Projects officer Alan explains what it’s taken to look after some of our key features over the past year.
A lot of work goes into maintaining parts of the grounds used for our learning development with children, and 2022 saw the biggest changes for some time.
At the start of the year, a month of storms wrecked the western edge of our estate, which housed much of our Path of the Little People. With over 80 trees coming down, they destroyed the mud kitchen and fire site, while other features such as the nightline, outdoor stage, gorge walk and musical instruments became inaccessible.
The Path interactive trail is mainly used to engage children and young people with additional support needs. It was originally funded by Children in Need and has since been supported by the National Lottery’s Young Start and other funders.
My task over the past year has been to rethink the Path, and move some of the features so that they can be used again. Although the work took me away from working with groups of young people, it was vital the Path was restored and it was an opportunity to improve on certain features like the mud kitchen, which facilitates sensory learning experiences in nature.
After deconstructing the original mud kitchen, we choose our new site near the Wiston Wanderer caravan, where the overall plan was to create a central hub, which would accommodate the new kitchen and fire site.
After reconstructing the mud kitchen, I wanted to extend the facility on both sides. To the left, we built a new seating space and water pumping station for the kids to use. On the right, we built a 26ft long covered fire pit area which will accommodate our groups under even the worst of the Scottish weather.
The new mud kitchen was finished in time for our Halloween event, when over 100 visitors enjoyed marshmallows around the new fire pit site.
As an extra and to make the site even more interactive for our young people, we have also constructed an additional outdoor kiosk, which will serve many mud potions and concoctions for years to come.
Young people on work experience with us helped lay a walkway connecting the Wiston Wanderer with the mud kitchen. The latest project is the construction of a new 50ft wooden walkway on the other side. This feature will link the mud kitchen and fire site area to the crannog, making the crannog accessible from two sides of the estate.
The Projects team, consisting of myself and Grant, also took the opportunity to rebuild half a dozen foot-bridges throughout the woods, making connections between areas safer.
At the start of the season we were also responsible for redeveloping the adventure wood site, which was unused after falling into a state of degeneration. I personally wanted to get the site back up and running and give us more activities to choose from, especially after losing the Path.
The low Vs, high beam, climbing wall and 3D spider’s web area are now a place that we can utilise again for team development activities.