Nature’s Cure in Times of Need: New Voices for North East Nature

Everyone likes a good story. Our North East Nature Archive (NENA) is full of them. In fact, NENA holds 16,000 items of regional natural history including notebooks, correspondence, artworks and photographs. It holds stories about our 200 year old history, notable regional naturalists and their discoveries. It is housed in the Great North Museum: Hancock.

NHSN members always respond positively to new stories by local people, engaging with nature, here in the North East.  The COVID-19 pandemic saw many more people engaging with nature close to home.  Exploring their neighbourhoods, coast and countryside reminded so many people how important observing nature is to our health and wellbeing, and protecting nature is key to our collective survival. This society-wide exposure to the region’s wildlife and wild places gave us at NHSN the seed of an idea.

Thanks to National Lottery Players, NHSN is launching a new three-year project, Nature’s Cure in Times of Need: New Voices for North East Nature.

We will collect and share stories from new voices about how their time spent in nature helped them in times of need, and the long-term legacy of their reconnection with nature and wild places.

As well as collecting stories from existing NHSN supporters, we want to hear from people we would not normally hear from.  We are working with community organisations to engage younger people, as well as people from a range of ethnic and cultural backgrounds. There are people from a range of backgrounds or circumstances that just don’t get the chance to have their stories heard. NHSN is a small charity covering the North East. This can make it difficult to reach people from Tees to Tweed. We hope to change that with this project.

Clare Freeman, Director

You may be thinking, “How can I get involved?” Well, once we have the project up and running, we will collect memories from people across the North East, about how nature helped them cope with the pandemic.  We also want to identify other periods in the North East’s history, and about how enjoying nature helped people in times of individual or collective crisis.  This could be during periods of industrial action, economic recessions, war and conflict. It could also be individual’s experience of loss, sadness or poor health.  We’d love to hear your ideas and thoughts about the possibilities.  

This will be a great way for young people to get involved with the NHSN archive, sharing their stories and developing new skills.  After the challenges young people have faced during the pandemic, this project is especially needed and welcomed now.

Gemma Lockyer, North East Youth
The NHSN Archive contains manuscript, letters, diaries, notebooks, drawings and natural history records relating to all aspects of local natural history.

We plan different ways for people to get involved.  We will be active on social media and with some face-to-face events.  We will expand our natural history archive related events programme.  There will be new talks, lifelong learning courses, community workshops and a modest touring exhibition. Funding from National Lottery Heritage Fund helps us recruit a Project Archivist, placement students and volunteers.

Our project establishes new partnerships with regional archives and community organisations as a source of new voices and new stories. We will embrace further developments in digital through online collection level descriptions, new blogs and social media, additional videos on YouTube and digitisation of 200 years of NHSN annual reports and journals.

NHSN Trustee and Archivist at Newcastle University, Alexandra Healey

We aim to appoint a Project Archivist before December 2022. Keep watching NHSN social media and sign up to our newsletter. If you are keen to share an idea with us or volunteer please contact us at