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Connecting people with planet

Winchester Cathedral
Winchester Cathedral

Connecting people with planet

We asked two of our Winchester Ambassadors who work at very different visitor attractions how they see their environment connecting with people.

Sophie Whitemore, Zoologist, Marwell Zoo

Wildlife conservation doesn’t have to just be about saving the tigers, the snow leopards or the scimitar-horned oryx. It’s doesn’t just come from ‘brainy’ scientists doing work on the ground in far away lands. It happens right here on our very doorstep. It’s about engaging people and deepening our connections to the natural world. Wildlife conservation cannot succeed if people are not on board and people will not be on board if they don’t feel a connection to the world around us.

But how do we feel connected? The simplest way is to just get outside, take a walk, take a moment on a park bench or even watch a nature documentary. Marwell Wildlife’s conservation strategy puts the planet, people and health at its core. We are working to create a zoo experience which actively improves the psychological health of people by providing opportunities to connect with nature beyond the possibilities otherwise available to them. Take our new Thriving Through Nature immersive exhibit for example, this is a new development to the zoo where we have put the focus not only on the animals you can see but the plants you can smell, the rock faces you can touch and the running water you can hear. Simply coming to the zoo drives a deeper connection to the natural world around us. Yes, you can see the species that are under our care, but you can also see bees buzzing around Marwell Hall’s gardens, dragonflies zipping about the pond by our Siamangs, and if you’re really lucky, and very quiet, you might just hear a cuckoo in our woods.

Rhino in front of Marwell House

Rhino in front of Marwell House

Marwell plays host to a plethora of wildlife, not just the species you see in the enclosures we manage, but also those that have made the woods, fields, hedges and ponds their home. I can near guarantee that after leaving our zoo you will feel a deeper connection to nature – and that’s where wildlife conservation starts. It starts with changing minds and forging an appreciation for the world we live in, so why not stop by?

Aisha Al-Sadie, Learning and Heritage Officer, Winchester Cathedral

What makes an environment connect with people? It is a huge question, but one that I ask myself on a regular basis. Whether it is a natural environment or a built environment, most people will take a special journey to a special place at some point in their lives. At the time, they may not have realised how special that journey and experience is. They have maybe visited a street from their childhood, a place where a loved one is remembered or a specific building for reflection. People from different counties, cultures, beliefs, all faiths, and none do this.

Winchester Cathedral

Winchester Cathedral

In my six years of working at Winchester Cathedral, I have worked with thousands of children, young people, and adults, who all react in the same way when the first enter the building. They all say “wow!” At important points in life people feel the need to take a moment to be still and reflect in an environment that is ‘other.’ Somewhere that isn’t a usual, everyday space. In the days of national mourning after the passing of the late Queen Elisabeth II, people flocked to the Cathedral to light a candle and say a prayer. Something about this place connects with people, even those who are not religious or who have never been to a church before.

Working here allows me to connect with people through the draw of this building, allowing us to have deep conversations that we otherwise wouldn’t have time or the space for. It is a real privilege. No matter our differences, those who visit us share a common belief that the Cathedral is special. This sense of specialness is one that we should use in our everyday life when we think about our planet, our environment, each other, and ourselves.

Cathedral Inner Close

In this mindset, the Cathedral considers how we connect with people, the natural and built environment in everything that it does. Just like the planet, we are only custodians of this incredible building and its green spaces, for a short time. It is our job to ensure that it continues to be a safe and welcoming place for people and nature in the future. Through our services, promoting traditional crafts, delivering learning visits from schools, colleges, universities, those educated at home, SEN groups and uniformed organisations, holding special events, exhibitions and connecting through our website and social media, we are always rethinking how we can best serve the environment and people who connect with us both at work and in our everyday lives.

This Easter we will be running Urban Safari Workshops for families to look at the green spaces surrounding the Cathedral: https://www.winchester-cathedral.org.uk/event/easter-workshops/