A national charity has scooped a £60,000 funding boost to transform their training capabilities, including the outdoor learning area at its headquarters in Shropshire.

The Small Woods Association, based at the Green Wood Centre in Coalbrookdale, has secured the money from the National Lottery Heritage Fund and comes at a time when the charity is seeing a boom in interest for its courses.

Small Woods runs a wide range of sustainable woodland management and social forestry projects, courses and events across the country – including its Build a Bench and Telford Woods programmes hosted at the charity’s Green Wood Centre headquarters.

The rise in popularity means courses have been sold out for this year but the £60,000 grant provides the charity with an opportunity to expand its offering in 2022 to meet the increasing demand.

Ian Baker, Small Woods Chief Executive Officer, said: “We thank the National Lottery Heritage Fund for their support in awarding us this grant – it really is much appreciated.

“It means we are able to transform a garden area at the Green Wood Centre into an outside learning area for courses to take place and invest in online resources, which will become available increasingly over the next few months.

“By the end of the summer, on-site facilities will become available for booking, supported by catering provided by the acclaimed and independently-run Green Wood Cafe on site.

“It all comes at an extremely busy time for us and, with the Covid restrictions finally easing, we are seeing an unprecedented level of interest from people who want to get involved with nature – viewing us as the best way to help them achieve that.

“The pandemic has certainly made people realise the benefits to health and wellbeing of being outside and raised the profile of the work Small Woods is doing. We have seen a boom in interest in courses at The Green Wood Centre as people have come to more readily appreciate nature, our woodlands and the great outdoors.

“Courses are fully booked at the Green Wood Centre for 2021 but this investment will give us the chance to expand in 2022. Our courses have helped so many people who otherwise would have been isolated – especially through the pandemic, and is something we want to provide access to for even more people.”

Mr Baker said there were many benefits to being outdoors with nature and taking part in the range of activities offered by Small Woods – helping to enhance skill-sets and maintain a healthy lifestyle.

“Our Build a Bench programme at the Green Wood Centre has been very popular and of great benefit to those taking part,” he added.

“It’s a 12-week fully-funded course aimed at people who are not currently involved in paid employment and a marvellous opportunity to participate in weekly craft sessions while being supported in action planning.

“Another project we are immensely proud of is our involvement with Telford Woods – a social enterprise involving our partnership with Telford & Wrekin Council. It engages the community in the sustainable management of local woodlands, the use of local forestry products, and development of woodland spaces for education and improved physical health and wellbeing.”

For more about Small Woods and the Green Wood Centre, visit the website at https://www.smallwoods.org.uk/

Pictured: Ian Baker, Small Woods Association CEO.