Guest blog by Kate Groves (Marketing Manager, Eden Project Communities)

When I started working for the Eden Project in 2009, to help launch the first ever Big Lunch, never did I imagine that 15 years later I would still be involved. Or that our initiative to get neighbours enjoying lunch together once a year would grow into such a huge project, that over 13 million people took part in this year alone. That’s one in five of the UK population and for many communities, it’s become a firm fixture in the annual calendar, with the connections made lasting long after the bunting is folded away. 

I’ve seen the campaign grow from humble beginnings when the concept of lunching with neighbours was novel, even somewhat intimidating, to something that is now much more commonplace. 

On three occasions we’ve partnered with Royal households, as ‘The Big Jubilee Lunch’ became the official community celebration of our late Queen’s Diamond and Platinum Jubilees and this years’ ‘Coronation Big Lunch’ brought neighbours out in droves – to mark the Coronation of King Charles III. 

In 2021, we came together with partners including Refugee Week, to make The Big Lunch part of something even bigger – a whole Month of Community – in recognition of so many great initiatives taking place in June. This has grown into a month-long celebration of everything that makes our communities great, with over 20 partners involved this year. 

But what has community got to do with the Eden Project? We’re best known as an environmental visitor attraction in Cornwall, but we’re also an educational charity trying to create a movement that builds relationships between people and the natural world – to show the power of working together for the benefit of all living things.  We started The Big Lunch as a simple way to spark local connections – and to bring this mission to life right across the UK, not just in Cornwall. 

Beyond The Big Lunch, we now run a full annual programme, to help people make good things happen locally – whether that’s through our in person and online events and Community Camps or support from our team.

This year, we’ve gone one step further in taking the Eden ethos into communities, by teaming up with the RSPB, More Human and members of the Community Action Collective, to launch Community Nature Trails – essentially a local map of the public sights, activities, events, and projects that help people connect with nature and each other where you live.  

Creating a Community Nature Trail is really easy and a nice way to shout about anything happening in your local area involving nature – to encourage more people to get involved, get outside, meet new people and reap the physical and mental benefits that this connection brings. 

The technology, created by the clever community event experts More Human, has allowed a local community gardening group in East London to signpost people along a self-guided trail to discover pockets of wildlife, biodiversity and hidden green spaces – in a bid to make Woodford Green an even greener place to live. This includes Ray Park community garden, an oasis of calm in the city, full of blooming flowers and a diverse range of plant species attracting birds, bees, butterflies, insects and even two resident foxes who call the place their home! 

The theme of Refugee Week this year was Compassion and that includes growing our compassion for the natural world. Wherever we are and whatever we’re going through, nature can quite literally ground us and help us connect with where we live and perhaps even make it a better place to be, for our community and for the local environment. Will you join me in getting out in nature near you?

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