Natural Neighbours

Photo by Paul HobsonPhoto by Paul Hobson

Natural Neighbours is funded by The Big Lottery’s Reaching Communities program. It offers a unique opportunity to work with communities across four areas in Rotherham, supporting these areas to celebrate and take ownership of the green spaces right on their doorstep.

Natural Neighbours will deliver activities which enable communities in Rotherham to use, enjoy, improve and reclaim local green spaces. Focussing on four parks, the project will provide opportunities to connect with nature in a way that celebrates community, improves wellbeing, brings neighbours together, develops skills, promotes physical activity and, above all, builds community ownership and trust.

The four parks and their neighbouring communities have been identified in response to local consultation and priorities highlighted by the local authority. These locations are:

  1. Sandhill Park in Rawmarsh
  2. Winterhills in Kimberworth
  3. Boston Park near to Canklow
  4. Eldon Road Recreation Ground adjacent to Eastwood

Our vision

Natural Neighbours will work closely with local community partners to ensure genuine participation within the four target neighbourhoods. The emphasis will be on empowering the community to reclaim and change local green spaces, supported by the tools, skills, know-how and experience of the Trust and its partners. Above all, we aim to rebuild local pride at the same time as providing more opportunities for residents to enjoy and benefit from the natural world on their doorstep. This will establish a lasting legacy of community care for local green space and the wider environment which will be crucial in sustaining project activity in the longer term.

The project will provide opportunities for local residents to get involved and connect with their local park through six activity themes:

Safe outside – we would like to develop and deliver a short programme of workshops for youth and community groups focussing on how to keep safe in open spaces (including fire safety, ‘stranger danger’, safety around water, substance use, road safety and appropriate behaviour). We will look to work with agencies such as South Yorkshire Police, South Yorkshire Fire and Rescue, Rotherham Metropolitan Borough Council and local community partners to deliver this.

Wild Play – providing play activities for schools, community groups and families which support child development, enable parents and children to play positively, raise awareness of the outdoors and reconnect families with nature.

Proud of our community – we will work with communities to celebrate and be proud of the place where they live. This will include celebratory events, art installations and positive local media stories. We are keen to work with local people to develop these ideas and come up with an exciting programme of events which showcase the best of these communities and open spaces.

Closer to nature – regular nature walks, talks and courses which enable local people to find out more about local wildlife and their natural neighbours. We will also work with local community partners to develop ‘walk and talk’ programmes which will give residents for whom English is a second language opportunities to meet each other and develop conversational skills in an informal and supported setting.

Volunteering – local volunteer teams will be established to enable local people to take ownership of the parks and contribute to their upkeep through tasks including litter picking, tree/wildflower planting, vegetation management, installing bird feeders and nest boxes, creating new benches/seating areas, simple access improvements, footpath maintenance, hay meadow creation and management. These activities will provide opportunities for local people to not only help improve their local environment, but also to develop skills, meet new people, take part in physical activity, improve confidence and feel good about themselves and their neighbourhood.

Access and interpretation – small scale capital works which will make sites more welcoming, make access routes more obvious and safer and celebrate these open spaces as part of the community. This could include installing a new art feature at an entrance, clearing vegetation from an overgrown entrance route, improving footpath networks or creating new waymarked trails to take people from their street to the park. We need to develop these ideas and we are keen to involve local communities, groups, partners and volunteers in this process.

Why does Natural Neighbours matter?

  • Natural Neighbours will provide communities with the opportunity to work together to celebrate the natural environment on their doorstep.
  • The project is focused on inclusion, working with the widest possible audience to inform them of the many benefits of spending time outdoors.
  • It will provide the knowledge and skills to encourage and empower communities to protect and improve the green spaces around them for the enjoyment of people and wildlife.

Working together

Natural Neighours is managed by Sheffield & Rotherham Wildlife Trust, working together with Rotherham Metropolitan Borough Council, local partner organisations, friends groups and volunteers. Many more organisations will come together to contribute over the lifetime of the project.

Contact us

Keep in touch with the development of the Natural Neighbours project, follow our progress or get in touch if you’d like to volunteer:

Email Owen Hodgkinson, Natural Neighbours Project Officer, at or Linda Baldwin, Community Engagement and Learning Manager, at