TWO major local businesses have stepped up to support an outdoor learning area at Ripon Grammar School for the benefit of younger students affected by the pandemic.
Plumbing and heating merchants Wolseley, which employs 5,000 staff globally, including 270 based in Ripon and 150 in nearby Melmerby, is donating £500 to the project.
Swinton Park estate in Masham is providing around 40 larch logs in various sizes from its Druids Wood for building seating and various activities in the new area, run in conjunction with Ripon's Outdoor Adventures Forest School company.
Head of PSHCEe life skill classes Helen Mars said she was very grateful for support from the local community: “Donations are being used to set up an exciting outdoor learning area so that younger years can do forest school play and team-building activities.
“We recognise the impact of the pandemic on play time and outdoor learning and want to make sure our younger students have time to work on social skills and benefit from time outdoors exploring nature.”
All Year 7 students will enjoy two half days of Forest School activities after Easter, with activities taking place on the school site, using our wildlife garden and fields.
Mrs Mars said: "The aim is for students to have a chance to build friendships and develop their teamwork skills in various outdoor activities and challenges. These may include using tools and natural materials such as logs and fire. They will be supervised throughout by RGS staff and the sessions will be led by fully qualified Forest School leaders from local company Outdoor Adventures."
Swinton's Debra Hinde explained how the logs donated for activities were felled from Druids Wood on the Swinton Estate in November using a traditional ‘horse logging’ technique. Individual trees are selected (rather than laying waste to an entire forest), and the felled trees are pulled through the woodland by horses, without the need for heavy machinery. Trees are felled to provide more light to the forest floor or to provide more space to allow the remaining trees to grow.
"The extra light stimulates natural regeneration as it warms the soil, stimulating any seeds and creating a diverse environment. Also helps the regeneration of the forest floor, providing a niche habitat for various bugs and beasties."
She added: "As a rural estate close to Ripon we are more than happy to help our local community whenever we can."
Wolseley, which has a £1.8bn turnover, was founded in 1887 and opened its Ripon office on Boroughbridge Road in 1971, reopening last year after a £500,000 refurbishment, which includes a new learning and development suite for training courses. The company is also keen to introduce students to its wide range of careers and training opportunities.