Rural Experience/Education

Birkheads Wild - A Review of the 2017 Season

"I enjoyed this because it was all outdoors. I also enjoyed the choices that you let us make" - Abigail, 10, West Newcastle

Birkheads Wild grew from our passion for the outdoors into a place for free range humans. We LOVE: wild camping, getting grubby, growing naturally, smelling of woodsmoke, "leaving no trace", looking after wildlife, simple fun, learning about nature, home made stuff, going wild, being off-grid and generally playing out.

A rural experience at Birkheads Wild is different for every group as we’ve tailored experiences to meet the needs and interests of our visitors. Typically, it could involve an opportunity to visit with your school or youth group to enjoy exploring the site, learning how to light a camp fire using fire steel, or how to build a shelter, playing structured outdoor games or just explore and have opportunities for ‘wild play’ – such as tree climbing. We also work with your group to help out around site – learn about and get involved planting or harvesting potatoes, watering crops in warm weather, and get stuck into weeding. Birkheads Wild even allow groups to go wild for 24 hours, learn skills such as working as a team to put up your own bell tent, have a camp fire and toast marshmallows, cook with your group, go on a night walk or play games in the dark.

To date the funding from the Gillian Dickinson Trust has enabled us to offer a rural experience to a total of 90 local young people (aged between 6 and 14). Approximately 40 of these young people we worked with over a number of sessions/experiences which meant that our total footfall/visits achieved with your funding to date has been 145. We also offered a rural experience to 10 adults from a women’s group made up of mainly refugee and asylum seeker parents.

Between May and October 2017 we ran a total of 13 sessions with your funding which included; 7 half day sessions (in bushcraft, campcraft, firelighting and tracking), 2 After-School Sessions/Clubs and 3 overnight camps. We are also running a special, full day holiday club experience in the Christmas Break.

We have developed ‘Gift of the Wild’ with Stomping Grounds (a Forest School we have partnered with). The initiative offers teachers, friends and family the opportunity to nominate a young person who has had a difficult year to come and spend the day with us on a special outdoors experience aimed at building confidence and resilience. We have 17 nominations from local young people aged 5-12 to date.

Funding from the Gillian Dickinson Trust enabled us to start the Community Garden (phase 1), which meant we could pay for the support of a local landscape gardener and permaculture specialist to help assess the site and work with us to develop a plan for the community garden. Expert help and input has enabled us to make a longer term, phased plan - making best use of the space, time and resources available. Eventually, the Garden will be not just a productive veg area, but will also include an orchard and Healing Garden – with other edibles/useful plants. We implemented Phase 1 this year which resulted in two large, productive veg patches. With help from the local groups who visited us we harvested potatoes, leeks and pumpkins in the Autumn. We used the Gillian Dickinson Trust's funding to buy and plant 8 fruit trees, plus rows of soft fruit bushes – gooseberries, blackcurrants and raspberries. We also collected donations of fruit trees, seeds and bushes to enable us to achieve more in the garden.

Community garden

Sunset over camp

Packed lunch in a shelter they had just built

Building a den