Community gives local nature reserve a makeover

(12th February 2007)

More than 100 school children in North Solihull learned about art and ecology as they helped to clean up a local beauty spot.

The youngsters, from Kingfisher Primary School and Smith's Wood Sports College, were taking part in a series of initiatives to get more local residents involved in community work in the Regenerating North Solihull area.

The event organised by Solihull Council at Smith's Wood Local Nature Reserve, called 'New Year, New Start, New Woods', saw local youngsters aged between six and 11 learn about the flora and fauna that inhabit the wood, as well as conservation and the importance of local green spaces for all the community.

Helping the children with the project were Mick Cunningham and Karen Wybler from Touchwood Trees, a Brighton-based company who will be working with children from across North Solihull for the next three years in a whole manner of environmental projects.

Mick said: "With sessions like these, we really hope to get children and the wider community to open their eyes to the fantastic woodland on their doorstep. People live on the edge of this wood, and I'm sure all the local children have walked through it countless times, but it is very easy to take it for granted.

"What we do is get the children to go through the woods collecting items, both natural and unnatural, so that we can talk about what they are, where they came from and what we should do with them.

"It may be a hollowed out branch that has become a mouse's store cupboard, or an old bottle of pop someone's thrown away, or holly leaves that have fallen off their tree – all three have an interesting and important story to tell.

"Afterwards the children then make art from the bits and pieces they've collected from the woods, which can then be left in the woods or taken back to the classroom, although of course all the rubbish we have collected is either sent to be recycled or disposed of properly."

The pilot event was organised by the Smith's Wood Area Panel, one of four being established by Solihull Council in the north of the borough as part of the Government's Safer Stronger Communities Fund. The others are in Fordbridge, Kingshurst and Chelmsley Wood.

The fund is targeting improvements in local service provision, with the emphasis on the community taking greater ownership of the services they receive and then working together to bring changes to their lives.

Julian Wain, strategic director of community and economic regeneration at Solihull Council, said: "There are several purposes to initiatives like this. First and foremost, with the help of  children and other members of the community, we are getting the wood cleaned up for everybody to enjoy.

"The children, and adults in some cases, get a better understanding of the woods and how it needs preserving, after all it's the children who will be the guardians of the wood when they are older. The events are also about getting the community working together and creating a better living environment for everybody."

The community events programme ties in with the 15-year Regenerating North Solihull project that will see a consortium oversee a £1.8billion investment programme delivering more than 8,000 new homes, 12,000 improved homes, better transport links, a series of new schools and five new village centres with shops and offices.

The consortium that makes up the North Solihull Partnership includes Solihull Council, housebuilder Bellway Homes, registered social landlord Whitefriars Housing Group and regeneration specialists Inpartnership.


For further information please contact Alun Thorne at Core Marketing, 0121 643 8151.