From April 2022 – July 2023, LotE (pronounced Lottie – our affectionate name for Life on the Edge!) came to life! This was all thanks to a £221,900 Development Phase grant from National Lottery Heritage Fund, with additional support and funding from our partners Buglife – The Invertebrate Conservation Trust, National Trust South Devon Countryside, National Trust English Riviera, South West Coast Path Association, Doorstep Arts and further grants from Devon Environment Foundation and Milkywire.
This Development phase funding has allowed us to talk to people who want to be involved, firm up partnerships, make plans for action, trial activities with farmers, landowners, communities and schools, test survey methods and conservation techniques, enroll volunteers – all to help develop an appetite for sustainable and landscape scale environmental actions which will secure long term futures for rare and endangered insects on the South Devon coast – what’s not to love!
In August 2023 we submitted a Round 2, delivery phase application to the Heritage Fund for just over £2 million towards a total project value of £4.25 million. If we are successful, LotE will move into the next phase and change really will start to happen! We should hear from the Heritage Fund committee during December 2023, and if the outcome is positive, we will start the 5 year Delivery phase in April 2024.
Our Vision is to give some of the UK’s most threatened invertebrates, living along the South Devon coast between Plymouth and Torbay, the space to recover and thrive; and for the people who live in and visit this beautiful landscape to feel a sense of pride and achievement in having helped to give our precious wildlife a brighter future.
Life the Edge will be a 5 year project which aims to work with farmers, landowners and the local community to make a difference for rare and endangered invertebrates on the South Devon Coast.
The focus of our landscape enhancement work will be around five hotspots, chosen for their importance for target invertebrate species. We will also work in the South Devon Coastal B-Line (biodiversity line) which runs in a 3km strip around the South Devon coast between Torbay and Plymouth. You can see a map of the project area in the download section. We will be working with people all along the South Devon coast and in the neighbouring urban areas of Torbay and Plymouth, with our target audiences being older isolated people and young people who are disconnected from nature.
We are in the midst of a biodiversity crisis. Increasing numbers of species are under threat of extinction in the UK, and the sheer abundance of wildlife has drastically fallen. Insects and other invertebrates have suffered the greatest declines, but don’t always get much attention. Life on the Edge will help to boost local populations of 60 of the UK’s most threatened invertebrates and plant species while also benefiting hundreds of other invertebrates, plants, reptiles, bats and birds.
Farmers, who are critical to making the changes needed for these species, are in a state of great uncertainty, triggered by our departure from the EU and consequent changes in the subsidy regime. In this context there is a risk that farmers make decisions that could cause terminal harm to our most vulnerable species. We must act now to provide them with the advice and support they need to navigate these uncertain waters and create the best opportunities for nature.
At the same time people living and working in South Devon have told us that they feel disempowered and unsure how to respond to the growing news of ecological breakdown. Many people struggle with feelings of low wellbeing and a sense of the loss of community connections. Many also struggle to access the coast to enjoy our wonderful natural landscapes and the wildlife to be found there.
You can find out more about some of our special invertebrate species on the Meet the Species pdf in the download section.
The project is led by South Devon National Landscape, but there are a whole load of people and organisations who help make the dream a reality!
Main delivery partners responsible for making key decisions about the project as it progress and essential for project delivery at scale.
These members provide advice and guidance, wider project support, and connections to communities. They represent LotE audiences and stakeholders and are an essential conduit for getting to the right people in the right voice.
In all 5,294 people joined in with LotE activities – ranging from hunting for glow worms in the moonlight, learning how to make and manage wildflower meadows, producing artworks, taking part in or watching specially created performances, to volunteering time to carry out insect surveys, planting flower rich hedges, harvesting South Devon coastal wildflower seed to name but a few!
Throughout this work we were gathering feedback from people, reflecting on our own practise and reviewing our data to check that we were achieving our outcomes; considering what had gone well, what’s been challenging and what lessons we had learned. You can see a copy of our evaluation report in the downloads section of this web page. This has all helped us build our Delivery Phase application.
We were invited to co-create a programme of activities for a few of the groups which meet under the DFPY umbrella. We worked with the reading group on a session sharing poems, excerpts from book and stories about insects and the coast. The session was great fun and finished with reflections and discussion about their relationship and memories with the coast.
We also joined the walking group for a bracing walk around the coast at Wembury Point, looking for LotE species and finding out more about the importance of this area for wildlife.
