Almost a year ago BMO was invited to deliver a programme of bushcraft sessions on the Walpole estate in Huddersfield. The estate, in Crosland moor, is bordered on one side by a small grassy valley which in turn is bordered by a strip of immature broadleaf woodland. The brief, as proposed by The Friends of Beaumont Park was to engage local children in outdoor activities with a view to increasing their confidence in the outdoors, their nature awareness so as to promote a future regard of the benefits of a wonderful local parkland (Beaumont Park) and to feed the children.
But this story starts a long time ago when I began attending schools local to the estate at a time when the mere mentioning of the estate would promote fear. This meant that my perception of the area was never a positive one and it was with some trepidation that I started to work on the estate.
Over the course of Summer 2015 we delivered several sessions, the final session in February this year (after many bad weather delays). We had an average of 18 children attending each session with a core group of about 12 attending every session.
Asking practitioners what the most striking feature of the group was they might well say “loud”. Loud they were, boisterous, occasionally fractious, often rude. But they were also kind, considerate, enthusiastic, engaged, funny, very bright. Semi feral on occasion but full of joy. They took delight in cooking, eating, using tools, lighting fires, eating, wearing camo face paint, hiding, eating, climbing, making mallets, building shelters and eating.
The final session followed a hiatus of several months in the programme which gave us a fabulous opportunity to assess development at the sessions and development there was. As a group they were attentive, showed perseverance and engagement with all aspects of the sessions.
Practitioners working at the sessions felt that it was perhaps the best session to date with that group. Most of them asked when there would be more sessions, when would we be back.
I can see that while the estate may still have its issues but after meeting such fabulous children and on occasion their equally fabulous parents,it is evidently a place of joy and hope.
Thank you to all attendees, to the Friends of Beaumont Park and to practitioners and volunteers who gave up their time to work at the sessions.
As for me, now I can think about Walpole without feeling that small boy fear.
This was good work, well done.