Year | 2017
Location | Retford, Nottinghamshire
Client |  Idle Valley Nature Reserve, Nottinghamshire Wildlife Trust


Idle Valley Nature Reserve is a 450 hectare wetland reserve, situated to the North-West of Retford in Nottinghamshire, UK. The nature reserve sits along the western bank of the River Idle. Managed by the Nottinghamshire Wildlife Trust, the Wild WEB project is Idle Valley Nature Reserve’s development plan for 2017 to 2022. This collaboration with Live Projects happened early in Stage 1 of the Wild WEB project, building up to their bid for funding.

The project’s vision of realising the reserve’s untapped potential emphasises a need to open up to a wider range of user groups as well as to better provide for the people who already use and care for the reserve; their large volunteer base, nature enthusiasts, and educational programmes. Our client expressed a particular desire for the reserve to be better connected to its local communities, for it to become a valuable natural resource for local people. An engagement event at market further highlighted this need, low awareness or engagement within locals.

Our aim was to develop strategies and conceptual designs for this development project, to aid the Wild WEB in getting funded, and in engaging their local communities with development plans. In order to achieve this, we needed to be inspirational and creative as well as practical and resourceful.

Our extensive research informed our guiding principles, phasing and strategic frameworks. A loose but holistic plan of projects across the site prioritises scale and user groups to ensure sustainable development as funding is unpredictable and sporadic.

The conceptual design proposals for our phase 1 are the most immediate series of interventions. This consists of proposals for educational, volunteering and recreational use. In order to understand what each of these user groups needed we held brief building workshops, joined in on volunteer days and took part in a bat walk on the reserve. These activities enabled us to interrogate in detail various needs of each of the key stakeholders, these experiences formed crucial knowledge which informed the design that we proposed. There were many conflicts between user groups, in particular the nature enthusiasts and the occasional visitors. Both of these are incredibly important to the reserve, although they use the site for very different activities.

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