“They [LotE] use the natural surroundings that nature has to offer to give people living with dementia and their family carers a ‘person focused’ opportunity to see, feel and express their emotions in art, words, and discussions” Dementia Lead, Faculty of Health at Plymouth University.
We worked with an artist to create LotE craft box kits which could be done during the sessions and at home. The kits contained a variety of activities which included wet felted landscapes, air drying clay decorations and pine cone bees. The finished work was displayed at the Celebration tea party. This was held in the gardens and Old Stables at Mothecombe House. It was a glorious sunny day and over 50 people from DFPY came together to enjoy a cream tea, walks around the Bee garden, see the displays and craft work created and enjoy catching up with friends.
“Thank you to you both for organising such a lovely afternoon last Friday… everything was just perfect. I have had excellent feedback from those who attended that they had a lovely afternoon chatting, having tea, enjoying the garden, meeting old and new friends, and learning more about the plants and insects there. A great restorative afternoon for all of us in our beautiful and peaceful countryside.” Liz, DFPY.
We devised a series of sessions carried out with Year 3 and Year 4 classes staring with an introduction to LotE and invertebrates in the classroom. We then worked in the school grounds making seed bombs and planting up a bee garden. They used their experiences in a Drumming workshop inspired by how the inverts move. We made a short film of their sessions with the music they created – you can see it here. The last session was a fabulous field trip to wildflower meadows near Wembury beach on a perfect sunny day. The children did bug hunting with entomologist, John Walters and a habitat activity based on estate agents! The final session was a sharing assembly by the children to the rest of the school.
Following on the from the work we did, the Year 3 children performed a Bug Parade at the Summer Fair and Year 4 went on to do a dance workshop at Buckland Abbey based on the LotE insects!
“All the activities were about children working together … so it’s great that it’s given children those opportunities to develop those skills” Wembury Primary School teacher.
We worked with the Art department to bring in 5 artists to work with students from across the school on one day in June 2023. A film was made showcasing the day’s Life on the Edge activities. You can watch it here.
In addition, the whole of Year 7 studied LotE as their scheme of work for the summer term – they were introduced to the species by a film and presentation about the project and created 3D cardboard sculptures of one of the LotE species. They decorated them using Aboriginal art as inspiration and they were all hung in a giant wall art price which looked amazing at the exhibition.
Students studying Art BTEC also made their final pieces based on LotE which included installations, film, sculpture and photography. The photography club went out on a field trip to the LotE hotspot in Kingswear and photographed the landscape and wildlife.
The work they all created was shared at an exhibition at the Ariel Centre – and it surpassed expectations! We held an opening view, with cheese and wine, and invited the students and their families, as well as LotE partners and press. The students took great pride in work they created and the event which was covered in the Totnes Times and associated newspapers.
“Thank you! I have really enjoyed this project and it has made me think differently about all living insects and how we need to protect them.” Year 8 student.
We worked with our partners at Doorstep Arts to commission a touring theatre production. Above Bounds Theatre, based in Plymouth, were awarded the commission and created ‘The Brilliant Bee’, a puppet show telling the story of a bee looking for habitat along the coastline.
The show was created with children at two after school clubs in Plymouth and performed at Wembury Summer Fair as part of our end of project Celebration, at Eden Park primary in Brixham and at Sherford primary school.
Two more performances have been commissioned and the show will be incorporated into Above Bounds 2024 touring shows.
“It was great to receive positive feedback from young people at our first work-in progress performance at Wembury school. The young people engaged on all levels of the performance, from the puppetry to the storytelling and even wanting to ask questions about each invertebrate discovered in the show.” Helen, Above Bounds Theatre.
We worked with a group of girls from this group in Torbay to design a project which ran over Summer 2023. The group learned about LotE and the invertebrates we are targeting through journalling activities and discussed their relationship to the coast in South Devon. The group created a silk painted flag inspired by their learning. The project ended with a minibus trip to Mansands for an evening of exploration, art activities, reflection and relaxation by the sea as the sun went down.
“I put it (selected pebble for feedback activity) between the shore and the sand where the tide comes in and would like to leave it here by the hill until the sunset – it is so beautiful and I have had such a lovely time with the group” Freya, participant.
We have been developing volunteering opportunities across all areas of LotE and have had people out planting flower rich hedgerows, growing and planting out Everlasting Peas for bees, helping out with education session in schools, assisting with art activities. We have been working on developing a volunteer policy and there will be lots of ways that people can get involved in the next phase of the project!
