We have 61% greenspace within our borders, we have more trees per person than any other city in Europe, we have over 800 managed greenspaces across 4,000 hectares of land, and it’s recently coming to light that we have more peatland bog than any other city too (which tops the charts for carbon capture). It’s no wonder NatWest crowned us the UKs greenest city.
These facts are a source of great pride, but come with a duty to look after what we have.
It’s easy to think of conserving, protecting and managing the outdoors as beneficial to the people, flora and fauna who use it. But it’s way bigger than that, because healthy biodiversity benefits the whole planet. And sadly, here as well as further afield, biodiversity is declining – which is why Sheffield has declared a nature emergency as well as a climate one. We need to stop doing the bad things that cause damage, and do more good things that help regenerate.
Biodiversity is the huge variety of all plant and animal life on earth or in a particular habitat.
What’s important to remember with biodiversity is that everything is connected. That isn’t just spiritual mumbo-jumbo – imagine, for example, you set off on an old sailing ship around the world. Gradually parts of it will deteriorate… a part of a sail might get ripped, the rudder might take some damage, a few rivets come loose. If you don’t actively manage all parts of your ship, how long will it be before it falls apart?
Your ship is the biodiversity of our planet. Climate, nature, emissions, soil, water management – they’re all just pieces of the same puzzle, and biodiversity is what increases the more pieces of that puzzle we fix.
Sometimes it might feel easy to think you’re doing more than someone else, but just remember none of us are perfect and all we can do is try our best.
Riding a bike up to Burbage as opposed to driving is great – but we need to be inclusive of all backgrounds, beliefs and abilities. Our outdoors brings such huge benefits in the way of health, wellbeing and culture, so the more people can access it and feel part of it, the more it can be respected and protected.
Every single thing you do will take us all one step in the right direction, so focus on that and help encourage everyone to love The Outdoor City.
Watch out for and be aware of people walking – especially youngsters.
Be aware of soil erosion – if it’s single track, stick to it.
Please only ride on paths designated for bikes, and take your rubbish home.
Be aware of birds, especially around nesting and breeding times, and don’t climb where there are signs telling you not to.
Treat the crags with care – others want to climb them too.
Take your rubbish home with you.
Please stay on the footpaths.
Take your rubbish home with you.
If it’s single track, stick to it.
Inclusivity is so important. There are groups like Walk4Health, Cycling4All, Peaks of Colour Good Gym and Peak Queer Adventures for those who want to explore with others, and it’s then on all of us to make sure these groups are part of our Outdoor City.
We are surrounded by incredible organisations who can give you lots more information, host regular volunteer sessions (if that’s your thing), or who would dearly appreciate any fundraising you’d like to do on their behalf. Just search online for any of them and you’ll find plenty of info.
Plus there are loads of nature groups, Friends of groups, forums and local branches… head to https://www.wildsheffield.com/wildlife/wildlife-conservation/local-groups/ for a full run down.
You can also get involved by doing your own nature spotting and collecting wildlife records. This helps the Ecology Unit in Sheffield City Council assist in local conservation, larger organisations like the RSPB to compile ‘Citizen Science’ projects such as the Big Garden Birdwatch.
See how Sheffield and Rotherham Wildlife Trust offer the chance to volunteer at Blacka Moor (just one of the sites they do this) on a weekly basis.
Since the pandemic, a report produced by Sheffield Hallam has shown that Sheffield-ers are higher than UK and European averages when it comes to intentions to spend more time outdoors. However, it is fair to assume that responses to this survey were by those likely to want to respond – our biggest challenge is being inclusive and finding ways that every single person can have access to green and blue spaces.
The other issue that comes with this is land management – erosion, litter, intruding on animal habitats… the more humans there are, the more disruption it brings and the less biodiverse places will be. That’s not to say we shouldn’t use it, just that we should all do some simple things to respect it and help in our own ways.
Dogs need the outdoors as much of us, but their instincts take over. Please ensure you are aware where they should be on a lead to minimise disruption to livestock, ground nesting birds, and other natural habitats. And please pick up the mess – aside from the fact it can damage sensitive habitats and soil, would you want young kids falling in dog poo?
During certain stages of the pandemic our greenspaces have seen record numbers of visitors, and in summer weather this can lead to people taking disposable barbecues into spaces which they shouldn’t. Fire decimated sensitive parts of our city and the Peak District during this time, which means biodiversity is destroyed (as well as people receiving prison sentences for their actions). It’s just as important that fireworks aren’t used in moorlands and wilder areas too.
If you can carry it there, you can carry it back. It not only looks awful to see litter, but in natural spaces it’s especially damaging to wildlife and soil.
Everybody should feel they are able to enjoy and use outdoor spaces. Help do your bit by making everyone feel welcome.
If you’re lucky enough to have one, consider how planting certain flora, letting things grow, and reducing the use of pesticides and chemicals will really help biodiversity. You can also just let it go a bit wild – insects and subsequently birds will love it! It might only be a tiny spot of land, but if everyone did the same it would create a huge patchwork of more biodiverse land.
It’s better for you, for the environment – and means you can more freely enjoy some of our incredibly fine local beers in any of the great pubs around! It won’t always be possible, of course, but where it is then it’s a great step to take.