£495,000 lottery grant will fund River Cam CAN project

A new project to raise awareness of the challenges faced by the River Cam has been awarded a £495,000 National Lottery grant.

The River Cam CAN (Climate Action through Nature) project will involve communities near the river working on initiatives that will benefit them and the environment.

The River Cam. Picture: Cambridge Past, Present and Future
The River Cam. Picture: Cambridge Past, Present and Future

The two-year project aims to inspire and support people to take action to help the river. It will be delivered by a partnership of local organisations including Abbey People, Cambridge City Council, Cambridge Past, Present & Future, CoFarm and Water Sensitive Cambridge. They will be supported by the national charity Climate Outreach.

James Littlewood, chief executive of project leaders Cambridge Past, Present & Future, said: “The River Cam connects most of the city’s green spaces, habitats and communities – including some of the most economically and socially disadvantaged. The river system is also emblematic of the environmental challenges that Cambridge faces; it suffers from flooding, pollution, drought and over-use of water, all are getting worse, and many are connected to climate change.

“This has impacts on both communities and nature and this project is about encouraging people to get involved and help their rivers and streams. We are very keen to involve more organisations in this project once we get started, especially some of the groups that use the River Cam. I would love to hear from them. We are also creating several fantastic new jobs, which the project partners are now recruiting for.”

Cambridge City Council will focus its work on protecting trees that grow along the banks of the river.

Cllr Sam Carling, executive councillor for open spaces said, “Cambridge City Council will be working to deliver a project called ‘DiversiTree’, centred on a community-based approach to managing veteran trees growing on the riverbank which ensures that they continue to thrive. Veteran trees are important in supporting biodiversity and providing habitats for animals, not to mention their cultural and historic value. We hope to engage tree owners, residents and visitors so that we can all enjoy the trees and understand the importance they have as well as how to care for them.

“Part of the project will involve conducting a tree survey, talking to landowners who have veteran trees on their land, and hosting workshops on how to manage the trees. There will also be events open to members of the local community, including those from underrepresented backgrounds – caring for the environment is a community effort and we hope that by educating residents and landowners we can give them the right tools to do just that.

“Increasing our tree stock in the city and protecting existing trees – including veteran trees – are both critical to our Tree Strategy as a council, which is why we are thrilled to be working with partners on this and why we’re so pleased that funding has been awarded to deliver this project in addition to others that will bring together local communities in caring for the River Cam to help address the environmental challenges that the river is facing.”

Meanwhile, Nicky Shepard, CEO of Abbey People, said: “We’re creating new jobs, a fantastic new community garden, looking after our globally rare chalk stream and helping the local community to take action to fight climate change.”

Gavin Shelton, founder and CEO of CoFarm, said: “How we organise our food systems – both now and in the future – is critical to tackling climate change, restoring nature and reducing health inequalities in our communities. This lottery support will enable us to employ our first community engagement coordinator at Cambridge’s first agroecological community farm in Abbey. As well as building our capacity to ensure that the farm is accessible to all, it will mean that more people from across Cambridge will directly experience that taking practical action for the climate and for nature can be great fun, alongside giving our health and wellbeing a boost.”

The River Cam. Picture: Cambridge Past, Present and Future
The River Cam. Picture: Cambridge Past, Present and Future

Clara Todd, from Water Sensitive Cambridge, said: “We will be creating a beautiful rain garden to filter contaminants from water that runs off the road, which will help reduce river pollution. The rain garden will also provide habitat for wildlife and help to cool the street during periods of hot weather”.

Emma James, from Climate Outreach, explained the organisation would provide training and support for the River Cam CAN partners to enable them to engage with as many people as possible.

The money comes from the National Lottery’s Climate Action Fund, part of its Community Fund.

Mel Eaglesfield, deputy director at The National Lottery Community Fund, said: “We’re delighted to fund the River Cam CAN programme in Cambridgeshire, which will support communities near the River Cam to come together and take meaningful action to make their local environment more sustainable and resilient.”

The National Lottery Community Fund is the largest community funder in the UK. It will distribute at least £4billion by 2030, supporting activities that create resilient communities that are more inclusive and environmentally sustainable.

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