Willow’s Woodland Wonders

Caroline McNeill, Volunteer Officer at Skelton Grange Environment Centre, has been in touch with news of an inspiring project:

TCV Willows 3Can you look back fondly at a childhood spent playing in the great outdoors? Do you recall the fun of dangling from trees? Or the unimaginable thrill of coming across some never-seen-before alien creature – perhaps a poor frog hopping away in terror to your squeals of delight? If you can, then you are one of the lucky ones. These memories have magic in them. If you were doubly lucky, that magic would have taken root and the wonder and delight in the natural world would have trickled into your adult years.

Perhaps, you may then understand the delight felt by the staff and volunteers at Skelton Grange Environment Centre who have recently been awarded much needed funding from Cash for Kids, the official charity of 96.3 Radio Aire and Magic 828. And what is this funding for? Simply to provide some similar magical memories for a new generation; one which is arguably more cut off from the natural world than ever before. To be precise; to facilitate ten outdoor Wild in the Woods days at Skelton Grange for the remarkable young people from Willow Young Carer’s.

Run by Barnardo’s and funded by Leeds City Council, Willow supports children and young people under 18 who care for family members with long term illness, mental illness, disability or substance misuse problems. With heavy responsibilities at a young age, these admirable young folk often miss out on the social and recreational activities their peers take for granted as a part of childhood. This can lead to isolation and limited opportunities to spend time outdoors – with all the proven mental and physical health benefits this provides.

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Helen Pearson, Education and Training Manager for The Conservation Volunteers at Skelton Grange said, “It’s a privilege to work with these deserving young people, helping them learn about nature and traditional woodland crafts and giving them a much needed break from their responsibilities. We simply couldn’t provide these activities without funding – so huge thanks to Cash for Kids!”

TCV Willows 2Working in partnership with The Conservation Volunteers at Skelton Grange Environment Centre, an unusual nature reserve which has been carved lovingly into the landscape of South Leeds over the last twenty years, the children will be in for a real voyage of discovery. The woodland activity days, which have been running for the last three years, have proven to be a huge success. In the past, the young adventurer’s have discovered all sorts of multiple-legged creatures whilst pond dipping; whittled away at various woodland crafts; and perhaps the ultimate childhood feat – the challenge of building shelters from natural materials. The cherry on top of these awesome fun packed day? Cooking popcorn around an outdoor fire!

“I am strongly of the opinion that the activity days at Skelton Grange help children to develop ideas and interests including their interest in the environment,” praised Sylvia Shatwell, Service Manager for Barnardo’s. “As a service manager endeavouring wherever possible to maximise opportunities, widen horizons and promote healthy lifestyles for children and young people, I can honestly say that the activities you provide tick all these boxes.”

Skelton Grange will be hosting a Family day on the 15th June for the families and friends of the young carers. In addition, they run a number of projects including environmental education days for schools, a practical Friday Green Team; which encourages members of the public to come along to the beautiful nature reserve and get their hands dirty, Wild in the Woods days and a variety of Bush-craft courses.

Practical volunteering days run at Skelton Grange Environment Centre every Friday, from 10am until 3pm. If you are interested in taking part, or for any further information, please contact the centre to book your free place on 0113 2430815, or email skelton@tcv.org.uk. Alternatively check out the website www.tcv.org.uk/skeltongrange  for further details on the range of opportunities available. Donations to the centre can be made by searching for Skelton Grange Environment Centre on the www.localgiving.com website.


This article was written by Caroline McNeill – Volunteer Officer at Skelton Grange Environment Centre