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Personal Blog
A Bit on Nature, a Bit on Ears and a Bit on Rewilding.

  • Kate Morley

July is Disability Pride Month and since 1990 it has been a celebration of the varied cultures, identities and contributions that disabled people make to society. It is also a good time to reflect on where the Disability Rights movement has come from, and the many individuals over the years that have fought, and continue to fight tirelessly to campaign for equity in society for disabled people. Reading through some of the histories of the Disability Rights and Disability Justice movement (as well as listening to some cracking podcasts) there have been some striking quotes that have stood out. Some of these have been used to summarise the uprising of rage and the call for change, and some of these have been reflections of the lived experience of disabled people.

To encapsulate some of these I thought I would create some land art by using some contorted and twisted Ivy stems (sp.Hedera) that had come down on the land in a recent storm.

Ivy is a species that has a chequered relationship with humans in the UK. Many people mistakenly thought it was a burden to the host tree and 'choked' the life out of the tree, so people meticulously removed the ivy, to 'tidy' up the tree. Walking around many local woodlands the scars of the severed Ivy can often be seen, where people hacked away thinking they were saving the tree from harm, when in fact we now know that this has now been to the huge detriment of many insects that use Ivy as a late source of pollen, as well as bats that often roost in Ivy. Ivy is resilient, it can still survive even if the original associated tree dies and can adapt by co-habiting multiple trees at once.

After gathering the stems from the land at Hill Crest I pyrographed them and then took them back into nature to photograph them, and created some tags and photographed them on a garden variety of ivy.

"Rights Not Charity"

See Disabled People Against Cuts (DPAC)

Ivy branch pyrographed with Rights Not Charity  with green ivy leaves
Brown luggage tag with white string on Ivy leaves with the writing: "Rights Not Charity The slogan used by the Disability Rights Activists in 1977 that called for accessibility and rights in the US."

"Piss On Pity"

Check out the brilliant film, 'Then Barbara Met Alan' which outlines the origins of DAN (Disabled People's Direct Action Network)

Ivy branch pyrographed with Piss on Pity with green ivy leaves
Brown luggage tag with white string on Ivy leaves with the writing:  "Piss on Pity A slogan coined by Musician Johnny Crescendo in 1990 to protest stereotypes of disabled people. Challenged the charity model of disability."

"Our Space is Not Our Space"

From a conversation between Dr Theo Blackmore and Inclusion London's CEO, Tracey Lazard from the Discover Voices podcast

Ivy branch pyrographed with Our Space is Not Our Space with green ivy leaves
Brown luggage tag with white string on Ivy leaves with the writing:  "Our Space is Not Our Space From a conversation between Theo Blackmore and Tracey Lazard discussing the importance of disabled people organisations

"Every Story is a Disability Story."

As quoted in Riva Lehrer's memoir, Golem Girl.

Ivy branch pyrographed with Every Story is a Disability Story with green ivy leaves
Brown luggage tag with white string on Ivy leaves with the writing:  Every Story is a Disability Story. Brian Zimmerman as quoted in Riva Lehrer's Memoir Golem Girl

"We Do Not Live Single Issue Lives".

From Audre Lorde Intersectionality and racial oppression

Ivy branch pyrographed with We Do Not Live Single Issue Lives with green ivy leaves
Brown luggage tag with white string on Ivy leaves with the writing:  We do not live single issue lives. From Audre Lorde's 1982 speech exploring intersectionality and the multiple forms of oppression

"Disabled People Are the Canaries In The Coal Mines"

From a conversation between Dr Theo Blackmore and Dean Harvey from the Discover Voices podcast

Ivy branch pyrographed with Disabled People Are the Canaries in the Coal Mine  with green ivy leaves
Brown luggage tag with white string on Ivy leaves with the writing:  Disabled People are the Canaries in the Coal Mines From a conversation between Dean Harvey and Dr Theo Blackmore about Intersectionality, describing how disabled people are treated is an indicator of systemic failures.

"Nature Is Wayward and Perverse, There Is Wild Inside What We Call Abnormal."

From Riva Lehrer's memoir, Golem Girl.

