Masters thesis

Download ‘Companions of the Sewer Phoenix’ Abridged thesis 2017


In 2000, contaminated land once used as industrial sewerage works in the heart of Leeds, in the north of England, was handed into the care of a group of volunteers. They have since transformed the space into a 30-hectare biodiverse wetland nature reserve on a floodplain by the River Aire: Rodley Nature Reserve.

This research looks at the relationship between people and nature, focusing specifically on outdoor volunteers at Rodley Nature Reserve. It draws on emerging approaches from the Environmental Humanities to explore new ways of describing how people understand and interact with nature, and what it means to them. The research finds that the act of practical ecological restoration enables volunteers to negotiate personal well-being matrices that are brokered and sustained in large part by on-going exchanges with the reserve. It explores the specific role of an embodied, active engagement with the environment and the role of nonhuman entities as active, reciprocating actors.

The findings offer fresh insights into why people choose to ‘do green’.