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University of Chester students dig deep to create community wildlife garden

Volunteers worked alongside Dig the Quarter group

Helping prepare Dig the Quarters wildlife garden are, from left to right at the back: Emma White; Miriam Wardroper-Hughes; Matthew Scarborough; Adam Maxwell; Alicia Eland; Molly Charlton; Mariann Biro; and Danielle Jones. Front from left to right: Xavier Terry and Joanne Morison

Students and staff at the University of Chester have been digging deep to help a community group create a wildlife garden.

The group of volunteers worked alongside Dig the Quarter – winners of a competition with Chester Zoo to have a community wildlife garden built.

The project is part of the zoo’s Wildlife Connections campaign, aimed at encouraging local communities to reconnect with nature and create wildlife-friendly spaces to protect a range of threatened British species, from the great British hedgehog to a range of bees and birds.

The University Volunteering Team organised a ‘Welly Wednesday’ – a regular feature at the institution, where student volunteers work with a variety of organisations on projects that benefit the local community.

Working with Dig the Quarter, the team of 10 student volunteers helped prepare the ground at the Garden Quarter site designated for the garden, ready for Dig the Quarter to do some wildflower planting later in the year.

One of the students, Mariann Biro, who is studying conservation biology, said: “I consider volunteering as a meaningful way to give something back and find it rewarding to know that I help others to make a difference.

“I signed up for the Garden Quarter volunteering day because I liked the idea of supporting a group of enthusiastic local people turning their environment into wildlife friendly habitats. I particularly enjoyed the community aspect of it, how meeting new people expands my horizon and that I contributed to a cause that I deeply care about.”

Nicola Samuels, a member of the Dig the Quarter community group, said: “Dig the Quarter started with a few Garden Quarter residents deciding to make the neighbourhood look more ‘cared for’ through the use of planting and a greater connection to wildlife.

“Chester Zoo awarded us first prize in a competition for our idea to make the end of Louise Street into a wildlife community garden and with the help of the zoo and Cheshire West and Chester Council, Orchard in the Quarter was born.

“The garden will be managed by volunteers and, as members of the community, university students were invited to participate.

“A highly successful afternoon was spent with students removing a large part of the turf ready for planting a wildflower meadow.

“It was tough work and so refreshments, provided free of charge by One Stop (a convenience store in the Garden Quarter) were most welcome. This was an enthusiastic bunch, some of whom live in the Garden Quarter as well. This is hopefully one of many volunteer days that Dig the Quarter hope to run and all residents are welcome to participate.”

Volunteer coordinator at the University of Chester, Jo Morison, added: “It has been fantastic to link up student volunteers with the Garden Quarter Community Wildlife Garden, through this ‘Welly Wednesday’ volunteer day. The students who volunteered have worked hard to help start off this brilliant community project, and I look forward to arranging further student volunteer days here in partnership with the Dig the Quarter community group.”

Wildlife Connections project officer at Chester Zoo Manon Keir added: “From hedgehogs to bees, from toads to birds, the majority of all UK native species are in decline. The living world around us is in crisis. Meanwhile, we are all spending less time outdoors engaging with nature.

“Now is the time to act for wildlife because together we can make a big difference. Projects like this one are helping us to reconnect with nature and enable great British wildlife to thrive alongside us. A huge thank you goes out to every volunteer who has helped to create this wonderful public habitat.”

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