Hill Holt Wood hit the road

The Growing Up Green project at Hill Holt Wood is one of 31 Our Bright Future projects located across the UK. It’s engaging 4,000 young people near Lincoln, with nature on their doorstep. Senior Ranger, Gavin tells us about their road trips to visit the other Our Bright Future projects.
‘We’re going to visit every project’ Steve, CEO of Hill Holt Wood declared! Everyone in the team saw it as the chance to get out and get inspired. Not only did we set about visiting other projects, we hosted projects too as we wanted to really embrace the Share Learn Improve ethos of the programme.
From the beginning we knew that we wanted to spread the experiences and opportunities across our entire ranger team and include young people every step of the way. The very first trip was to Scotland, to the Fife’s Our Bright Future project. It involved a senior ranger, a team member from the office and three learners. As is often the case, the first trip was one of the most memorable and the trip was a resounding success. Camping under the stars, walking through dense pine forest and patting a bull on the head were particular highlights!
In July 2016 we headed to the Building Sustainable Communities project in South Wales. This was really special as two of our learners hadn’t been outside of England before, so they were very excited! September saw us head to Hull to meet the Youth In Nature project, where we visited Spurn Point Nature Reserve to compare habitats. In October we found ourselves clambering over rocks with Growing Confidence and November was a local trip to Tomorrow’s Natural Leaders in Yorkshire.
The shivering 2017 New Year was ushered in with a trip to see an orchard planted by Fruitfull Communities at YMCA Norwich. We made wildflower seed balls with them too! Before the month was out, we also had a visit to BEE You to check out their beekeeping project. Trips to Your Shore Beach Rangers, Putting Down Roots for Young People, Green Futures and the UpRising Environmental Leadership Programme followed later in the spring.
The Green Academies Project showed us Morden Hall in June and we also drove down to Wiltshire to see Milestones. We went international in July and hopped over to see the Grassroots Challenge project in Belfast. It was the first time our two young people had ever flown and was a perfect example of how Our Bright Future can really expand horizons. July saw us making artwork with Creative Pathways for Environmental Design in Scotland. In September we had an informative visit to Bright Green Future and an inspiring trip to Avon and Gloucestershire Our Bright Future. Here we piggy-backed two visits into the same trip, enabling us to reduce mileage. This is something we tried to do wherever it made sense.
October arrived and we found ourselves selling locally sourced fresh fruit and veg to passing students at the University of Sheffield with Student Eats, before heading to Myplace in Lancashire and Spaces 4 Change in London. Here we saw plans for a derelict shopping centre to be brought to life as a community hub and a tiny roof space that had been transformed into a gym. One Planet Pioneers were the next kind hosts as the weather turned and November arrived. Finally, we wrapped up a busy year by journeying to Welcome to the Green Economy.
2018 would be the year that we ticked off the last of our trips, starting with My World My Home in February and our long-awaited action-packed trip (needing wetsuits!) to Our Wild Coast in North Wales in May. Vision England and Green Leaders were October’s trips, with the latter exploring the city of Manchester. Such a mind-blowing experience that showed the value of learning about the culture of the areas in which other projects are based.
We got so many positives from the visits; picking up new ideas, seeing new places, bonding with our young people and feeling part of a bigger movement.  We began to discover how many people (young and ex-young!) care about nature as much as we do! From an environmental point of view, the biggest concern is the mileage involved in the travel. Driving and flying to projects leaves a significant carbon footprint. Despite this, we are convinced that the benefits to our young people and staff and the programme as a whole outweighs the negatives. Who knows the carbon we will be saving now that we have educated and inspired these people to make better environmental choices?
Steve reflected at the end of our visits, ‘It may have been over 45 different exchange trips, but I view it as one complete programme, not 31 separate projects. It makes sense to see what everyone is doing. Every journey broadens the horizons of our youngsters; new experiences, new foods, new people, and new cultures.’ Thank you to everyone who continues to make our sharing, learning and improving so very memorable and valuable. Keep up the amazing work.

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