Stg 1 Day 4 – Fri 28 Jun

Lamarsh to Castle Hedingham

This is Google.  She searches for things.

She’s a nine-year-old Bedlington Lurcher, and she’s standing by a spike of Agrimony.

She walked with me this morning, alongside three very important people:

In the middle, Jo Roberts, the Chief Executive of the first of my three chosen charities, The Wilderness Foundation UK.

On the left, Kevin Pearce who has personally benefited from Wilderness’s work, and on the right, David Boyle, a local owner of woodland and a friend of Wilderness.

Wilderness is a fabulous charity.  The great advantage of Jo, Kevin & David taking some time to walk with me was that they could tell me first hand all about the charity’s work.

The key message I heard from Jo is that they take a holistic approach to young people’s learning about the environment and the natural world, and humans’ place within it.

By 2050, we’ll need to feed 9 billion people.  How will we do that without crowding out other species?  A key Wilderness objective is to help future generations really understand the balance needed between food, farming and nature.

Everything is co-dependent.  If we crowd out nature, we also damage ourselves.

Wilderness starts young, with 5,000 primary school children a year visiting their Chatham Green Project in Essex from all over the county as well as from East London.  I think my mum and aunt would be so pleased I’m supporting an environmental charity in their home county.

But they also go right up to sixth formers.  For example, a group recently spent a day in David’s woodland which he makes available to the Foundation.

Jo summed it up by saying that “as a human right, every child should have access to nature, enjoying being outdoors, connecting with nature, and understanding their place in this world”.

Wilderness now wants to raise funds to take this message further by training inner city teachers to take their own students out into the natural world, hugely multiplying Wilderness’s impact.

What I love about Wilderness, though, is the holistic approach I mentioned, which is where their youth support work comes in.

Kevin was a very troubled 15-year-old with low school attendance and a very challenging home situation.  By taking Kevin and others like him into the natural world on their TurnAround Project, and giving them a closer connection to nature, Wilderness helps the most vulnerable young people in society and helps them grow their confidence and resilience.

It was hugely inspiring this morning hearing from Kevin (who has just graduated from Durham University with a first class honours degree) how the Wilderness Foundation literally changed his life.

Very exciting for me, given Heather was born in Scotland, is that Wilderness also do this work in Scotland, through their Imbewu Scotland Project.

It would be fabulous if you could make a donation to Wilderness, or if you already have, tell a friend about my walk in support of this lovely charity.  Here’s the link:

Our walk this morning ended at the amazing Norman Hedingham Castle, where we were greeted by the owner Jason Lindsay and the events manager Alistair McMillan.

Longitude: 0°36’E (OS Map / Google Map)

After doing another BBC local radio interview from the castle (this time the Tony Fisher show on BBC Essex – listen here from 1:18:15 to 1:22:05), I went to the Hedingham Old Pottery B&B for a rest – or actually, a glass of chilled wine on Jacky’s beautiful patio – thanks Jacky.

This magical day ended with a trip back up to the castle for an outdoor showing of Bohemian Rhapsody in a truly dramatic setting by the Keep.

A final quick thank you before I sign off, to Anne & Clive at the previous night’s B&B (Oak Lodge) who very kindly donated 40% of the room price to Wilderness Foundation.  Thanks.

Oh, and while the whole world’s attention is turning to Glastonbury and Stormzy’s awesome performance, my third charity is present at Worthy Farm – see (more about them in a few weeks):

Hot day tomorrow.  Hat, sunscreen, water!

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