Rural Experience/Education

Birkheads Wild 2021

Time spent outdoors and in nature has a positive impact on mental and physical health. It improves feelings of well-being, builds confidence and develops important life skills, whilst forming an appreciation and understanding of nature and the outdoors.

Birkheads Wild Community Interest Company (CIC) is a 1.5 acre wild campsite in rural Gateshead. We help local young people and their families to discover, explore and enjoy the outdoors and we exist to benefit the community.  We provide;  alternative education provision for young people who have been excluded from mainstream education, a fully outdoors youth club for 11-14 year olds called Young Explorers, an under 11’s Forest School after school club, ‘Taster’, half-day and day-long sessions “in the wild” based around Bushcraft, fieldcraft, Forest School and outdoor learning - but most of all just encourage young people to discover, enjoy and learn from being outdoors. We have a Permitted Development Camping Licence which means we can also offer 28 overnight camps to youth groups in any given 12 months.  We are ideally located in a very rural setting, but close to the urban centres of Newcastle, Gateshead and Sunderland.

A life-changing rural experience: Our research and connections with youth groups in the region and with those who have visited us already has shown the impact that a rural experience can have on a young person from an urban area. This is also supported by national research into the benefits of time outdoors and the ‘nature deficit’ which now exists amongst many young people. Time spent outdoors and in nature has a positive impact on mental and physical health. It improves feelings of well-being, builds confidence and develops important life skills, whilst forming an appreciation and understanding of nature and the outdoors.

What we have already delivered with your support: We received our first grant of £5,000 in Jan 2017 and second grant of £5,000 in Oct 2018 – each of these grants covered 2  ‘Seasons’ of rural experiences from April-October each year,  and were targeted at the groups most in need – those who would not have otherwise been able to afford to come to Birkheads Wild or who had multiple barriers to getting young people outdoors.

To date,  some  highlights that the Gillian Dickinson Trust has supported include:

  - 20 overnight camps for school or youth groups (all aged 6-14)

  - 26 half day sessions for smaller groups aged 4- 18

  - The establishment of the Community Garden with productive vegetable growing beds and a ‘Healing Garden’ (medicinal plants, herb and edibles)

  - A hen keeping project which has been a huge hit with our young visitors

  - A small equipment library for groups who do not have access to camping equipment

In addition, in 2018/19 we also delivered a 2 year outdoor experiences programme for vulnerable teenagers working with Gateshead Young Women’s Outreach Project which has involved visits from several groups over the summer including young mothers (some with with their babies) and with an LGBTQ Plus group of teenagers.

In Jan 2020 the Gillian Dickinson Trust supported the fabrication and building of our Yurt, and helped us to name it The Barrow Den. The Barrow Den is our indoor learning and camping space at Birkheads Wild, enabling day visitors to have a warm and dry ‘base camp’ at our sessions, which is particularly needed for younger children or those who have more chaotic families lives and often arrive unprepared and underdressed for a day outdoors.

It has given us an eco-friendly, long term, flexible space we could use for group overnight camps and as an outdoor classroom for day and evening sessions in bad weather or when the young people need a more covered or cosy space to retreat to.

Groups who don’t have their own tents camp in the yurt and it is perfect for those who have little/no outdoor experience – enabling us to be able to welcome more vulnerable groups.

www.birkheadswild.org.uk

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