Harnessing the natural wonders of the UK and the creative minds of talented artists, we at UK Youth For Nature are using the power of craft to yet again bring critical environmental issues and struggling species to life – and we can’t wait to tell you about it!

So, who are we? UK Youth for Nature (UKY4N) is the UK’s leading youth-led network calling on UK politicians to take urgent action to address the loss of nature and wildlife. We are a network of determined and ambitious volunteers between the ages of 16-30: environmental professionals, conservationists, campaigners, and environmentalists of diverse backgrounds and disciplines from across the UK. Through issue-led online and live campaigns, we target politicians, work with organisations and individuals on-the-ground, and provide a platform for young people to speak up and be heard.

Our most recent campaign, Natural Kingdom: Wild Walls, involved commissioning a series of murals in cities and towns across Britain depicting local wildlife, in an attempt to draw people’s attention to species in their area that are in decline. For more information about our previous campaigns click here, but for now, let’s discuss our new and exciting nature stunt – a 50m sand drawing on Scarborough Beach!

UKY4N members using rakes to create their giant artwork on Scarborough Beach.

UKY4N members using rakes to create their giant artwork during a misty morning on Scarborough Beach.

What did we get up to? We don’t do things in halves at UKY4N – and we like to think outside the box, taking innovative routes to build creative and impactful campaigns. We want to communicate our demands in a way that leaves a lasting impression and that instigates real, positive change. We fundamentally believe in the power of art and visual media to engage young people, the general public and the main targets of our campaigns: politicians and political representatives.

As with all good projects, we first had to be inspired. While we’re driven by the sheer prospect of bringing back biodiversity to the UK, it does take some hard hitting truths to realise that action needs to be taken. Unfortunately, the UK is one of the world’s most nature-depleted countries – and this is only part of a bigger story in which, globally, 50% of our world’s wildlife has been lost. But after a moment of solitude with this fact, we realised that passion should turn to action, so we buckled up and decided what was our core message and which wonderful British species embodied this most. After the creation was planned by our immensely talented team member, illustrator Glesni Lewis, it was time to bring out the rakes and bring these species to life!

A person in a yellow team t-shirt rakes the sand to help create the art piece, with city buildings and beachgoers in the background.

A UKY4N team member rakes the sand to help create the beach artwork.

We often find that after working on a project for months, seeing it come to fruition feels pretty surreal. Watching the creation of a 50 metre sand drawing on Scarborough beach would definitely fit that description. On the 23rd of March 2022, UKY4N partnered with Sand in Your Eye, RSPB, Curlew Action and WWF to draw together four biologically significant British species, representing British biodiversity. The species chosen were: Eurasian beaver, Atlantic salmon, Eurasian curlew and Oak. Collectively these species add up to more than the sum of their parts, they represent a range of habitats and ecosystem services and include keystone, bioindicator, umbrella and flagship species.

The atmosphere on the beach was infectious. In our matching yellow UKY4N t-shirts we chatted to dog walkers, holidaymakers and even the Mayor of Scarborough, all of whom wanted to know more about what was going on. The resounding message from everyone we spoke to was of enthusiastic support for the stunt and what we are trying to achieve. Many wanted to share their own stories of experiences with either the creatures in our drawing or of wildlife in general. The genuine interest and encouragement we saw on the beach was amazing, and the support we have received since the stunt from people across the world has been inspiring.

It is hard to visualise what a 50 metre drawing looks like while you’re on the ground holding a rake, and the day culminated with the team crowding round a laptop screen as the first of the drone footage came in. The finished artwork was better than we could have even hoped for and there were a lot of hugs, high fives and a few beers to celebrate. But by 7pm, the whole drawing had been washed away by the incoming tide. And as the drawing was washed away by the incoming tide, and we watched our islands, coastline, land mass, and critical species disappear, we raised the alarm about the future of our natural world, disappearing before our very eyes.

The message behind our stunt is loud and clear: if we do not act now to preserve our biodiversity, we will lose it forever.

An overhead view of a massive sand artwork depicting the outline of the United Kingdom with an Eurasian beaver, Atlantic salmon, Eurasian curlew and Oak tree across it.

The final artwork, depicting the UK with the four key species across it, before it was symbolically washed away by the tide.

Growing up in the New Forest I was always surrounded by nature, which led me to complete a Biology Msci at Bristol Uni, my research investigated electroreception in freshwater invertebrates. I now work as head of communications and outreach for Curlew Action, have been part of the campaign for a GCSE in natural history, and in my spare time I have a small wildlife art business.
My love for nature started by watching wildlife documentaries with my dad. After years of seeing others dedicate their careers to saving the planet I decided I wanted to be just like them.