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Walk on the Wild Side

21 Dec 2021

Our lovely Consultant Ecologist, Milly Robinson, went on a special walk recently.  

She was joined by the residents of Meon Vale, a self-contained and self-sufficient village developed by our client, St. Modwen 

The walk took place in Meon Vale’s peaceful woodland where Milly spoke about the area’s rich biodiversity, connecting the locals to the wildlife on their doorstep.  

But the purpose of the walk goes much deeper than that. Discover how it helped St. Modwen achieve valuable outcomes for its development.  

Meon Vale

Meon Vale used to be an old MOD site. In 2010, St. Modwen started working with local stakeholders to deliver a mixed-use development.  

Of critical importance was minimising the development’s impact on local wildlife. Julian Arthur, our Director and ecologist, was part of St. Modwen’s outsourced environmental team back before Tyler Grange was launched. He helped to create an ecology mitigation and enhancement strategy for the site.  

The advice given enabled St. Modwen to proceed with the development, while also enhancing and creating natural habitats on-site. This included new ponds, wetlands, woodlands and wildflower grasslands.  

Today, the habitats support a wide variety of animals, such as water voles, butterflies, newts, birds and bats. It’s a beautiful place to live for the residents of Meon Vale (once completed there will be around 1,050 homes in the village), who also enjoy a variety of amenities, such as sports pitches, a convenience store, a leisure centre and a primary school.  

Because it’s such a large development, work is ongoing. Tyler Grange has been and still is providing environmental consultancy to St. Modwen for the village, which is in its last phase of development.  

Listening to their residents

With plans to enhance the woodland on site, St. Modwen wanted to involve Meon Vale’s residents before the work began.

So, St. Modwen decided to hold a community consultation event, inviting the residents for a fun family day out where they would learn about:

  • Their role in the future developments of Meon Vale
  • What processes are happening behind the scenes to protect the local wildlife
  • The experts involved in those processes, such as ecologists from Tyler Grange

St. Modwen turned to Tyler Grange for help – we were asked to host three woodland walks throughout the day. Our goal was to take the residents through the local woodland, talking about the species that lived in the area.

The walks also provided an opportunity for the residents to ask us about our processes and how they impact the village’s development.

Ahead of the event, we provided information about the species living in the area for the woodland’s new plaques. The plaques served as focal points during the walks.

Check out the plaque here.

Let the walk commence!

Milly Robinson was Chief Wildlife Guide for the afternoon. An ex-student ambassador, Milly knows a thing or two about keeping a crowd engaged. This, combined with her bottomless ecology expertise, made her the perfect person for the job.

St. Modwen got the word out, and Milly had a good crowd for each walk, including entire families. Some of those attending were also members of the Meon Vale Residents Association.

They were a curious bunch, listening intently to Milly’s talks about the local species. Of particular interest were the critically endangered and elusive water voles (who could blame them?).

The residents were also eager to learn more about the bats, their interest fuelled by sightings around their homes. They didn’t know that Warwickshire’s first sighting of the extremely rare Bechstein species was in their very own neighbourhood.

It reinforced why Meon Vale is special – a place of outstanding biodiversity.

 

Exposing the ecology process

The residents weren’t just interested in the animals. They asked Milly about the development, including what was planned for the future and what that meant for the woodland.

This gave Milly an opportunity to talk about the ecology process. She explained how every built development in Meon Vale is mitigated for.

And also how certain actions, like cutting grass and trees, is often for the benefit of the animals living there.

For example, by cutting down weeds and grass, wildflowers are encouraged to grow, helping to attract insects and small mammals.

Exciting outcomes

By the end of the day, it was clear how passionate Meon Vale’s residents were about their community and retaining the area’s biodiversity. The walks provided crucial reassurance that St. Modwen shared their values.

It was also an opportunity for the residents to voice their opinions about future enhancements for the woodland. Milly was able to feed this information back to St. Modwen to help inform their future proposals.

Another great outcome – the walk spawned a voluntary woodland management group in the making. Members of the resident society were particularly interested in joining. Once it’s up and running, the group will be a fantastic way to get the residents involved in protecting the local wildlife.

It will also reinforce their role as key stakeholders in the woodland’s enhancement.

What St. Modwen had to say

“Milly’s involvement in our community consultation day was a big factor in its success. Her sunny, warm personality, coupled with abundant knowledge meant that many residents of all ages were able to easily ask her questions on our much-loved woodland. Not only did she provide guided walking tours of the woodland, she was also on hand to answer any ad-hoc questions that arose throughout the day. Thanks Milly!”

We’ve got your back

Public engagement can go a long way in:

  • Strengthening your communities
  • Building trust between you and your residents
  • Enabling smoother developments

We can help you facilitate public consultations, such as woodland walks. They can help you drive valuable outcomes, just like those we achieved for St. Modwen.

Interested? Get in touch via email or call us on 01285 831804.

 

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