Welcome to the Balsam Blog, home in the internet world of the Falkland Islands Protected Areas Project.

I'll be using this blog to let people know what I've been up to and to share bits of useful information I pick up along the way. My project is subtitled 'Co-operative management of biological diversity', so that means you. The project will need your knowledge, concerns and hopes for the future to drive it along, so do contribute.

Tuesday, 18 September 2012

A new nature reserve for West Falkland

I took a trip along the road today to see how our expert fencers Di and Leon are getting along, as the new fence at Hawk's Nest Pond is getting put up today. As mentioned previously, the pond and its immediate surroundings were gifted to Falklands Conservation in memory of Lyn Blake who farmed the area for many years, and were are very grateful to Tony Blake for his generosity.

 Now that the fence is nearly complete, it feels like a proper reserve and we can
begin to think about how to manage it for conservation and public access. It seems likely that this will fall within my remit; it isn't a legally protected area, but it does give me a further opportunity to test some of the ideas that are emerging out of the Protected Areas Project, and a legal designation may well be applied for in due course. It also provides an opportunity to make conservation activities accessible to the community and help us all to appreciate the potential benefits of protected areas. Small areas such as this can be valuable for many reasons; they provide refuges for vulnerable plants, they protect and improve habitats for birds and invertebrates, and they provide an easily accessible place for a picnic and a bit of bird- spotting.

It's a bit early in the season for spotting many birds, and the club- rush stands look pretty dead, but in a few weeks time the site will be full of life and growth. We all agreed that a reserve opening ceremony with a few celebratory lemonades would be appropriate; I'll keep you posted and issue an invitation soon.

Wednesday, 12 September 2012

What do you love about where you live?

Children's answers in art on display at the Falklands 30 Exhibition

I know this was quite a long time ago now, but I just wanted to share some of the fantastic art that the children produced. Thanks to you all, and to the teachers at the Stanley Infant and Junior School and Camp Education who helped me to put up the display and the artists who gave their time during the theme week back in March.

Tuesday, 11 September 2012

What do people really want to do in the great outdoors?

Well, it depends who they are. I know that sounds obvious but it's something I've been thinking about a lot in recent weeks.
As I said before, there are plans afoot to invite the public into the Patricia Luxton National Nature Reserve (Chartres). To make sure that the biodiversity values of the site are properly looked after, we need to think about who our visitors are likely to be and what they will want to do when they get there.
I started off with a desk exercise that turned into a sad failure; the census wasn't out yet, the ferry company only have the vaguest idea of who uses the boat. Not to worry; this kind of crude numerical data doesn't give us much of a clue about what visitors needs and motivations might be.
So I tried something else. I roped in a tame West Falkland family and did an accompanied visit to the site, observing and recording what they did as self- chosen activities, and asked them what they thought would make a future visit go with a swing. I'm quite interested in this kind of research, especially with children and families; generally they know what they like, and have plenty to say if you know how to listen.

When I got home, I analysed what I'd seen in the light of a book I've been reading about visitors to museums, 'Identity and the Museum Visitor Experience' by John H Falk.

What kind of visitor are you?

An explorer?  You might visit a place out of curiosity. You value learning but you aren't an expert. You don't want your visit to be too structured.
A facilitator? You are interested in the needs of the other people in your group; you might be a parent or grandparent wanting to share a hobby or enthusiasm.
An experience seeker? You like to collect experiences so you can say you've been there and done that. You seek out the famous and iconic.
  A professional or hobbyist? There aren't many of you out there but you are very influential. You probably know what a brittle bladder fern looks like, and you want to find one
A recharger? You are most interested in soaking up the atmosphere of a place. You might take a book, or a picnic, or a yoga mat.

The truth is, most of us can be most of these depending on who we are with and where we are going. We can also change from one to another within the course of a single visit.

The trick is to make sure that you provide something for everyone if you can.

The message I took away from this visit to Chartres is that the site is lacking the famous and iconic, and the professional fern- seekers are only likely rarely to pass by. That means we need to work a bit harder to make sure that people know this special place is there and to help them to enjoy it to the full once they have decided to visit.