“I thoroughly enjoyed this experience and learning about different bee species. I would love to get involved with any more work to learn about or help different bees or other species.” Iona.
We have run a programme of walks and talks to help people find out more about LotE – there have been talks about Meadow creation and management, walks to hunt for glow worms on the coast around Bolt Head, walks to find out about wildlife and flowers at South Down Farm with the National Trust, and discovery walks around the hotspots.
“We loved the walk! We are a family of four, with two older teenagers. None of us had ever seen a glow worm before! They were enchanting and the stretch of coast is beautiful. We learnt all about the life cycles of the glow worms and where they live and have a new appreciation of the value of our coasts in protecting glow worms and other threatened wildlife. Many thanks to John Walters for leading the walk and to you for organising a very special evening.” Caroline and family, participant.
We organised a series of six walks with DRLC, aimed at people who are suffering from mental health problems or their families. The walks were all on the easy access trail at Bolberry Down, with transport provide from Kingsbridge, and led by a different guide each week. The different leaders gave a different interpretation of the same bit of coast, looking at it through the lens of a farmer, a birdwatcher, an insect specialist, a land manager and the local histry. The group then had a chance to reflect on their session over a cup of tea in the café before heading back.
“I really enjoyed the walk; it meant the world to be able to come out as I wouldn’t normally be able to get out to Bolberry and it is beautiful. Its really important to be able to get out to these places but if you don’t drive, I can’t get here. Thank you for bringing me. Walk participant.
We had two very exciting and tremendously busy programmes at The Box in Plymouth, where we met and worked with hundreds of people from all over the place!
In the Summer holidays 2022 we ran 3 family days. We looked at symmetry in butterflies and made clip butterflies to take home and used some of the boxed insect collection to do observational watercolour paintings. We also made newspaper pots which were planted up with Sea Pink Thrift and Birds Foot Trefoil for people to take home and grow. Isabella the storyteller came along to tell tales about her explorations on the South Devon coast and the amazing insects she found on her travels.
“Fantastic activity enjoyed by 3 generations of our family! Super friendly and helpful staff, thank you” activity participant.
Following on from the summer activities, the team at the Box decided they would like to run a whole fortnight of activities based on the Special Bees of LotE. They applied for and received funding from The Wild Escape, which was linked in to the BBC Wild Isles programme. The LotE team ran activities on two days which included making seed balls, tissue paper wildflower and pompom long-horned bees! Bee activities ran on for the whole fortnight and included our new Meet the Bees worksheet posters, bee headdresses and puppets. The sessions were very busy and secured appearance on Spotlight as part of Wild Isles Wild escape promotion.
“The spotter sheets were handed out to families who came to the activities this week (approx. 150 people) and they were very well received. I noticed a comment that one of our volunteers recorded to say that one of the boys who visited is already passionate about bees and couldn’t wait to get home to put his guide up on his bedroom wall, which is lovely to know.” Beth, The Box.
Working with doorstep arts, we have had a strong arts thread running through most of our community activities – they have been a fantastic way of engaging people who might not otherwise get involved in environmental activities and have produced some amazing work! Here are just a few of things we have done which we haven’t already talked about in the other sections on this page…
Doorstep Saturday drama group came out on a trip to Berry Head for a Devise and Discover day – exploring Berry Head in the morning, learning about the important plants and animals which live there, then using that as inspiration for their drama workshops in the afternoon. They made a film of their day which can be seen here.
Students from Exeter University studying drama, worked with us to devise a performance about LotE which they then performed to the children in Wembury primary school.
“This has been a hugely successful partnership, enabling stronger industry impact for the Applied Theatre students from the University of Exeter Drama Department.” Erin, Exeter University Drama tutor.
Local Poet, Tom Stockley was invited to write a poem inspired by LotE. We took Tom down to Prawle Point where they met and chatted to people walking the South West Coast Path, who lived in the village and explored the low soft cliffs where the Long-horned bees live and the meadows where they feed. Tom performed the poem ‘The Aquanaut’ at the opening view of the exhibition. We also made a film with Tom out on site at Prawle.
We worked with Play Torbay staff to run a series of activities with different groups, ranging from a home educators’ group, a family group and the AsRUS group (support group for families with a child on the autistic spectrum). We had sessions at Indigoes play centre in Brixham and took trips out to Berry Head to hunt for bugs and explore – in every kind of weather! We also contributed to a booklet produced by the team ‘How to be an Eco-champion’ which was distributed through their Holiday Activity Fund groups.
