As our population continues to grow and our urban jungles sprawl further across the dwindling swathes of natural countryside that remain, it is imperative that we build with the environment in mind. Not only respecting the local flora and fauna in our architectural designs, but also providing the inhabitants of our new developments with sufficient space to engage with the natural world. It is vital to build relationships with the animals and plants of our environments for their own protection – but it is also necessary for our own sanity. Rising levels of anxiety and depression in our young people are directly linked with a reduction in time spent outdoors in green spaces.
A world in which young people grow up without access to natural spaces, plants and animals is a world that is doomed to failure. We cannot expect children to care about and protect something to which they have no meaningful connection. Allowing children to grow up immersed in and surrounded by nature is the only way to ensure that they will fight to protect it. It is also crucial for their own mental wellbeing.
30 minutes from central London, a disused quarry in Erith is being converted into a new eco-development. The Quarry promises to provide a generation of young people with the opportunity to engage extensively with local ecology. They will be installing multiple ponds with viewing platforms and information boards, creating natural play areas and ecologically managing preserved areas of grassland and woodland. The ecological design of The Quarry will allow its community to encounter a wide variety of plants and animals. I hope that the natural progression from such an intimate relationship with local wildlife will be the desire to protect local fauna and flora in a world that is constantly seeking to destroy natural spaces. Not to mention the positive psychological benefits that will be derived from living amongst so much green!
More directly, I am pleased to note The Quarry’s commitment to enhancing and maintaining the woodland belt by retaining and planting native trees. The design also encourages bats and birds by integrating nesting and roosting features. And as someone who has spent years encouraging children to search and care for minibeasts – I am of course delighted with their placement of log piles to attract plenty of tiny inhabitants too!
Last week, I visited The Quarry’s community fun day, along with a host of many-legged friends! We met lots of children (and their grown-ups!) who were fascinated by the creatures on display. It still amazes me that people can live in such close proximity to a mini-world of marvellous beasts and be completely oblivious to it. But there were plenty of minibeast experts too – mainly the children of course! We discussed what kind of creatures might be found in The Quarry’s ponds and meadows and how exciting it was to live alongside nature. Events such as these give me hope for the future. Despite the screens and the pull of social media, children are still fascinated by nature. It’s just up to us to give them the opportunity to connect.
Jess French is a zoologist, naturalist and the presenter of ‘Minibeast Adventure with Jess’ on the Cbeebies channel.
The Quarry will be a new eco-development in Erith featuring an exceptional collection of unique apartments and townhouses. It is due to launch in 2017.
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