Thanks to National Lottery players and the National Lottery Heritage fund we have been able to hold the first of three youth-led nature courses in our ancient woodlands. Since the Horsley Youth Club shut several years ago we have noticed an increase in young people using the estate woodland to socialise as well as an increase in antisocial behaviour such as littering and use of fires. This has also been an issue across the Horsleys generally. In preparation for this project we spoke to young people from the villages. Sadly, the message we were hearing from them was that they felt unwanted, were not listened to by adults and had nowhere to go.

In partnership with East and West Horsley Parish Councils our approach has been to find positive ways to make young people feel welcome on the estate and to encourage them to have a say in our future. One of the ways we are seeking to do this is by providing free outdoor activities including camp building, outdoor cooking, archery, wood carving and conservation work to children and young people. The participants are given the opportunity to shape what the content of the courses will be. We hope that this approach will help young people to feel a sense of guardianship and pride in the natural heritage of our green spaces as well as to learn more about why our ancient woodland is precious and in need of protection.

This summer 20 children aged 12-14 took part in six sessions led by nature expert and youth worker Jonnie Taylor with support from our Community Engagement Project Coordinator Jo Ellison and volunteer Clive Walker. Clive is a trained field archery coach and generously gave his time and expertise to facilitate a field archery session for the group, which was thoroughly enjoyed. Other sessions involved activities such as the identification of wildlife and trees, woodcarving and cooking lunch using a fire pit. 

We are also excited to support the work of the West Horsley Youth Council and look forward to collaborating with them on ways that WHP can support young people more widely- and hopefully benefit from their energy and passion in turn. Ultimately, we hope that young people from our community will find lots of ways they can get involved at WHP and help us design aspects of our programming in the future. 

Our National Lottery Heritage funded project will continue in 2022 with two more courses aimed teenagers who are 14+. We hope that we will be able to extend this project beyond next year.