Ivy branch pyrographed with Nature is Wayward and Perverse there is Wild inside what we call abnormal  with green ivy leaves
Brown luggage tag with white string on Ivy leaves with the writing:  Nature is Wayward and perverse there is wild inside what we call abnormal. Discussion around What is normal and extinction of disability due to modern medicine by Riva Lehrer

"You Have To Ramp The Human Mind Or The Rest Of The Ramps Won't Work".

George Covington as quoted in the 'Opening The Door to Nature For People With Disabilities' article.

Ivy branch pyrographed with You Have to ramp the Human Mind or the rest of the ramps won't work with green ivy leaves
Brown luggage tag with white string on Ivy leaves with the writing:  You have to ramp the human mind or the rest of the ramps won't work. George Covington Former White House adviser on disability

Hopefully, as I read and learn more about Disability and Urban Nature, this collection of quotes will grow and further pieces will be added.

Using the Ivy stems to frame the quotes has made me think and explore Disability Justice as well as reflect on my own identity as a disabled person.

About ten years ago I ordered a swanky new anatomical model of the human ear for one of my new audiological practices. This would be handy to explain the mechanisms of how the hearing and balance system worked and the medical framing of where the 'disease, pathology or abnormality' of the ear's physiology was manifesting itself as a 'problem for the patient'. It arrived with no tympanic membrane (ear drum) or attached malleus and incus (two of the small bones-ossicles-of the middle ear). I phoned the supplier and explained the issue and they said "Oh just chuck it away it's no good for anything- we'll send you a new one". Which they duly did and the new ear model was used... a lot...

For some reason I couldn't bring myself to throw the "malformed" ear away... maybe I thought I could fashion a new ear drum... maybe I thought I could use it for a dusty window display...

But here's the rub. I don't really have a hearing loss... as my cochleae never fully formed to their full extent. Around six weeks after fertilisation, when I was an embryo something happened to disrupt the process (as well as jumbling up a few other organs). So I never had 'normal' hearing to lose. My ears are as unique as the rest of me.... just that some frequencies are less heard... with a few other physiological differences thrown into the mix! But am I deaf? As someone who was trained to be an Audiologist when the proud Deaf Culture was emerging I felt like an interloper... not deaf enough... not a signer... partially deaf... was I hearing impaired? Was I 'hard of hearing'? Always on the edge.

This internalised ableism was probably fuelled by the countless times when my hearing was a source of debate for others which still linger... whether that be when an Ear Nose and Throat Consultant during my first week at work proclaimed that "she can't be an Audiologist as she has a hearing loss," or a group of laughing Hearing Aid Dispensers asking me at a professional conference whether I had sex wearing my hearing aids. The list is pretty endless.

The problem for many disabled people is that they have to inhabit parallel worlds. One where they may see the social model of disability in aspects of their lives (see my previous blog here) and wish to work towards Disability Justice, but are forced to inhabit the medical model of disability; constantly having to be explicit about their impairments and conditions, justifying or categorising themselves in order to obtain funding or ‘reasonable adjustments’ in order to function in a world that is determined to mark them out as 'other'. The investment of time and energy to self-advocate becomes exhausting to the point when they think “Why did I mention it in the first place”- better to struggle along and if necessary hide the impairment than enter this perpetual cycle.

One thing we have seen recently, with threats to environmental legal protections and threats to the financial support that some disabled people receive in order to live independently, hard-won rights and protections should never be taken for granted; progress made in the past can be undone by a stroke of a pen.

The more I learn about Disability Justice and its empowering framing of interdependence, sustainability, recognising wholeness, anti-capitalist politic and commitment to cross-movement organising, it helps me to frame my life generally and perhaps frame my disability too.

I'm glad I kept that old ear... here it is out on the land... Nature's Ear... with the help of a bit of Hawthorn, Stitchwort and Forget-Me-Not... Happy Disability Pride Month!

Plastic Large model of human ear with white stitchwort flowers, white hawthorn flowers and blue forget me knot flowers, in the ear canal with the green landscape behind and sky which is blurred out as the ear is in focus

The Community Tree Hub here at Hill Crest grows native trees from locally collected seeds. We are very lucky that a group of friends and volunteers regularly help by collecting the seed and planting up the trees in The Tree Hub nursery. The Tree Hub gatherings happen throughout the year, where we spend time tending to the trees and carrying out nursery maintenance such as weeding, watering and potting on. Spending time together is a great way of sharing ideas and planning our planting projects that are happening across Devon Wildland, the first of which happened in the winter of 2022!

