This was a short but delightful story told by a most enthusiastic and committed speaker, told without notes or visual aids, about a small charity set up in the Thirsk area in 2013. After a career in the police service and estate management, Mike joined with a group of others to build a forest. To be precise they were gifted a 5-acre site of “set-aside” poor quality farming land to plant trees, the ground and soil conditions were conducive to traditional English woodland species of oak and ash, and is situated near to Felixkirk. From original stock the plantation has now achieved canopy level, at which the extended branches of one tree are in touching distance of the next.

The object is to encourage volunteers to help with this work and to open the area up to educational and development opportunities for special needs people with learning or behavioural difficulties. They are there to explore themselves and their capabilities in a non-confined atmosphere. Accepting that some people of all ages do not thrive in the normal educational facilities, the thesis is that the rural countryside, and in particular trees, produce a congenial working atmosphere.

It is worked out at two levels; firstly, for the adults it gives access to the wood for productive purposes such as fresh air and physical exercise, and for the children, they have established smaller clumps of woodland (“Kindles”) to arouse and inspire them, like school activity of play and working together, absorbing the nature and practising elementary woodland crafts.

In both examples, the clients are recommended by doctors or social workers and in some cases by families. Each Kindle has one professional backed up by a team of volunteers. Indeed this is the structure of the entire project, staff led and volunteer manned.

For all the good work and the good intentions the Trust faces difficulty in obtaining grants from the authorities and charities where “outcomes“ are expected of the clients and the insurance / risk assessment/ regulations impede development. The Trust buys young trees at 3 feet tall and grows them on. The tree might cost £1-2 but the life maintenance may amount to a further £3. Damage by feral deer and rabbits eat away at the growing plants.

Mike answered a host of questions from an enthusiastic audience.

Footnote :

We were pleased to welcome as a guest this morning Stu Cocker from Radio Northallerton. He told us a little about his career and work, explaining the nature of the service his team provides. ( He may yet become a Club Member ?)

J E.