I’ve seen a whole new perspective on how I can look after the environment.

Our regular group from Swindon Academy have been preparing over the last year for an overnight exchange visit to one of the 31 Our Bright Future Projects. The learners helped with the planning and preparation of the trip and were tasked with discovering this new environment as a part of their John Muir Award and to explore what other Our Bright Future Projects are doing.

For most of the group visiting Hill Holt Wood in Lincolnshire would be the furthest they would have travelled from home and many of them had never camped out before. Furthermore, it was going to be the first Wiltshire Wildlife Trust residential, so for all of us heading out of Wiltshire for an overnight stay was going to be a real adventure.

As a part of our planning, we practised putting up tents, cooked a number of dishes over the fire, rehearsed campfire songs and went on a 1-day road trip to check out the venue.

When the day arrived for the trip, the sun was beaming and we were greeted with a fabulous feast and tour around Hill Holt Wood. The site was wonderful and most of the buildings and structures we explored on the site had been built by the students visiting the site since Hill Holt was born as a social enterprise in 2002.  The project funded by Our Bright future, ‘Growing up Green’, focus’ on environmental land management and eco-construction, ensuring engagement of young people in both their natural and built environment. For the next two days, the students were a part of this programme.

The first challenge

To build a straw bale house! After being tasked with what they thought was the impossible a basic house structure was created and the team were overwhelmed with the achievements.

This was followed by a calm evening of putting all our preparation into practice; setting up camp, chopping wood for the fire and making use of the pizza oven for dinner. After a night walk of detecting bats and spooked by creepy sounds, we settled around the fire for hot chocolate and a harmonious sing song around the fire. Sleep soon followed and any anxieties about staying overnight were soon soothed.

Day two started with tea and bacon sandwiches for breakfast and after packing up our tents we headed off to Hill Holt Woods second site for a morning of green wood work. We all had the chance to use the pole lathes and a number of the learners were in their element and didn’t want to leave.

The finale 

After our final feast from Hill Holt, we were back on the road and reflecting on the fantastic experience we had in this new environment, moving out of our comfort zone and learning about each other.

‘Coming on this residential has made us closer; can we do a weeklong residential next?’

The tales of camaraderie and friendship continued for the following weeks and everyone uncovered fantastic moments of personal growth. The benefits of these exchanges and opportunities to visit new places are immeasurable and will continue to have a long lasting effect on these young people.

‘Whatever this is, it has become a part of my life and I have learnt so much and made some great memories.’

Written by Rachel Bush from the Milestones Project.