A nature trail to encourage children to care for the environment has been launched – with the help of a mythical Windermere monster.
Bownessie will be leading youngsters and their families along the lakeside trail pointing out areas of eco-concern and natural history.
The project has been developed by a Windermere businesswoman assisted by two conservation interns attached to the University of Cumbria.
“We want to engage with children so we can nurture passionate environmentalists and encourage them to influence the people around them,” said Ffion Beavis, a marine conservation undergraduate at the University’s Ambleside campus.
She and Louise Mercer, who has a Masters degree in environmental science from Utah in the USA, are working with Naz Craig, who created the Bownessie toy and children’s brand. Families can download trail details, a quiz, and a rainy-day pack from the website, with the chance for children to win virtual badges with their suggestions of ways to protect the lake environment.
Said Louise: “Children are naturally curious about the world around them. As we’ve seen with the Greta Thunberg environmental movement, children a have huge impact on vital messages and actions.
“We don’t want to burden them. They should enjoy the lakes, mountains, woodlands and wetlands as we did, but learning through initiatives like Bownessie, which includes activity and information packs, there’s a lot of fun to be had too.”
The scheme is part of the ambitious £2.3 million European Regional Development Fund’s Eco-Innovation project in Cumbria, which aims to help small and medium sized businesses reduce CO2. It provides fully financed internships to eligible companies through student researchers and graduates, supporting a wide range of projects, including waste reduction and improving efficiency.
The myth of Bownessie started 15 years ago with reported “sightings” of a large creature in the northern waters of Windermere. Scientists have found no evidence, but the legend grew following the televising in Canada and the USA of an hour-long documentary about the Windermere monster.
Naz Craig developed a cuddly toy and other items in her Bownessie brand – tee shirts, key rings, colouring books – and is seeking financial backing to develop the range further. She is delighted her brainchild is being used to such a good planet-saving effect. “It’s a chance to give every child a vital insight into how small actions can make a massive difference. This way, there’s a fun element, as well as the educational impact.”
Louise, an international fell-runner who hails from the Scottish borders, grew up with stories of the world-famous Loch Ness monster and admits nobody knows for sure what lurks beneath Windermere’s deep, dark water. “What I do know is that millions of visitors come here each year. If we can reach them and show the benefits of making slight tweaks to everyday lives, there’s real potential to create a sustainable future.”
Ffion, originally from Gloucestershire, said: “Adults hear the news, know we have to cut CO2 emissions, but remain disconnected. This way, with children looking out for items along the trail, there’s a chance for whole families to become involved.”
Both Ffion and Louise hope to make careers in education and promoting sustainable behaviour change.
Find out more on: https://bownessiewindermere.co.uk/
Help fund the project here
Eco-Innovation Cumbria is led by University of Cumbria in partnership with Lancaster University and the University of Central Lancashire.