“Thank you so much, it was great to come and see you, ourselves and the children enjoyed the trip and having a new environment to discover along with the new and vital information you gave them.” Mel, Play Torbay.
During the Summer of 2023 we took two groups of young carers out to the coast at Berry Head and Wembury. The young people explored the sites and got stuck in with some conservation work helping to look after site. After lunch the groups met John Walters and hunted for bugs, learning lots of amazing facts about the life cycle and what they needed from the habitats. John then showed them how to use watercolours to record the insects they found in new journals which were given to them. We all spent lovely afternoons in the sunshine painting and enjoying being in nature, before they went home relaxed and recharged.
“I felt happy but exhausted and didn’t want to leave because it was so beautiful and fun, and I learnt a lot about nature. I also made some new friends..“ Young Carer.
The Exeter Diocese Eco Churches project has been actively involved in bringing LotE into our churchyards along the coast. The have been helping the church community to look at how they can improve their grounds for wildlife and LotE target species in particular. They have led talks, workshops and advisory visits to churches all along the South Devon coastal parishes and will continue to work with us to help more churchyards be more wildlife friendly.
“These projects are a great way to involve, educate and bring the community closer to nature.” Activity leader, Chivelstone Church wildflower meadow creation task.
We have been busy meeting and talking to farmers and landowners to help them understand how they can play in part in LotE. We have led discussion events and engaged a consultant to help draw up plans for works during the Delivery Phase of the project. We now have works lined up for year 1 and Year 2 of Delivery and lots more exciting works in the pipeline.
Within our hotspots during the Delivery Phase of LotE, we aim to create 675 hectares of restored or newly created habitats, rich in wildflowers and thriving with wildlife.
“They’ve got it right, in my opinion’ … This project is actually looking at things much longer term which is what I really liked … I thought, at last there’s a bit of joined up thinking going on.” Habitat Creation Officer, Devon Wildlife Trust.
During Summer 2022 and Spring/Summer 2023 we had specialist surveyors out at our Hotspots carrying out entomological (invertebrates) and botanical (plants) surveys. Although we didn’t manage to spot the elusive 6-banded nomad bee which we were hoping to see, there were a lot of exciting discoveries! A programme of on-going Butterfly transect surveys are now being carried out at sites along the coast from Berry Head to Wembury, following on from a training workshop.
The botanical survey report for the project has improved our understanding of the distribution of target plant species, and other key species within the project area.
“The coupling of plant and insect agendas is excellent: It makes it a much more rounded project” Botanical consultant, PlantLife.
We have run training workshops throughout the year, both for beginners and more experienced volunteers. People have learned all kinds of skills which will help them make their patch better for pollinators and our LotE invertebrates.
“Thank you both very much for yesterday. It was a really interesting and informative session and am now inspired to get recording and to get to know our insects better.” Helen, volunteer.
Pollinator Plans are one of the tools that enable LotE to work at landscape scale. These are plans for an area such as a parish, or a school, or even a churchyard, and they help community groups to adopt a planned approach to nature recovery in their area. They are also a requirement for groups wishing to apply for a conservation grant and the Project Manager and Conservation Officer will assist groups to create fully costed plans that will benefit Pollinators within their neighbourhood or area.
We trialled the approach during the Development Phase and several groups came forward keen to make improvements. These included churchyards, Parish Council village greens and local interest groups interested in training and setting up a community butterfly transect.
Getting hold of the right kind of wildflower and meadow seed mix, to plant on LotE hotspots which are often designated Sites of Special Scientific Interest can be tricky. The seed needs to be a perfect mix of flowers and grasses which can cope with growing on the coast here in South Devon, whilst also providing the forage that our target species need. One of the true legacies of LotE will be a sustainable supply of seed suited to this environment.
We have been working with partners and landowners along the coast to find sites which could be used to grow our own seed, using seed harvested from existing meadows along the coast. We supported the National Trust English Riviera team to secure a Farming in Protected Landscapes grant to purchase a brush harvester and trailer. Training has been provided and a toolkit created so that landowners and community groups across the area can borrow the harvester to help increase our supply of local provenance seed.
Within our hotspots during the Delivery Phase of LotE, we aim to create 100 hectares of new seed donor sites. These sites will be harvested using the LotE brush harvester, and the seed used to restore and create new species rich coastal grasslands across the South Devon coast. You can see a brush harvester in action here.