Volunteer Guardians making a difference at Ealees Woods
Date published: 16 July 2017
Photo: NatureEd CIC
Ealees Forest School bluebells Dig n Delve session in May 2017
Woodland wildlife and school children visiting Hollingworth Lake this spring and summer have been the real winners of an exciting new volunteering project supported by a grant from Postcode Local Trust, with some match funding from NatureEd CIC and Rochdale Borough Council.
The aim of the Ealees Forest School Guardian project was to help protect Ealees Woods by getting local people actively involved in some practical conservation to improve the diversity as well as assisting NatureEd CIC to run hands-on environmental education sessions for young people.
Starting in February, volunteers were recruited and trained by NatureEd CIC to become ‘Guardians’.
Run in partnership with the Council’s Green Volunteer Scheme, the volunteers were given specialised training for working with children, tools and fire as well as first aid and wildlife surveying skills.
By thinning out some of the trees in the woodland, more light reaches the forest floor and the resulting display of bluebells has been spectacular. Alongside, the cut branches and logs have become great resources for children to make dens and seating.
Judy Alderson, a Director of NatureEd CIC said: “NatureEd CIC is all about helping people connect with nature and the Ealees Forest School Guardian project is a great example. Ealees Woods is a fantastic place for people to enjoy wildlife and, thanks to our agreement with Rochdale Council, we regularly use the area to help young people to learn about their local environment.
"Forest Schools is a very successful environmental educational programme. Evidence shows that children gain practical problem-solving skills and develop communication, build self-esteem and confidence, as well as having lots of fun.
“However, we are aware that this does have an impact on the woods themselves. Having specialised volunteer ‘Guardians’ to help both with the practical management and also to assist with these sessions has really made a difference.
“Over 250 children have benefited directly and the improvements to the woods will continue to be enjoyed by many more.
“We’d like to say a special thanks to the five dedicated volunteers and also the staff and parents at Holy Trinity CE Primary School who are fantastic at supporting the children, along with the players of People’s Postcode Lottery which funds Postcode Local Trust.”
As this pilot project draws to an end, NatureEd CIC is hoping to be able to continue to support the existing Ealees Forest School Guardians following the very positive feedback.
Lianne Lees, volunteer ‘Guardian’, said: “I have been given this opportunity to learn skills from NatureEd that will guide me in the right direction, giving me a vision of changing children's ability to learn from nature.”