CARING Worcester volunteers who created a wildlife haven in the heart of the city have encouraged others to go the extra mile and make a difference.
Helen Fairest and Sam Owens have helped tackle loneliness and isolation in their community by providing a vital space for people of all ages to connect with each other and the natural world at their woodland project.
The 46-year-olds were inspired to deepen local connections during the pandemic after attending an inspirational Eden Project Community Camp.
Helen and Sam, who attended Community Camp in March this year, co-founded Wild and Rooted CIC, which runs the Bramblewood Project, a woodland space offering outdoor opportunities for children and adults.
Helen said: “During lockdown, Sam and I visited Bramblewood most days, whatever the weather. Regardless of our mood when we arrived, we left feeling happy and calm each time.
“After we attended camp, we decided we wanted to capitalise on the feeling and offer it to even more people who might be lonely or disconnected from the wonders of nature in our community.”
Helen is now calling on other people to follow in their footsteps and see what they could achieve by attending the online community camp.
Bramblewood’s story started in 2016 when Forest School teacher Helen noticed opportunities for children to connect with nature were increasingly limited.
She joined forces with Sam, another parent at her son’s school, and took on a lease for a disused patch of woodland close to Worcester city centre in 2018.
With the help of local volunteers, the overgrown land was transformed into a tranquil space, with Bramblewood Forest School opening a year later.
The educational woodland experience provides children with a place to explore their curiosity and a range of learning opportunities, spanning from discovering how to build a treehouse to finding the courage to following a family of woodlice to their home.
At the height of the pandemic, the project adapted to become an even more crucial space for the pair, their team of volunteers, and more locals, who were able to enjoy a change of scenery and time in a green space without leaving the city, as well as a chance to enjoy safe social interaction.
“Bramblewood has undoubtedly helped people to get through the last 18 months. For some of our volunteers and visitors, it was the only place where they could see other people, so it became an important space.
“The wood is so close to the city centre but you can hear the birds, the crackle of the fire and the rustle of the leaves and it instantly cocoons you.”
“Now restrictions have lifted, we’re looking forward to doing more for the community. We want to support adult wellbeing and are already working with our local NHS Trust’s mental health teams to offer sessions to people recovering from mental ill health.”
Community Camp is an idea from Eden Project Communities and runs from October 1 to 2.
Visit www.edenprojectcommunities.com for more.