Southern Co-op backs project to grow a wilder Isle of Wight

The society is working with the regional wildlife trust, following a similar project in Portsmouth

Efforts to grow a nature recovery network across the Isle of Wight are coming to fruition through a partnership between Southern Co-op and the Hampshire and Isle of Wight Wildlife Trust.

Wilder Wight was launched last year following Southern’s involvement in Wilder Portsmouth, and is now growing, with Wilder communities officers on the lookout for local spaces on the island that can be made more nature-friendly.

The Wilder communities officers have so far worked with local residents, community groups and organisations to find ways to give wildlife a helping hand in their spaces.

Among those already on board is Vectis Road Allotments (Vera) in East Cowes, which has formed a wildlife group and nominated a wildlife champion for the site.

Vera is now exploring new opportunities to wild their site, such as sowing a wildflower area.

Lee Williamson, site manager at Vera, said: “Being part of the Wilder Wight Communities Project has been a step in the right direction for Vera, allowing us to move forward with our own wildlife projects and also launching our wildlife group within the allotment, knowing that the project officers are there to answer any questions and guide us is a valuable partnership.”

Other groups getting involved include Ventnor Cemetery, Aspire Gardening Club, Ventnor Town Council and Phoenix Youth Services.

Joanna​ Ridley, Wilder communities officer, said: “We provide individuals, groups and organisations with the advice and support they need to create wilder and more nature-friendly spaces on the Isle of Wight.

“Supporting people to take care of and improve places that matter to them in ways that are right for them has allowed us to progress some exciting projects so far. We look forward to working with more people moving forward.”

Gemma Lacey, director for sustainability and communications at Southern, said: “It has been a pleasure to be involved in Wilder Portsmouth and Wilder Wight and to see these programmes grow and expand their reach into new cities and areas.”

Southern’s involvement has inspired members as well as retail and funeralcare colleagues to join the initiative, added Lacey, and the work will continue with some woodland clearing in October.

“A lot of people are aware that helping nature to thrive can help us tackle climate change and build a more sustainable future,” she said, “but they don’t know where to start. This is where Wilder Wight comes in. Ideas have included greening community spaces and streets, to improving areas for pollinators, bats, swifts and hedgehogs.

“The passion the team has for wildlife is infectious and we know this project will continue making a difference to creatures great and small on the Isle of Wight.”

Future plans for Wilder Wight include working with residents to create a ‘Wilder Street’, an initiative which has already seen success in Portsmouth.