At the moment we have the following tree species growing in the Tree Hub:

Rows of green seedlings and saplings on tables with green mesh protective covering
  • Oak

  • Holly

  • Hazel

  • Rowan

  • Birch

  • Alder

  • Hawthorn

  • Blackthorn

  • Field Maple

  • Wild Cherry

  • Wild Service Tree

  • Guelder Rose

  • Alder Buckthorn

  • Dog Rose

  • Scot's Pine

  • Yew

Our nursery tables are old discarded desks which have been kindly donated by a local primary school and the University of Exeter. Traceability and biosecurity are important to us and we make all our own compost on-site, and the pots and trays are all reused.

It's great spending time together and sharing some food and lots of tea and cake! This reciprocity, where we are collectively taking action to help tackle the climate and biodiversity crises can really help to mitigate eco-distress.

Group of people sat at a table with random chairs and benches sharing a meal. In a wood clad building with ogham wall hanging with artwork by Yuri Leitch

If you are a landowner in Devon Wildland and would like help with a tree planting scheme or would be interested in rehoming some of our saplings please get in touch. Similarly, if you would like to join us and spend some time in the Tree Hub, you'd be very welcome!

two smiling men holding tray of hazel seedlings with green mesh  covered structure behind

Stop Press:

A huge Congratulations to our friend and all-round 'tree guru' Jon Covey (above left) for being awarded a BEM in the 2023 King's Birthday Honours for all his work at Moor Trees and his exceptional work over many years in growing tens of thousands of trees, which have been planted across South Devon. A huge achievement.

Also thank you to him and Jon Brock (above right) for being so generous with their time and wisdom in helping to set up the Tree Hub here in Devon Wildland.

Updated: Jun 19

Disability and social inclusion in urban nature-

A case study of Bournemouth, Christchurch and Poole, England


There is a growing body of evidence to suggest that time spent in and with urban nature can benefit people’s health and well-being. As a society, England is becoming increasingly urbanized. According to 2019 figures an estimated 83% (56.3 million people) of England’s population lived in urban areas, compared to 17% (9.6 million) of the population that lived in rural areas. Urban nature is deemed specifically important as a ‘low-cost and accessible health and social intervention’ for people within their own communities. But can these benefits be fully realised by all members of the community, including disabled people? And do these benefits arise through all forms of urban nature that we encounter, from formal ‘manicured’ parks and gardens to wilder urban nature reserves and ‘disordered’ or ‘feral’ spaces (e.g. abandoned railway sidings, urban wastelands)?

Aims and rationale

This PhD will explore how disabled people perceive and interact with varied forms of urban nature and how this impacts their lives, in potentially positive and negative ways. It will examine how urban areas can be more nature friendly without disadvantaging disabled people, by talking to disabled people and hearing their lived experiences of living alongside nature in the case study area of Bournemouth, Christchurch, and Poole (BCP).

BCP is a unitary local authority which recently came into being in 2019. Due to its coastal location, BCP consists of both urban blue and green space and took part in the Future Parks Accelerator which was a partnership between local communities and Local Authorities to create “healthy, thriving, climate resilient cities and towns”. The Parks Foundation is an independent charity that works alongside BCP council to enhance the green spaces in the area. Coupled with these innovative approaches to green space management in BCP, there are projects in the area that have been shown to be examples of nationally recognised ‘excellence’ in how disabled people can access green spaces. Conversely, BCP is an area of significant disparity with neighbouring areas amongst the most and least deprived in England, which has important implications for health inequalities within the region.

With space in urban areas often under pressure from competing interests, how nature finds a home in urban environments can be widely contested. How urban nature settings can be designed to benefit human and non-human nature in an inclusive way will therefore be explored in this PhD.

Often outdoor experiences for disabled people are carefully choreographed. Loaded with risk assessments and perceived accessibility needs, the nature experience of a disabled person can become so sanitised that the health and well-being benefits of being in nature are diminished. Where urban nature settings are available in BCP, we will investigate whether they are accessible (recognising varied domains of access) and what makes for an enriching urban nature visit for disabled people.

