Recreating the Country blog
Explaining the values of these natural areas is an important part their successful management. When visitors appreciate what they have to offer, peaceful bush walking tracks, wildflowers and resident wildlife, they are more likely to protect and look after them.
An effective way of informing visitors about these beautiful places is to describe their assets in 'plain talk' and to provide a window into what they might see on a walk as well as the mysteries they might not see. Hopefully these glimpses into the natural world will spark curiosity as well as pride in the these natural places that desperately need recognition and the communities long term protection.
Interpreting nature is more challenging than it looks because it involves an understanding of science, marketing and story telling. Like any good yarn, stories about nature should grab your attention in the first few words and hold it till the end. Unlike a good yarn though, which may sacrifice some truth and accuracy to keep an audience transfixed, interpretive stories have to tell it how it is.
Though there is some room to move as the story teller 'sells' the beauty, the quirkyness or the incredible interaction between wildlife and plants. This all has to be done in a few well chosen words and if done with flair then 'less is definitely more'.
People reading an interpretive sign are usually in a hurry and are time poor. They will only spare a few seconds for an unexpected stop to read something that catches their interest. If the story and images are engaging, they may stay a little longer or make time to read more on their next visit to the reserve.
Here is a closer look at the various story themes on the Teesdale Grassy Woodlands Reserve sign - Click on the images to enlarge.
Stephen Murphy is an author, an ecologist and a nurseryman. He has been a designer of natural landscapes for over 30 years. He loves the bush, supports Landcare and is a volunteer helping to conserve local reserves.