An aerial picture of Newtown nature reserve on the Isle of Wight

Building the Biosphere

In 2019, the Isle of Wight became a UNESCO World Biosphere Reserve, joining a global network of outstanding cultural and ecological locations. Biosphere status ranks the
Island alongside such amazing places as the Cévennes National Park in France, the Black Forest in Germany, and the Maldives in the Indian Ocean.

While The Isle of Wight Biosphere Reserve covers a huge area, almost 1000 km², reaching three counties and including most of The Solent. 60% of the reserve is marine, confirming the importance of the Island’s coastal environment, its estuaries, reefs, kelp forests and shark nurseries. The Biosphere’s 380km² of terrestrial landscape is packed with historic, artistic and natural highlights. There are 16,000 important heritage sites, including 2,000 listed buildings; there are over 1,000 protected landscape and wildlife sites and over 10,000 species recorded including some found nowhere else in the UK.

Add these to the Island’s reputation as a national hub of the arts and creative industries, and the richness and quality of its cultural and biological resources becomes clear. The work of managing, protecting and conserving these essential Island assets is shared by many – and it’s why we have committed to do everything we can to look after the land, sea and air that surrounds us, as part of our Green Agenda. This has included introducing the first hybrid energy ferry in England and installing vertical rock pools (called Vertipools) at Fishbourne to create new habitats for marine life.

Landowners, farmers, environmental organizations, local councils and a network of volunteers, all take on a part of the shared endeavour. There are many champions of the Biosphere, and there will be many more to come.

Here we’re introducing you to six people who have already done so much to bring to life cultural and environmental projects that will help shape a better future for those who live, work and visit here…

Richard Grogan - Isle of Wight AONB

Richard Grogan, Isle of Wight Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty

Head of the Isle of Wight AONB team, Richard Grogan’s decades of expertise in wildlife and landscape were invaluable in securing the Isle of Wight’s UNESCO Biosphere designation.

“Having spent 35 years helping to conserve and enhance the natural beauty of the Isle of Wight as an ecologist, land and project manager, I continue to work with all sectors of our community helping the Island’s environment and wildlife. Through my work for the Isle of Wight Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty (which covers half of the Island) I’ve worked on many significant projects including IW Biosphere designation, East Wight Landscape Partnership, Creative Biosphere, Isle of Wight Biodiversity Action Plan, Nature’s Highways and Lift the Lid, Farming in Protected Landscapes and Catchment Sensitive Farming, working with the community to protect wildlife, enhance quality of life and provide increased resources for environmental enhancements.”

Nigel George modelling the Artecology Vertipools with ants

Nigel George, Arc and Artecology

Director of eco-engineering pioneers Artecology and a whole-hearted sustainability
campaigner, Nigel George, exports designs for people and wildlife from the Isle of
Wight Biosphere to seas and cities across Europe.

“I moved to the Isle of Wight in 1996 where my joint passion for wildlife and creativity grew wings! Here I found myself surrounded by not only wonderful natural habitats, but also a real wealth of creative and artistic people. Today I’m Director of Artecology, the research arm of environmental organisation ARC. Based in Sandown Bay here in the Biosphere, Artecology are eco-engineers, taking a scientific AND creative approach to addressing global challenges of climate change and biodiversity loss. People are always at the heart of our work too. Through ARC’s framework ‘Shaping Better Places’, we help communities, local governments and corporations live in a way that’s sustainable and bio-abundant, resilient and life affirming. Which is why I love getting up in the morning!”

Kathy Grogan runs Nature Works and Isle of Wight Wild Learning,

Kathy Grogan, Nature Works CIC

Kathy Grogan runs Nature Works and Isle of Wight Wild Learning, connecting generations of the Island’s children with nature but also making sure outdoor learning, and spaces that work for wildlife, are embedded in Island schools.

“I have always been passionate about the natural world and its conservation. Over seventeen years, through my work as a Wildlife Trust Education Officer, I delivered a range of projects supporting education and well-being through access to nature. Now freelance, I use this experience and my intimate knowledge of the Island’s special landscape, habitats and wildlife to inspire the next generation. I deliver Forest School programmes, Environmental Education and Outdoor Learning experiences for schools, pre-schools and community groups; workshops and training for school and pre-school staff; and well-being sessions for adults and family groups within our beautiful Biosphere.”

Claire Kennard and partners from the Isle of Wight are bringing traditional markets back to life

Claire Kennard, Market Days

Claire Kennard and partners are bringing traditional markets back to life, revitalising our town squares and championing local produce for the Biosphere’s resident community and visitors.

“Market Days CIC is a new community interest company which aims to revive the market culture in the Island’s county town, Newport. We believe that Newport’s fascinating market heritage is an integral part of life in the Biosphere. Markets are cultural capital for our towns, places where people can build a sense of community directly linked to Island makers, producers and growers. As a local hub, marketplaces are traditionally a place where people connect, trade and socialise and where, here especially, our locally produced goods, even from our allotment holders, can be a showcase for all the assets that our Biosphere affords us. Make sure to join us on Market Days while you’re here!”

Rosie Johnson Secret Skylark Young Nature IW

Rosie Johnson, Young NatureWatch

Isle of Wight Island teenager Rosie Johnson brings a whole new approach and an artist’s eye to learning about wildlife here in the Island Biosphere, detailing her experiences through her club’s Instagram page.

“Hello! I’m Rosie, I’m 15 years old and I am passionate about wildlife. I have always been massively interested in the natural world and over the past year, lockdown gave me
a chance to really connect with nature in my local area. I spent my time at home learning as much as I could about the wildlife I discovered by drawing, photographing and reading about what I found. In February I set up Young Nature Watch IW, a nature group for teenagers on the Island – since then, I’ve made wildlife tips into films for nature festivals and shared my experiences learning everything from bird-ringing to fungi ID. My aim: to spark a love for nature in more of our Island’s young people.”

Community wildlife expert, Tina Whitmore, Isle of Wight

Tina Whitmore, Community Wildlife

Projects and citizen science Community wildlife expert, Tina Whitmore is widening the world of species recording, making sure Island residents and visitors can understand, record and experience the rich biodiversity of the Biosphere!

“My work involves showcasing the special wildlife and natural heritage of our Biosphere, linking people with our local nature through watching and enjoying wildlife. And it’s not just about the unique species either, it’s just as much about everyday wildlife encounters be it on the doorstep, the greenspace around the corner or way up on The Downs. I encourage people to share their nature observations through the iWatchWildlife project, with ‘Species of the Month’, newsletters and events. I convert everyone’s observations into proper wildlife records, helping to boost the Isle of Wight Species Database. Species recording is really important as it helps us understand how our local wildlife is getting on and ultimately it helps protect the Isle of Wight Biosphere – plus it makes us feel good too!”

To read more about Wightlink’s environmental commitments, see our Green Agenda pages.

*A version of this article first appeared in Wightlife Autumn 2021. To read more inspiration articles, visit our Wightlife magazine page.

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