With the help of money from our Ramblers Holidays Charitable Trust grant the South Downs Society has been able to set up a woodland experience course for 20 teenagers from a Gosport pupil referral unit and a Havant secondary school. Some were enjoying woodland activities for the first time.
They began by learning to recognise the usefulness of a selection of woodland plants and trees and how our ancestors made use of these. Going on to appreciate how birch and chestnut can be carved into useful tools and learning how to use a saw and knife safely, they had the opportunity of carving their own utensils. These were then used to experiment with cooking over a primitive fire. (Much of the food had a mixed reception until it came to their own bacon and sausages!) While this was happening they listened to stories about the history of the woodland and in particular its role prior to the D-Day landings.
These are challenging 15 and 16 year olds but do well when fully engaged in such practical activities in the open air. It is interesting to see how they find how best to work together in groups, drawing upon their individual skills and how they begin to develop an affinity for the woodland area that they are working in. At the end of it all they broke camp, extinguished the fires, cleared the site and carefully removed any litter without being asked to.
Thank you to Ramblers Holiday Charitable Trust for financing the course, Jonathon Huet of Walk with Trees for running it, the Friends of Hollybank for lending us their wood and Motiv8, Gosport with Park Community School, Havant for giving the young people the opportunity to take part.