We just love being outdoors!

July 19, 2012 by The Co-operative Food squirrel

So many children’s adventure stories are set in the countryside, be it in woodland or at the beach, they are about getting involved with nature and being close to wildlife. But in reality how many of us actually get to create our own outdoor activities and adventures with our children, helping them experience the countryside at first hand?

At The Co-operative we love being outdoors and we wanted to share with you some of the things that we do as an organisation to protect the natural world, as well as some of our thoughts for how we involve our youngsters with the creatures they so adore.

Many of us know from experience that while children will pester us like mad to get a pet, it has to be something we want as well as we are likely to end up looking after it for most of its life. The novelty of having a new animal soon wears off and mum or dad is generally left in charge. So why not get closer to nature, enjoy the learning and thrills, but then leave it where it is at the end of the day?

In recent years there has been a growing popularity in city farms that give kids a great opportunity to get up close to animals that are familiar with people and so won’t run away as they are likely to on a real farm. Even if you can’t get deep into the countryside a city farm gives you a taste of what’s out there, and will probably leave you and your children wanting to know more.

Our parks too offer much greater diversity of habit than we might expect. Most big green spaces have areas left wild, with information about what might be seen there. Even something as simple as a pond can be teeming with life, and what looks like just another creepy crawly to us might be a whole world of adventure to our younger boys and girls.

The Co-operative is deeply involved in the communities it serves in many different ways. We seek to improve the areas we’re responsible for or that we can have an impact on, either leading with better behaviour ourselves, or helping others improve what they do.

A few years ago we launched Plan-Bee in an effort to reverse the decline of the honey bee’s population in the UK, and we’ve since extended the campaign to include all pollinators such as other bees, butterflies and moths too. You can read about Plan Bee here.

You might also like to know about Habitat Heroes, a lovely as well as valuable piece of habitat protection work that we’re carrying out on our farms.

The Co-operative is one of the biggest farmers in the country, and it’s only natural that we should go to great lengths to protect the species that make our countryside so diverse and interesting. We know that loss of habitat has a massive impact on our British wildlife, and increasingly intensive farming has its part to play in threatening our native creatures.

On seven of our large farms around the country our farmers have recognised particular species and gone out of their way to help protect them. Click on Habitat Heroes to read about how we’ve changed the way we manage water courses on Pasture Farm near Goole to give the water voles there a better chance of breeding successfully. Or how in Wisbeck we’re helping the otter fight its way back from being a much loved but vulnerable species – there’s even a web camera set up so we can keep an eye on the little fellows’ progress in the holt we’ve built for them.

We like to think that we are very good farmers, but we can’t hope to be brilliant at everything, so to help us in our conservation work we’ve teamed up with local specialists who really know their stuff. At the Tillington fruit farm near Hereford we have been looking after rare breeds of apple for years, including the Tillington Ladies Finger that is used to make our rather tasty premium cider. But it’s not just apples we conserve there, we’re working with Swift Ecology to help care for the numerous threatened species of bats that now thrive on the farm.

To help us understand how we can create wild bird habitats the Co-operative Farms work with Kent Wildlife Trust in our efforts to protect the Linnet, Yellowhammer, Corn Bunting, Grey Partridge, Turtle Dove and Yellow Wagtail in the south of England.

We know that we can’t change the world for these creatures, but we will make a difference, leading to more sustainable agriculture. We hope our actions will influence others to improve their behaviours towards the natural world too. After all, we want to be in a position to teach our children and grandchildren about what they might find in the countryside as opposed to what they might have found in times gone by.

For more information about our campaigns and conservation work, and to get involved follow these links Plan Bee and Habitat Heroes.

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