After our first online Connect event in June 2020, we decided that our next theme should be one that many people in Exeter are passionate about: ‘Greening the City’.

As soon as we started researching what was happening in Exeter around this topic, we knew that there would be an incredible range of projects that would be worth sharing! 

We received many more suggestions for presentations than we had time to include, but regardless the final line-up was excellent. We are grateful to the speakers who presented their projects, these helped illustrate why Exeter is already one of the greenest cities in the UK, and thank you to everyone else who joined us on the day. 

If you were unable to join us for the Greening the City Connect, this blog gives a summary of everything you need to know about the projects that were shared and what you can do to support them! 

Exeter City Council

Nick Mead and Cat Chambers explained how the council is using nature-based solutions (NBS) to manage its public green spaces. As well as their own projects, including reducing glyphosates, they are also collaborating with Devon Wildlife Trust on a 10 year partnership called Exeter Wild City, that is mapping biodiversity and preserving and enhancing wild habitats. Nick and Cat also shared some exciting developments around the world, including a subterranean park in New York. 

The ask: Nick and Cat are always interested in opportunities for innovative collaboration that aligns with the council’s priorities for vibrant green spaces in Exeter.

Get in touch:

Devon Wildlife Trust

Devon Wildlife Trust assumed management of Exeter’s Valley Parks in 2019. Although social distancing and lockdown has made the transition more difficult Devon Wildlife Trust has already succeeded in several of its objectives, including training volunteer rangers and engaging more than 1000 people in the future of the parks. Devon Wildlife Trust also works with schools across the county to provide Outdoor Learning Programmes for children, including 20 schools in Exeter.  They are currently working with Viridor Credits on several initiatives for mapping biodiversity around the city. 

The ask: Devon Wildlife Trust wants you to get involved in their campaigns, especially the current Northbrook Approach Consultation

Get in touch: or 

St Thomas Community Garden

Josh Mason-Goodall explained how he and Clemence Scalbert reinvigorated a community garden in St. Thomas Pleasure Ground that was initially set up by St Thomas Community Association, Bloom’in St. Thomas, and pupils from Montgomery Primary School. The project is now independently managed by Josh, Clemence and several volunteers and they have plenty of ideas for its future. As well as installing a sign telling everyone about it, railings and a water butt provided by Exeter CIty Council, they also intend to increase the size of the community garden and create a ‘physic garden’ devoted to the cultivation of medicinal plants.

The ask: St Thomas Community Garden would be delighted to receive advice and support on expanding the garden, engaging with the community and getting the most out of a project that relies on a small group of volunteers. 

Get in touch: 

FLOW: Orchard on the Exe

Simon Bates and Becky Wells told us about FLOW, a ribbon orchard and foraging route alongside the River Exe in St. Thomas and Exwick. The route has been planted with fruit bushes and nut trees, including local varieties of heritage apples, figs, apricots and almonds. The orchards, designed by artist Anna Marie Culhane, support many different species of plants and animals, but FLOW has also created a community for the people involved in building and maintaining it. Participants have learned skills such as seasonal pruning and also taken part in reviving ancient traditions such as wassailing; the Anglo-Saxon practice of singing to the trees in January to encourage a bountiful harvest. 

The ask: FLOW is a Community-Interest Company and they would really appreciate some support in managing this aspect of the project, as well as help at their events. 

Get in touch: 

UrbanGreening: Sowton (Environment Agency) 

Kevin Ward provided a very insightful overview of how staff at the Environment Agency’s Manley House office on Exeter’s Sowton Industrial Estate built a pond, sowed a wildflower meadow and grew vegetables to transform the area into a haven for wildlife, and people who work in the building. In addition to the practical tasks completed by staff during lunch breaks, after work and on environmental leave days, Kevin also explained the financial and logistical planning that was required to ensure that everyone’s time was well-used. We were also treated to a live broadcast of the site from Adam Cookson, another organiser of the project. 

The ask: URBANGreening:Sowton would like to expand their activities beyond Manley House and engage other businesses and residents in the local community to create a greener and more beautiful environment for all. 

Get in touch: 

Wonford Planters

Since 2016, Wonford Planters have beautified the streets in their local area by trimming bushes, planting flowers and transforming a traffic island from overgrown grass to neat raised beds. Jenny Mitchelmore also introduced the group’s next project, regenerating an area in Wonford Green; a former wildlife garden that has become abandoned and overgrown with non-native trees.

The ask: As well as tips on the best trees, shrubs and plants to grow on their current beds, the Wonford Planters are also looking for advice on gaining community support for developing their Wonford Green project. 

Get in touch: 

i-Tree Project (Treeconomics)

Kenton Rogers’ passion for trees was apparent in his explanation of Treeconomics’ audit of the tree canopy across the city: namely the ‘i-Tree Project’. As well as the situation in Exeter and the UK, Kenton explained the global status of urban forests and the importance of proactive management as more and more people live in cities. The objective of the i-Tree project is to collate all of the learnings and capabilities that Treeconomics have developed in other surveys around the world to map all of the trees in Exeter.

The ask: The i-Tree Project is almost complete, but Treeconomics are always looking for collaboration to create a sustainable urban forest in Exeter. 

Get in touch:

Exeter Sound Walks

Emma Welton is encouraging people to explore a different perspective on the natural world. She has made several beautiful maps of different parts of Exeter, with notes on places to stop and listen to what you see. These ‘Sound Walks’ are inspired by Emma’s background as a professional musician and activist composer. During the presentation she also made the most of the online format by asking everyone to share what they heard from wherever they lived in Exeter! If current Covid restrictions permit, she hopes to lead guided ‘Sound Walks’ for small groups of people. 

The ask: The popularity of the ‘Sound Walks’ has inspired Emma to look for new ways to spread awareness of listening to our surroundings, so please let her know if you have any ideas!

Get in touch: You can contact Emma via her website.

Concluding the event, all presenters engaged in a question and answer session with all the participants. It was lovely to hear the vocalising of support for all the shared projects from our attendees.

Greening the City is part of a series of Connect events running throughout the year. More details on future Connect events will be coming soon.

What Next?

We are urging everybody – organisations, staff, communities and residents – to play a vital role in the delivery of the city’s Net Zero Exeter 2030 Plan.