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  • Writer's pictureOur Green Warrington

Interview: The Land Trust's Mary Breeze

Green Angels: Basic Survival Skills Course 2020

The Land Trust is a national land management charity that works to adopt derelict land and turn it into attractive, usable, public space - which the Trust then manages on a long term basis with the help of local partners. With a focus on sustainability and protecting biodiversity at more than fifty sites across the UK now, the Land Trust aims to enhance people’s lives via the creation of “high quality green spaces that deliver environmental, social and economic benefits” for local communities.

Green Angels, an initiative from the Land Trust, is a unique skills training programme with a people focused, community based approach to sustainability. Green Angels' courses offer interesting and innovative ways of improving our environment and they give people the chance to learn new skills, change their future prospects and make a difference to their communities.

Here we ask Mary Breeze, Community Engagement Assistant with the Land Trust about its work, its goals – and how you can get involved.

Green Angels: creating of steps on a Hard Landscaping Course 2017

Could you tell us a little bit about the history of the Land Trust?

Launched in 2004, The Land Restoration Trust (known more commonly as the Land Trust) was piloted by English Partnerships, with Groundwork UK invited to form a joint a joint venture company. The concept was to create a new organisation that could take on the ownership and develop a long term sustainable land management solution.

The approach was initially tested on the National Coalfield Programme sites – sites restored by English Partnerships (HCA) and Regional Development Agencies through the National Coalfield Programme.

As part of this programme the Government recognised that regeneration of coalfield communities was about more than land reclamation and creating jobs and houses – it was about creating environments that people wanted to live and work in. It recognised that where derelict land could not be used for redevelopment, it could be restored and become vital public open spaces. Importantly, to succeed, this land needed to be managed over the long term with community involvement…and that was where the Land Trust came in.

Over the first three years of the pilot, eight sites, over 400 hectares were transferred. With an endowment attached to each site, a funded annual management plan could be developed to maintain the site long term. The model was (and still is) to appoint local partner organisations to maintain the site on a day to day basis with community involvement at its heart.

Now, over 15 years later, the Land Trust has over 80 parks and green spaces across the country, which includes nature reserves, country parks and more recently green space within residential developments.

How did its head office come to be based in Birchwood, Warrington?

Warrington is a central location with great travel connections. With Birchwood being so close to two motorway junctions and having its own train station it’s ideal. As some of my colleagues are based across the country this makes it easier for all of us to have a central base which isn’t completely the other side of the country for anyone. In saying that, who knows when the next time we can all meet in person will be!

Green Angels: learning how to go pond dipping on Wildlife Identification Course 2019

How did you get involved with the Land Trust and Green Angels?

I joined the Land Trust in 2019, with my role as a Community Engagement Assistant split across the Green Angels project and the management of our Warrington sites.

Could you tell us about a couple of sites the Land Trust has taken management of and how doing so has benefitted the local community?

With all of our sites we manage them with our five charitable objectives in mind:

Improving the environment and biodiversity, promoting and encouraging health and wellbeing, community cohesion, education and learning, and economic vitality.

All of our sites are different and benefit communities in different ways. For example, Northumberlandia – a huge land sculpture of a reclining lady, often known as the Lady of the North – has become a must-see sight when visiting Northumberlandia. We run the site in partnership with Northumberland Wildlife Trust and ensure that in addition to being a great day out, we protect the wildlife and use the site for educational activities with schools.

In contrast to that, our sites in Warrington are usually quite small pieces of green space which are intertwined with communities. The Community Orchard in Westbrook has become a valued space by the community. A friends group has formed to run the orchard and organises planting days which are well attended. The space is for everyone, and people seem to cherish that. Whether they use the space for walking the dog or carrying out a training course or going to a community event, it’s a versatile little space.

What do you feel are the most pressing changes needed in Warrington and Cheshire in terms of developing sustainable practices?

I think now more than ever, the benefit of green spaces is apparent to so many of us. They’ve been a vital part of our lockdown experience and hopefully that means people will want to protect them more.

At the Land Trust we try to connect with local authorities, developers and planners to encourage the green spaces within and around new communities to be an important part of the process. The introduction of Biodiversity Net Gain within new developments is a welcome change and we hope nature and biodiversity thrive in new developments, rather than being an afterthought. We recently did a survey which showed most people consider having good quality green spaces near their home would be a top consideration in buying a new home, which shows the work we do in creating, maintaining and improving our spaces has great value.

Could you tell us about some of the courses Green Angels has to offer the public?

Some of the courses that Green Angels offers are Horticulture and Countryside Management, Wildlife Identification and Environmental Education. Due to Covid-19 restrictions, we have recently run an online Spring Food Growing course with Lancashire Wildlife Trust and an online Wellbeing with Nature course with Cheshire Wildlife Trust, delivered via Microsoft Teams. We have also run weekly virtual Coffee Mornings, giving the opportunity for Green Angels Trainees to discuss all things related to nature and a chance to catch up with each other. We are now beginning to run our first onsite courses and walks of 2021 in Warrington. The first will be a Bugs and Blooms Walk in June, booking opens on 11th May.

Green Angels: Fungi Walk at Bewsey with Fungal Punk Dave 2019

As well as protecting our environment, what personal benefits are there to getting involved with Green Angels, including those from a physical and mental health perspective?

The personal benefits that Green Angels can provide for its participants are: gaining new skills; meeting new people; developing confidence and inspiring a sense of pride and achievement through engaging in volunteering opportunities to improve local green spaces. This can be helpful for employment opportunities and other voluntary projects people are involved in. Green Angels can also help to promote healthy living through encouraging active involvement in the outdoors, helping both physical and mental health. By involving the local community in the management and care of local green spaces, Green Angels helps to create social and community cohesion. Trainees also have the opportunity to help improve the local environment through habitat creation, creating oases for wildlife.

How long do the courses last?

Our training courses tend to last from 4-6 weeks, one day per week, with some more informal walks, like fungi or bat walks, or more active sessions, such as survival skills being one day courses.

If I’m interested, what is the next step?

The next step is to contact

or complete the

We can also be found on Facebook, Instagram and Twitter, where we post regular updates about our courses and sites or direct you to any useful links.

You can learn more about Green Angels, the Land Trust and the incredible work they do around the country by visiting their website here and here

You can also watch a brilliant video on Green Angels and the impact the scheme has had on people's lives here.

Green Angels: Tree Survey on a Horticulture & Countryside Management Course 2019

The Five Charitable Aims of the Land Trust

Creating, restoring and managing green spaces to improve the natural environment through increasing biodiversity and enhancing habitats.

Promoting the use of our green spaces for the improvement of the health and wellbeing of communities

Inspiring the current and next generation through vocational outdoor education and training opportunities

Optimising the economic value of our spaces and the services that they can provide to benefit the communities that are connected with them.

By involving local people though volunteering and use of our sites and encouraging emotional ownership.

Green Angels: at the Green Container at Lingley 2017

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