Guest blog: City of Nature Community Interest Company (CIC)

Introducing a project to transform and rewild the City of Bradford in West Yorkshire

by Adele Best

15th March 2024

I guess this is how all plans start, as a dream. You can visualise the end result but how do you get there? With planning, perseverance, patience, and partnerships. As much as I would like this project to be an instant one, especially when we live in a country so depleted of biodiversity, and on a planet that really needs our help asap, frustration can also be a driving force for what needs to be done. When world leaders fail us, it is up to us to be the change that we need. Using our knowledge and passion is key to re-educating people about the direction that must now be taken. We cannot continue down the old paths that no longer serve us.

I think many of us suffered during the pandemic in various ways and anyone who works in retail will tell you that it was tough and stressful. So, any opportunity to find something that was calming was cherished. The stillness of pottering about in the flowers for an hour before work or after in the summer evenings was mindful and I started to think if only more people could experience this on a wider scale, how wonderful it would be.

I really wanted others to be able to find their joy in nature. Part of me also realised that I could not do it anymore. I could not sit back and watch what is happening to our planet and in turn our own health. I saw the benefits the small space I created provided fairly-quickly and know deep down that this is the action we need to take. There is only one direction to go in and it must be along the path of a green, biodiverse landscape within and around cities. I believe it is a simple choice, we can do what we have done for decades, the very same thing that has got us into this terrible mess in the first place, or we can choose to restore and treasure all that is wild and fully embrace nature as we rightly should, for it supports and sustains us. Without it we are nothing.

I witnessed how my 30 plant pots were positively affecting others. Neighbours would often compliment me on my flowers. Passing strangers would stop to talk to me to tell me how beautiful they were and ask about what I was growing. Several told me they made a point of walking along my street just to see them and that is truly rewarding! Not only was I providing vital food for insects it was also lifting the mood of others.

I have seen insects I have never seen before, and I am keeping records so I can see over time how the biodiversity changes and which new insects appear. It was so exciting to come home on a summer evening to find hummingbird hawk-moths buzzing in the Verbena bonariensis. To know you have made that difference to even the smallest creatures is heartwarming. I was also able to teach children on the street about bees, turning their fear of them in to wonder and appreciation. I realised changing the hearts and minds of even a few people matters.

I began to have bigger plans and set my sights on transforming Bradford, one major gateway into the city and the city centre itself. I thought why should it all or mostly be concrete jungle? There are so many things that can be done in the heart of the city. I regularly travel down Huddersfield Road, leading on to Manchester Road. There is so much unused space that could be rewilded to benefit nature and the residents. City of Nature CIC is all about using plants and trees to combat pollution, store carbon, create wildlife corridors, restoring habitats and working with all communities to strengthen their connection to nature.

I have known Richard Sara for a number of years, and it was great when he came on board. Richard has previously worked as a Business Consultant for Bradford Chambers, for Participate in Bradford and in the not-for-profit sector. Over the years, he has worked on several environmental projects across the district, both in schools and at St Ives with Bob Thorp, head of Parks and Gardens at Bradford Council. He also has a passion for rewilding, especially in urban settings.

We met Dr Mark Robinson in IIkley, at the Manor house as he was guiding the Dear Earth exhibition, and it was like things fell in to place. I think the three of us make a brilliant team. Dr. Mark Robinson is a former teacher and university researcher (over 20 years at Leeds and Leeds Beckett Universities) with extensive experience in project delivery. His research and evaluation experience has mainly focused on public health promotion and has had a particular emphasis on working with demographically disadvantaged and ethnically diverse groups, including young people, in urban areas. His areas of interest have been promoting people’s physical and mental wellbeing.

Dr Mark Robinson, Richard Sara and myself are working hard to make it happen. When you reach out it is wonderful how many lovely people offer support and advice and want to collaborate on the project. It’s like everyone is a piece of the beautiful jigsaw that is being built. So far, we have met with and have gained support from Green Party councillors Anna Watson and Matt Edwards, the Biodiversity Officer, members of Natural England, Mel Frances of Trees for Cities, Shaun O’Hare of YORgreen CIC, Public Health, the NHS, Rewilding Britain and the Yorkshire Rewilding Network. We have also been approached by schools asking to work with us which is brilliant, and we look forward to collaborating with them. We are also currently in discussions with the Landscape team of Bradford Council. These are all wonderful people doing great work for the environment.

Part of our plan involves creating immersive, sensory gardens in the city that will allow natural processes to flourish. We believe this is key to transforming Bradford and creating a welcoming green city of the future, especially for City of Culture 2025.

We are busy applying for funding, possibly one of the hardest parts of it. In all honesty, things do not always go according to plan. If you are starting out on a similar journey, it is probably best to accept this early on. Sometimes you will feel like you are not making a difference or getting anywhere, and then other days will be amazing! The good days will make up for that. When people but their faith in you and want to support you, you know you are heading in the right direction. In difficult times hold on to that.

I would say when you feel the need to do something in the core of your soul, listen to that inner voice, let it be the passion that pushes you forward. It won’t be easy but in the end it will be worthwhile. You may be the change that is needed for the greater good. You may be a drop that turns into a wave along with others. Keep going. You are doing good work.

We have set up a Facebook page and our website. If you would like to connect with us, you will find us here:

We invite you to join us on our journey. The path ahead is green and full of possibilities.

[Images: Adele Best]