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Newbattle Community Forest

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Blog - Forest College - for learners and leaders - May 2019

Grantee – Newbattle Abbey College

What are we going to do?

Our innovative Newbattle Community Forest Project builds upon our role as Scotland’s first Forest College, offering a learning and training environment in our 125 acre estate. The project seeks to engage people of all ages, particularly those in areas of deprivation. We will involve communities in Midlothian, East Lothian and South Edinburgh in engaging with greenspaces and in particular, the Newbattle heritage estate. This includes Lord Ancrum’s Wood, which is on the east bank of the River South Esk, comprising 21 hectares of woodland.

We already offer a Rural Skills course and plan to extend this programme by developing the woodland as a site for education and community engagement. We will integrate innovative outdoor learning and progressive woodland management and training opportunities. These will include a variety of short course for people of all ages, with options for national accreditation. In particular we will offer:

  • Our new Forest Awards at SCQF Levels 2-6 & 8

  • Specialist training courses in woodland management and environment awareness with accreditation options

  • Training in traditional woodland skills, including coppicing, walking stick making and building living furniture from willow

This exciting project will see the employment of 2 posts:

  • A full-time Woodland Ranger, who will build upon the work that Forestry Commission Scotland (FCS) carried out by maintaining and enhancing the woodland to extend community access. The Ranger will divide their time between practical woodland management, engaging the target communities and helping to organise certificated and non-certificated courses based in the woodland area. The Ranger will identify opportunities to integrate the work of the college into the management of the woodland and identify and deliver wider educational objectives

  • A part-time Forest College Co-ordinator who will develop partnerships with local schools, community groups, volunteers and local businesses. These will include guided walks, open days and outdoor learning activities for families.The target audience are marginalised and vulnerable learners, especially from areas of multiple deprivation. The Co-ordinator will support the work of the Woodland Ranger.

Where did the idea come from?

  • As a result of discussions involving FCS and Newbattle in response to the immediate need for the management of the woodland

  • As a result of discussions involving SNH/Midlothian Council, local primary and high schools, Esk Valley Trust and Newbattle Abbey Residents’ Association

  • As part of Newbattle Abbey College’s curriculum planning, involving SMT and teaching staff

  • In discussion with Midlothian Criminal Justice Team to extend existing Newbattle programmes for adult offenders

How communities have helped us develop our ideas

Newbattle’s extensive partnerships with schools, voluntary organisations and community groups have led to the development of this project.  Some of our partners are keen to be involved in the development of the woodland to enhance learning opportunities for young people and adults and to improve health and wellbeing. Many partners see the value of the accredited learning options as a means of enhancing employability and reducing inequalities in areas of deprivation.

How our project fits into the bigger picture

The project aims to encourage individuals to value, use and enjoy their greenspaces, and make them feel happier, healthier and better connected to their communities. The project will help people to resolve inequalities in health and opportunity. Green Infrastructure will also help people develop skills and have the confidence to seek and sustain jobs.

Where would we like our project to lead us

We would like our project to enhance Lord Ancrum’s Wood for people of all ages, to extend learning, volunteering and training opportunities for people in areas of deprivation and to extend community engagement in a well maintained woodland area. We wish to develop a vibrant and inclusive community woodland, offering opportunities and training for all and enhancing our environment.

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