The NHS Forest isn’t just about expanding and enhancing green spaces on healthcare sites – it is also, crucially, about increasing engagement with those spaces by staff, patients and the wider community. One way that our sites have done this is by hosting Nature Recovery Rangers – full-time staff members who work alongside sustainability, engagement, estates and healthcare teams to realise the full potential of on-site green space. This initiative began with three Nature Recovery Rangers in spring 2021, and its success has seen this project expand to more trusts across England.
How do rangers promote engagement with nature?
Our rangers have developed close relationships with staff at the trust, pooled their horticultural knowledge and got creative to come up with innovative ways to get people involved with nature. Importantly, a Nature Recovery Ranger is a very site-specific role, and no two rangers will have the same job. Our ranger at Southmead Hospital in north Bristol, for example, is working on a vast, modern site with 19 acres of green space already built in. In contrast, Mount Vernon Cancer Centre in northwest London dates back to the early 1900s, and our ranger there has worked hard to locate and identify the potential for green spaces tucked away in hidden corners of this former TB sanatorium.
Successful ranger projects so far have included:
- No Mow May: working with estates teams to reduce the mowing of lawns and verges, to benefit wildlife and biodiversity.
- Site-wide staff gardening competition: motivating over 140 staff members in 20+ teams to green up ‘patches’ close to their wards and workspaces, including seating areas, large planters, bird feeders and wildlife gardens.
- Allotment volunteering: Organising weekly volunteer sessions on the staff allotment, to give staff the opportunity to learn about veg growing, harvest fresh produce and spend time in green space.
- Woodland management: Leading groups of volunteers from the hospital and wider community to plant wildflower bulbs, remove invasive species and learn about woodland management.
- Wildflower ID and art sessions: Teaching healthcare staff about native wildflowers, and giving the opportunity to spend a lunchbreak drawing them.
- Butterfly transects: Educating staff of butterfly identification so that they could carry out on-site surveys to monitor butterfly species and numbers.
How to work with an on-site ranger
As this project expands, we have been in discussion with several trusts about employing rangers to work on their healthcare sites. There are different options for hiring, managing and funding these roles, if you would like to discuss this with us please contact us at firstname.lastname@example.org