Ranger Gav from Hill Holt Wood talks of the impacts that new experiences have on young people. 
Growth is a tricky thing. Do you leave well alone and enjoy what you’ve got already? Or do you trim a little here and there, move to a new spot exposed to different conditions and hope the new stimuli will aid flourishing? It’s a risky business, right?
The good news is that most young people are far more robust than we (or indeed they themselves) give them credit for. Expose them to new ideas, people and environments and you can sweep away all the dusty preconceptions they’ve hidden away inside to protect their self-esteem, and get growing some genuine self-confidence.
“I’ve never been outside of Lincolnshire, why should I?”
At Hill Holt Wood, we’ve always appreciated the benefits to a young person’s self-confidence when you confront their thinly veiled fears. The reason they might never have ventured far from home could be they never had the money, or the courage to experience something new, to challenge their view of how the world really looks and works. So, from the offset we found funding within our Growing Up Green project for visiting the other projects across the Our Bright Future movement.
On the morning of 23 June 2016, I found myself pulling up to the front door of one such young person’s house before our trip to visit Sarah MacDonald at the Falkland Estate in Scotland. It was a semi-detached house with a decent sized garden hidden under years of assorted detritus. A rusty trampoline, broken plastic children’s toys, a small trailer and long uncut grass were dewy and shining in the yellow street light. As I watched the door open I took a sip of my coffee and chuckled to myself as my first pick-up emerged into the world, bleary-eyed and literally dragging a rucksack.
“I’ve never been up this early, ever,” he told me.
We would gradually find out he had never been to Scotland either, or been camping, or seen a red squirrel for that matter and a hundred other new experiences which awaited him over the next two days. He clearly had reservations about the upcoming challenge and had prepared for the trip by packing 12 energy drinks.
The next evening as he dozed alongside two others in the back seat on the way home I wondered how he would relate what we had seen to his family, had they done anything like this? I reflected on the new experiences I too had gained, after all this trip was about so many things, including the benefits to our staff.
“That’s the biggest cow I’ve ever seen…!”
The tales of camaraderie and friendship forging would continue, wonderful trips to Down To Earth in Wales, Youth in Nature in Hull, Growing Confidence in Shropshire and more would uncover fantastic moments of personal growth for everyone involved. Each trip carried with it hilarious little stories that would be shared by those who were there as if they were part of an exclusive club.
“Do you remember how she snored so loud you could hear her across the field?!”
The benefits of these enjoyable exchanges are too numerous to list here and we are keen to arrange reciprocal visits to our humble woodland to help create new memories and experiences for young people and project staff across Our Bright Future. We loved having Alexey and the guys from Ulster over to stay in March and hope their whirlwind tour of our project gave them a few new experiences too (Egyptian geese on Millennium Green included). We’ve shared our project with others too; BEE You, Youth in Nature and Tomorrow’s Natural leaders to name just three.
“I cannot believe how many trees there are around here!”
Recently I found myself smiling as I made flower bombs with a group of young people (exactly as I had been shown by Fruit-full Communities) and checked the upcoming events on a calendar provided by Ulster Wildlife before stowing an information booklet on ‘The Great Storm’ in Falkland back onto the shelf, and I realised when we share, we learn and we improve. Not just ourselves, but others around us too.  We have upcoming visits booked throughout the year, indeed by the time you read this we will have hosted Wiltshire Wildlife Trust’s Milestones and visited St. Mungo’s in Morden.
Our Growing Up Green project aims to provide 4,000 young people with the knowledge and skills to address the environmental issues of the present and the future and giving them the self-confidence to grow and develop is the first crucial step on that important path.
Keep up the good work everyone!
Ranger Gav