DEVON Wildlife Trust has launched a new award to highlight the wonderful work local community groups are doing to encourage struggling nature.

The Wilder Communities Award is the idea of Devon Wildlife Trust. The inaugural award has been made recently to an East Devon community.

Awards are open to everyone in Devon – from groups of allotment holders and workplace employees to residents’ associations, schools and care home communities.

Staff at the conservation charity are keen to stress that the scheme is not a competition. Instead, applications will be reviewed by Devon Wildlife Trust’s Wilder Communities Team. The application process is open now and can be completed on-line via the Trust’s website. Applicants can find lots of guidance, examples and ideas about how to help local wildlife.

Applications to the Wilder Community application process is free.

The Trust’s Wilder Communities Team are especially keen to hear from Devon communities who are working for nature in several ways, including:

- Creating space for nature: providing more food, water and homes for wildlife.

- Protecting the local environment: working to protect rivers and streams, to improve soil health, and reduce waste and pollution.

- Connecting local people with nature: bringing local communities together so that they can discover, learn and connect with wildlife.

Each Wilder Communities Award will be made for 12 months, but communities can look to re-new year-on-year. The schemes organisers hope that this will encourage communities to develop their wildlife plans over time, making them more ambitious and increasing their positive impact.

Katie Wilkinson is Devon Wildlife Trust Wilder Communities Team Lead. Katie said: 'We have been inspired by the hundreds communities across Devon who are leading amazing projects to help wildlife where they live, learn, work, or socialise. So, we have launched a brand-new award to celebrate their efforts.

'There is so much to be hopeful for when we see so many people dedicating their time to help nature’s recovery. From holding environmental festivals to running community science projects or managing a local greenspace for wildlife, and campaigning to get swift nesting boxes installed in a town centre. When communities work together on a common cause they can achieve great things.

'Thinking globally and acting locally will help us build a sustainable future where nature and people can thrive.'

The first group to be designated as a Wilder Community is the East Devon village of Chardstock. Gill Keam is leader of the Chardstock Wilder Community. Gill reacted to becoming a Wilder Community pioneer and said: 'I feel so incredibly fortunate to have lived in this beautiful location within the Blackdown Hills for over 23 years. Being surrounded by all the treasures that this rural location has to offer is wonderful.

'Our local community already does so much in support of the nature on our doorstep and in relation to connecting to it. So, when the opportunity to recognise and celebrate these connections was presented by the Devon Wildlife Trust’s new Wilder Communities Award, it felt like the ideal opportunity to bring our community even closer to nature.

'Using our application form as a springboard, we have been able to acknowledge so much of the fabulous work already being done locally, and to set ourselves some challenges to do even more over the coming months and years.'

The Wilder Communities application process is open now. People and communities who want to discover more about what it takes to be a Wilder Community should visit the Devon Wildlife Trust website.