Environmental Interpretation: the importance of saying it right

Environmental Interpretation: the importance of saying it right

An often forgotten part of delivering the aims of a conservation project or a conservation site is telling the wider-world about what’s going on.  Getting the interpretation right is essential in the promotion of an organisation’s commitment to biodiversity, and can help to raise that organisation’s environmental profile.

So what are the benefits to the private sector of taking a pro-active role in environmental interpretation?  The promotion of development schemes through environmental interpretation can help engage local communities positively in new developments. It can also provide a focus for dialogue between the developer and local people – say, in ensuring best use of green space; and it can help to foster a sense of local pride by helping people to visualise the meaning and significance of new habitats and green space within developments. It can also enhance the ‘green’ credentials of an organisation to a wider audience.

Moreover, the promotion of biodiversity is activity encouraged through planning policy, for example through Planning Policy Statement 9 (PPS9), the draft National Planning Policy Framework and most recently through the creation of the Green Infrastructure Partnership, and this means the inclusion of effective and appropriate interpretation.

One key element of successful environmental interpretation is understanding the target audience and what or why they might want to know about a particular site. From there, an important point to consider in the production of environmental interpretation information, be it signage boards, leaflets or some other form of promotional material, is how to provoke the curiosity, attention and interest of the visitor.  This might be achieved initially through an eye-catching graphic or image, and continued throughout the content of the information provided.

Baker Shepherd Gillespie has worked closely with several organisations in developing and delivering their biodiversity strategies, including the design and production of environmental interpretation materials such as boards, leaflets and posters. Most recently, we worked with the managers of Green Park, Reading, assisting the delivery of their sustainability policy, which includes measures to promote biodiversity.

Green Park is one of the largest business parks in Europe and, having been created over 15 years ago, now supports a variety of well-established habitats including reedbed, woodland, lakes, ditches and grassland.  The overall aim of the environmental interpretation strategy for the Park, through the provision of a series of interpretation boards, was to promote how the effective management of the Park has delivered a series of high quality habitats for wildlife. The interpretation boards gave us the opportunity to show how these habitats contribute to and support the wider biodiversity aspirations of the borough and county.

Each interpretation board is carefully situated within an area of the Park of most ecological interest, and where people are most likely to encounter them.  Collectively, the boards tell the story of the evolution of the Park’s habitats and wildlife, with each individual board focusing on a particular habitat and its species.  The contemporary design of the boards is in keeping with the Green Park branding, creating a sense of unity between the corporate and landscape elements of the Park.

We also worked recently on a similar project in collaboration with LDA Design, writing the content for a series of environmental interpretation boards for a business park in Stratford-upon-Avon.  The boards, which each focussed on an aspect of the large lake located at the heart of the business park, provided a medium through which to promote the restoration work and on-going management of the lake and its surrounding habitats being undertaken by the owners of the Park. The boards also help to get the message to employees at the Park about its biodiversity value and significance with the aim of encouraging a sense of ownership and place.

If you are looking to develop a biodiversity strategy for one of your projects, and would like to discuss how the inclusion of environmental interpretation boards will benefit your business profile, please call Peter Shepherd at our Oxford office 01865 883833, who will be happy to talk you through the services we can offer.  They will also be pleased to discuss some of our other environmental interpretation projects.

Additional links:

Natural Environment White Paper

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