During 2007, with the help of experts and volunteers, 37 young people from Wyre Forest LAFS (Laugh, Achieve, Socialise, Fun) and Lifelinks based in Worcester took part in a natural heritage project at Witley Court and Gardens.
Witley Court is a beautiful ruined mansion set in landscaped gardens in Worcestershire and is run by English Heritage.
The young people were involved in:
- surveying, monitoring, photographing, documenting and learning about the natural heritage
- creating new habitats and building bird boxes
- designing and landscaping a wildlife garden which includes an ornamental pond
- creating a 22 metre serpent sculpture from willow which weaves through the Wilderness Garden.
The project was designed to help these young adults develop knowledge, skills and attitudes to equip them for work and adult life. The Heritage Lottery Fund and English Heritage funded the work.
This project really highlighted the abilities of the young people and what they can offer rather than just what they need. A few of the young people have had job opportunities since the project has ended.
Chris Jordan, Chair of Wyre Forest LAFS, noted that “their confidence and their ability to do different things has developed enormously. Alex (his son who took part) has now got a job which I don’t really believe he could have been able to get before the project. It has given him a lot of confidence in being able to do things on his own …I absolutely think it has helped them move forward, hopefully in society, to achieve in the longer term.”
The project won a Positive Practice award from the Care Services Improvement Partnership for the ‘Innovative Partnerships’ that it created. Other partners included Worcestershire County Council’s Adult Learning Disabilities Service and Countryside Service. Four of the young people involved collected the award at a glitzy ceremony in London.
The £2,000 prize money was used as match funding for English Heritage to develop further opportunities for the young people to engage with Witley Court. Many more young people joined the gardening club at Witley Court to maintain the wildlife garden.