In my work for Butterfly Conservation as a Peatlands for People Project Officer I create opportunities for people to learn about peatland habitats and raise awareness of their importance. I applied for the Arch network trip to Bulgaria to learn about a new country, meet new people, expand my knowledge of connecting people and biodiversity and to come home with some new ideas for outreach. The trip completely surpassed all my expectations and I would like to share a few highlights.
On the first day we visited the Crafts Museum in Troyan and learnt about the long history Bulgaria has in producing beautiful ceramics, embroidery, woodwork and metal work to name a few. I really enjoyed all the art/crafts elements of the trip, including the ceramics and jewellery making. I run art workshops as part of my work and centre my school sessions around crafts. It was interesting to see these elements from a different perspective and learn about the patterns/motifs present in other cultures.
The ceramics we saw in the Troyan museum and the pottery workshops at the EcoArt Guest House were made from locally sourced clay and both natural and cultural heritage themes are present in their design, such as floral motifs inspired by a monk in the museum and the use of traditional lace in the studio. Nature often provides the materials and the inspiration for arts and crafts. This is something I’d like to incorporate in my own work, thinking about moving from paper crafts to using more natural materials sourced from bogs, perhaps creating some natural dyes or inks.
The trip has also given me ideas of what festivals I could consider planning around peatlands – incorporating things like folk music and culture like we saw with the Plum Festival on the first day. These seasonal festivals provide a link back to nature, its products and its importance to local communities.
Our trip to Vidma Waterfall introduced us to the natural beauty of Bulgaria, and our expectations were certainly lived up to throughout the rest of our trip. I thought a lot during the week about the idea that increasing interpretation around cultural heritage such as fortresses and museums and holding festivals encourages people to visit the countryside for those reasons. Then, once they are already out in the National Park they can be encouraged to visit other sites of natural heritage importance.
The museums I enjoyed the most were the Museum of Water and the Pumpkin Museum. I think it’s great to see communities restoring buildings and using them to share information with the public and promote their history. The Pumpkin museum especially gave me so many new ideas for engagement with drawings and models made by local schools and many different competitions. The Pumpkin Festival is linked to seasonal produce and shows an appreciation of what nature produces for us. These links are important in providing the information and inspiration for people to feel connected to nature, and to ultimately want to preserve it for future generations.