Disabled people have often been marginalised in the climate crisis debate, with many mitigation measures having a practical, often negative, impact on disabled people. It is imperative that disabled people are not similarly marginalised when society explores and adopts measures in urban environments to tackle the biodiversity crisis. Disabled people are well used to living a life of rapid adaptation and problem-solving, and some of the broader environmental justice literature identifies that if disabled people are involved in the planning and implementation stage of any new intervention, their lived experiences can offer unique insights and perspectives. This PhD will therefore also examine whether and how disabled people are involved in the co-design, planning and implementation of urban nature settings within BCP.

Design and Methods

Through an in-depth qualitative case study of the Bournemouth, Christchurch, and Poole (BCP) area, the PhD will have two key phases:

Phase 1 will involve semi-structured interviews with a purposive sample of key informants in BCP, including decision makers involved in shaping BCP’s urban nature spaces (e.g. the local council and key environmental charities) and disabled people’s organisations (DPOs) working in the local areas.

Phase 2 will involve a combination of semi-structured interviews followed by go-along interviews to hear from a purposive sample of BCP residents who identify as disabled, to explore how they relate to and interact with varied urban nature settings in BCP, and the biographical, embodied, socio-cultural and physical dimensions that shape this.

Outcomes and Impact

This PhD project will be impactful and translational amongst disabled people living alongside urban nature, as well as potentially inform policymaking, particularly in relation to the implications of the planning, implementation, and maintenance of urban nature settings as part of the wider ‘Groundswell Project’ (Funded by UKPRP and MRC). ‘GroundsWell' is a project that aims to involve local communities in Urban Green and Blue Space innovations which can benefit human health and well-being; with a specific focus to prevent and reduce inequalities that affect non-communicable diseases (NCD) in urban settings.

Carved brown wooden ornament with three loops, each loop has writing on: Environmental Justice, Social Justice and Disability Justice, all interlinked. In a Scots Pine Tree

Here is a summary poster I recently produced for a Post-Graduate Researcher Conference; Faculty of Health & Life Sciences, University of Exeter.

Copy of the Poster with content taken from main body of text. Pictures include, A picture of Sterte Green in Poole at the bottom. Goats grazing at the sea front in Bournemouth. Osprey bird in flight. Fox having a poo! Overgrowing brambles over path. Kingfisher Barn at Stour Valley Park, Grey squirrel. Group of people wnjoying socialising, two are using wheelchairs, all drinking from cans of beer

For a clearer high-resolution version please click here:

Download PDF • 3.93MB


1. Wheeler BW, et al. 2015. Beyond greenspace: an ecological study of population general health and indicators of natural env. type and quality. Int J Health Geogr. 2015 Apr 30;14:17

2. Outdoor Accessibility Guidance. 2023. Paths for All & Sensory Trust

3. Bell SL, et al. 2017. Everyday green space and experienced well-being: the significance of wildlife encounters. Landscape Research Vol. 43 8-19

4. Bell SL, et al. 2018. The “healthy dose of nature: a cautionary tale. Geography Compass. 2018 Vol 13.

5. Wolch JR, et al. 2014. Urban green space, public health, and environmental justice: The challenge of making cities ‘just green enough’. Landscape & Urb. Planning, 125, 234-244

6. Hudson H. Moving from Disability Rights to Disability Justice. Blog Post. World Institute on Disability. Accessed 06.2023.

7. Kosanic A, et al. 2022. An inclusive future: disabled populations in the context of climate and environmental change. Current Opinion in Envir. Sustainability 2022 Vol 55.

8. Njie B & Asimiran S. 2014. Case Study as a Choice in Qualitative Methodology. IOSR Journal of Research & Method in Education (IOSRJRME) Vol 4:3, 35-40

9. Dicicco-Bloom B & Crabtree BF. 2006. The qualitative research interview. Med Educ. 2006 Apr;40(4):314-21

10. Carpiano RM. 2009. Come take a walk with me: The “Go-Along” interview as a novel method for studying the implications of place for health and well-being. Health & Place 2009 Vol 15:1, 263-272

11. Hunter RF et al. 2022. GroundsWell: Community-engaged and data-informed systems transformation of Urban Green and Blue Space for population health – a new initiative. Wellcome Open Res 2022, 7:237

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