Many more of us have come to realise just how vital our local green spaces such as parks and woodlands can be for our health and wellbeing, and for our sense of belonging. We know that for lots of local groups and citizens our natural environment is growing ever greater in its importance.
The Friends of Caulms Wood in Dewsbury are particularly keen to help young people think about and enjoy nature, learn about the environment and spend more time outdoors. Through our Growing Great Places civic crowdfunding programme, we’re pleased to be able to join local people in pledging our support to a new outdoor classroom in Caulms Wood.
The project will help to connect young citizens to their community and help people to feel proud of where they live. Visitors to the park of all ages will be able to grow their knowledge of the natural environment and make a deeper connection with their local place.
The Friends of Caulms Wood ran their successful Growing Great Places crowdfunding campaign during lockdown, raising almost £3,000 in funding and in-kind support to transform the centre of the park (where there is an existing structure, originally built as a rose garden) into an outdoor classroom. Sleeper benches and a story chair will provide seating for a full class of local school pupils, and there will be gabion cages to retain the walls.
We spoke to project lead Mellisa Dean about how local citizens and organisations have come together to get this idea off the ground, and about the importance of nature for connecting people in an emotive way to their local community.
“Three local primary schools (Hanging Heaton School, Earlsheaton Infants and Eastborough Junior) will be able to use the outdoor classroom. This will give around 500 children new opportunities for learning about the outdoors, which are currently limited as all of the schools have little or no green space. The local primary schools are enthusiastic about seeing this project come to fruition so they can use the outside classroom space.
“Transformers North have come and not only pledged some money toward the project, but physically tackled some of the massive overgrown bushes. This has been a great help in clearing some initial space. Thanks to a keen group of young volunteers from Manor Croft Academy, we hope to achieve the rest of the clearance work in the next few weeks, before progressing onto installing the sleeper benches.
“The Woodland Trust have pledged 145 new trees for us to plant too. We want local pupils to plant these, but also for each tree to represent a soldier from the local area lost in World War 1. We want the project to help young people learn about their community, its history and to take pride in it as a place that people have given a lot to over generations.
Emotional investment in a place comes through learning about its nature, its past and its people. We hope this project achieves that connection for these young people and that others will benefit in the years to come.”
Growing Great Places is a civic crowdfunding programme from Kirklees Council and our partners Spacehive. The Friends of Caulms Wood received £2,955 in pledges from 25 backers, including £1,500 pledged from Kirklees Council, exceeding their original campaign target. But their story shows how crowdfunding is about far more than raising money. It helps citizens to connect with each other and with local organisations to make our local places even better.
The Friends of Caulms Wood are hoping there are a few more nature lovers out there who see the benefits a project like this will bring to the education of young people at school and other visitors to the park. You can get in touch with them if you’d like to get involved:
Caulms Wood Outdoor Classroom project
Caulms Wood Park website