positive health benefits. Accessible green space has the potential to increase our wellbeing as a society. Physical activities involving an environmental experience (green exercise) appear to be a sustainable way to improve public health. There is evidence that green space in an urban environment can improve life expectancy and decrease health complaints. The combination of natural green space with local opportunities for social walking and other activities means green exercise can be a cheap and sustainable way of preventing public health problems.

Thousands of people live on the doorstep of Sandwell Valley and we welcome hundreds of visitors each month, but we know there are a lot more local people who have yet to discover us. We have created a community forum so local people can have a say in the work that goes on here and to create more opportunities for people to find out about us.

The community forum volunteers develop and help deliver activities that will make the reserve more appealing to a broader range of the people. This green space is open to everyone and anyone, dog walkers and health walkers, those seeking nature and those seeking peace; those that come to play and those looking to try something new. The community forum is made up of local people who aren’t all wildlife enthusiasts. They love this valley, all for different reasons.

The aim of the forum is ultimately to attract new audiences to the reserve, find ways to creatively use this space and to promote Sandwell Valley so more people find out we’re here.

Over the coming year the community forum will be getting involved with:

  • The creation of a sensory trail. This trail is being developed specifically for children with learning difficulties and will help more families enjoy the reserve. They will also be delivering a launch event when the trail is finished.
  • The forum volunteers will attend the big events, like our pyjama party and talk to the visitors to gather feedback to see how we can improve what we’re doing.
  • Looking for fundraising opportunities so we can host more activities here for different community groups.
  • The community forum also looks out for other initiatives and partners to work. In the past we have worked with Autism West Midlands and the Creative Black Country Project. This year we are looking to see how we can work with dementia groups.
  • Community forum meetings every two months at the nature reserve.

This green space in the heart of Sandwell is working hard to save nature. Home to an abundance of wildlife, it is bursting with an extraordinary number of creatures, like birds, dragonflies and butterflies. Thousands of people visit annually and have the opportunity to get closer to nature, learn about important conservation and spend valuable time with friends and family.

The community forum means we are reaching out to yet more people. People that might not think nature reserves are for them, or people that haven’t yet discovered the happiness that can be found after an hour walking outdoors amongst wildflowers and birdsong. Having a team of dedicated volunteers looking out for opportunities in the local community has been important for ensuring Sandwell Valley has a meaningful place in the community and is loved by more local people for years to come.

If you are interested in joining the community forum or if you have a suggestion about what work we could be doing to reach more people. Please email and mark the email for the attention of the Community and Volunteer Development Officer.

We are very grateful to the Heritage Lottery Fund for making this work possible. It is thanks to funding we received from the Heritage Lottery Fund, that we had the resources to kick start and support the community forum.