The Green Academies Project at Erddig
The Green Academies Project (GAP) is part of the £33m ‘Our Bright Future’ programme, funded by the Big Lottery Fund and run by a consortium of eight organisations led by The Wildlife Trusts. GAP offers young people the opportunity to connect with nature by protecting wildlife and learning practical food growing and land management skills from experienced rangers.
The Green Academies Project began in Birmingham in 2009 and has expanded to our places in urban areas across the UK, including Manchester, Gateshead and London. Over the years, the project has received almost £1 million of funding from the Big Lottery Fund.
Erddig Estate, a grand 17th-century house with a 486 hectare (1,200 acre) landscape pleasure park, was gifted to the National Trust in 1973 and is now home to the Green Academies Project in Wrexham. Bordering the grounds is the Caia Park housing estate, where some of the older residents still hold fond memories of the last Squire of Erddig.
Working with residents
GAP is a grass-roots response to the funding cuts that are impacting local parks and community green spaces. Mieke DeLathouwers, the GAP ranger at Erddig, explained how the project hopes to address the growing disconnect between children and nature.
‘We know from the youth workers that many of their young people don’t get out into nature much, even though Wrexham is quite a green city,’ she said. ‘By equipping them with skills and experience, we hope we can inspire them to look after their green spaces.’
Working together with residents and community groups, the project strengthens the links between people and places, so they feel proud to call Erddig one of their own green spaces.
" By equipping young people with skills and experience, we hope we can inspire them to look after their green spaces."
Forging connections with nature
Erddig has a history of connecting young people with nature, running the National Trust’s only youth club at the Felin Puleston Countryside Centre on the edge of the Erddig Estate since 1999. Originally set up to inspire young people to volunteer, the club has since helped to restore the surrounding landscape, and created allotments, an orchard and even a natural play area for children.
Following in its footsteps, the Pentre Gwyn youth club proudly hosts GAP every other Wednesday, offering outdoor activities to the young people of Caia Park. Working with experienced rangers, members can get involved with building flower bed frames, planting and cultivating vegetables and constructing boxes for local birds and bats. With an accreditation with qualification board AQA, young people can even work toward awards in gardening, tool use and health and safety.
Exploring new opportunities
Across the country, GAP is responding to what local communities need. With tightening budgets affecting youth services as well as parks and green spaces, it is vital for communities and organisations to work together to continue providing opportunities for young people.
For more information about the Green Academies Project at Erddig, contact Mieke De Lathouwers, Local Partnerships Co-ordinator at Erddig Hall – Felin Puleston Outdoor Centre, on 01978 356 223 or at Mieke.DeLathouwers@nationaltrust.org.uk.
A version of this article written by Assistant Editor, Helen Beer, first appeared in the National Trust Magazine Spring 2018 issue.