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My Green Story: NaturesGems
Gemma Wren runs a wildlife tour company in Lancashire, NaturesGems. This is her green story.
"I set up NaturesGems in April 2021 after taking voluntary redundancy from the National Trust where I had worked for 13 years. Self-employment was a bold step but it was an opportunity I had to explore.
Having had an incredible career to date working in nature conservation, starting out at the practical end of the operation and progressing up to more strategic roles, I was keen to get back out on the ground and share my love for the natural world with others.
A green warrior!
You could say I’ve always been a bit of a green warrior – campaigning to my parents as a child about cruelty-free toiletries, free-range eggs, and recycled toilet paper! This naturally progressed to a degree in Zoology and a stint working at Chester Zoo, where I was lucky enough to spend six months studying fruit bats in the Indian Ocean. This led to a number of short-term roles moving around the country managing nature reserves, delivering environmental education activities, and filming birds of prey.
Eventually, I landed a job with the National Trust in West Yorkshire managing some expansive areas of moorland and woodlands. I was lucky enough that they allowed me a two-year sabbatical to head to Australia with my husband for an adventure of a lifetime. Here I worked for the South East Queensland water company developing their first catchment management programmes. This stint in Australia sowed the seed for the idea of NaturesGems…
The evolution of NaturesGems
On returning to the UK we landed ourselves in Kendal on the edge of the Lake District, back working for National Trust but now managing the ranger team around Morecambe Bay (on the boundary between Lancashire and Cumbria). During the next seven years I discovered this fabulous place and the extensive natural wonders it has to offer. The area is largely rural and dotted with a number of significant nature reserves managed by a range of conservation organisations.
These organisations work closely together alongside the local farming community to try and create a workable, sustainable natural environment that allows local businesses to thrive whilst protecting the land and nature that makes this place so special. One of the biggest challenges is bringing funding into the conservation charities to enable them to make this work – there were lots of conversations about how to do this, could we build a sustainable nature tourism offer that would encourage visitors to come and in doing so contribute to this vital conservation work?
A trip to Costa Rica in 2019 cemented my ideas for NaturesGems – their economy is largely based on nature tourism with local experienced guides showing people around their beautiful country.
NaturesGems offers small group guided walking tours around the many fabulous nature hotspots of the Morecambe Bay area. From Barrow to Heysham – a mosaic pattern of landscapes of woodlands, grasslands and coastal headlands holds a unique variety of wildlife I like to think of as Nature's Frontier, the interchange between north and south.
Showcasing natural wonders
NaturesGems is all about showcasing the natural wonders of the area, working with other local businesses to support the beginnings of a nature tourism economy. A local café supplies lunches for my tours, using available local produce. Drinks are supplied from the local apple and damson orchards. I love championing local produce, as so much great food comes from the careful management of the land that makes this area unique. I aim to work with local businesses with green credentials to support all elements of the business including sourcing equipment, marketing etc.
A green ethos
Green Tourism accreditation was a natural choice for me and has helped cement some of my eco-credentials. I always had a desire for the ethos of NaturesGems to be inherently green but it can still be challenging to make that work across the entire business. Sourcing equipment made from sustainable materials can be tricky, and transport for tours is necessary due to the spread out and often remote nature of the sites I use. Green Tourism has given me some great ways to think about minimal impact and I really love the way it encourages relationships with other local businesses and actively giving back to the environment. NaturesGems gives 5% of its income to local conservation projects to help maintain the great work that happens in the area and I’ve recently been volunteering on a dormouse re-introduction project.
Long term I hope to build a team of local nature guides working alongside other businesses to create a sustainable tourism offer for the area, I’m working on a plan to develop a nature guide training course alongside the new Eden Morecambe and saving those pennies for an electric minibus!"
Find out more about NaturesGems unique wildlife experiences here.
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