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A new eco-friendly community education centre designed to encourage more people to learn about the unique landscape and heritage of the Wyre is due to open its doors in spring.
The Gateway to Wyre Community Discovery Centre at Callow Hill, near Bewdley, will feature a sensory garden, bird observatory and classrooms for children and adults alike to expand their knowledge of the region’s rich natural history.
Part of the Wyre Forest Landscape Partnership Scheme – ‘Grow With Wyre’, the new centre has been created for both visitors and members of the local community.
Led by the Forestry Commission with assistance from the Wyre Forest Study Group and a range of other partners, ‘Grow With Wyre’ is a £4m initiative designed to protect and promote the region’s ancient woodland landscape.
The new building will offer a wealth of learning opportunities for people to discover more about forest life.
It will feature two classrooms for education and community use and an archive and recording centre that will help to promote the area to a wider audience.
Bird observatory windows in one of the two classrooms will give visitors the chance to see some of the wide variety of wild birds that populate the forest up close. Resident species include all three woodpeckers, green, lesser spotted and great spotted, as well as buzzard, sparrowhawk, kestrel, tawny owl, raven, hawfinch, nuthatch and tree creeper.
Much of the Wyre area is designated as a Site of Special Scientific Interest (SSSI) and many rare species of flora and fauna can be found amid the rolling hills, woodland, orchards and picturesque valleys.
Bob Griffiths from the Forestry Commission and Project Manager for the Wyre Forest Landscape Partnership Scheme says:
“A lot of people don’t even realise they can come into the forest. This fantastic new building gives us an opportunity to target both local people and those who live in the more urban areas and who feel remote from the countryside. By teaching them about what’s here we hope to give them a greater sense of ownership of this amazing space which is theirs to enjoy.”
Training courses at the centre will aim to give people traditional and innovative land management skills which can then be used to help conserve, maintain, restore and enhance the Wyre landscape and support local products and crafts.
A number of community events will also be held in the evenings and at weekends to enable members of the local community to come and learn more about the Wyre Forest.
Liz Bunney, Education Officer for the Forestry Commission in the West Midlands, says:
“There’s already plenty of interest in the new centre from schools and other groups wanting to learn about this unique region. We plan to welcome at least 5,000 schoolchildren and 5,000 adults on training and skills courses each year, and even more on the community events. It’s a chance to get more people into the forest and show them how it can enhance their lives.”
Embracing green principles, the building was partly built using timber sourced from the Wyre Forest. It features a woodfuel boiler that will be filled with locally sourced biofuel. The use of highly efficient insulation technology will also help to reduce fuel costs and carbon emissions.
Half of the roof has a natural covering of sedum and the shape of the building enables rainwater to be collected for use in flushing the toilets.
Project manager Grace Plant says:
“Part of our remit has been to make this a shining example of modern low carbon building techniques. By adopting an environmentally friendly approach we can ensure that the building not only fits seamlessly into its surroundings but will set high standards for the future.”
A Heritage Lottery Fund grant of £2m will drive the ‘Grow With Wyre’ scheme forward with other funding totalling nearly £294,000 from GrantScape, a further £74,000 from SITA Trust and funding from the ‘Grow With Wyre’ partners.
The Forestry Commission is the lead partner in the ‘Grow With Wyre’ Landscape Partnership Scheme, joined by Natural England, Shropshire County Council, Bewdley Development Trust, Butterfly Conservation, Worcestershire County Council, Wyre Forest Study Group, Wyre Community Land Trust, Wyre Forest District Council and the National Trust.
The community centre will open in March. An official opening by rock singer Robert Plant will take place later in the year.
For more information about ‘Grow With Wyre’ see www.forestry.gov.uk/growwithwyre
NOTES TO EDITOR
An image of the new Gateway to Wyre Community Discovery Centre is attached.
1. The Forestry Commission is the government department responsible for forestry in Great Britain. It supports woodland owners with grants; tree felling licences, regulation and advice; promotes the benefits of forests and forestry; and advises Government on forestry policy. It manages more than a million hectares (2.5 million acres) of national forest land for public benefits such as sustainable timber production, public recreation, nature conservation, and rural and community development. For further information, visit www.forestry.gov.uk/westmidlands.
2. The Grow With Wyre Landscape Partnership Scheme is being delivered by a partnership of the following organisations. The Forestry Commission is the lead partner in the Grow With Wyre Landscape Partnership Scheme, joined by Natural England, Shropshire County Council, Bewdley Development Trust, Butterfly Conservation, Worcester County Council, Wyre Forest Study Group, Wyre Community Land Trust, Wyre Forest District Council, Bewdley Development Trust and the National Trust.
The Grow With Wyre Landscape Partnership Scheme is led by the Forestry Commission and was set up to help restore the unique landscape of Wyre, celebrate its rich working history and help protect rare species like butterflies. This £4 million Scheme is mainly funded by the Heritage Lottery Fund and is made up from 18 projects, covering biodiversity, community involvement, access, local history, economic regeneration and education.
Two of the 18 Grow with Wyre projects are linked to provide training for volunteers in butterfly identification in the Wyre Forest - Back to Orange and Branching Out. Back to Orange has received a £74,000 grant from SITA Trust, which is being used by the Forestry Commission, Butterfly Conservation and Natural England for essential habitat restoration work in special areas of Wyre to maintain the strongholds of the fritillary butterflies, including Hurst Coppice, Dowles Brook and the Great Bog near Bewdley.
The Forestry Commission, Butterfly Conservation and Natural England are all closely involved with the Back to Orange Project. Butterfly Conservation has been working with the Forestry Commission in the Wyre Forest since the late 1980s, with work focusing on the survey and monitoring work and management advice.
3. SITA Trust - SITA Trust was set up in 1997 and runs two major funding programmes including Enriching Nature – for biodiversity projects in England. Each year, SITA Trust commits over £7 million nationwide through the Landfill Communities Fund, see www.sitatrust.org.uk. Landfill tax was introduced in 1996 to encourage more sustainable ways of managing waste. The landfill tax legislation also brought about the Landfill Communities Fund. This scheme allows landfill operators to voluntarily donate 6.6% of their landfill tax liability to environmental improvement projects. The Landfill Communities Fund is independently regulated on behalf of HM Government’s Revenue & Customs by ENTRUST.
4. The Heritage Lottery Fund (HLF) awarded a Stage One pass of £1.86 million to the Grow With Wyre’ Landscape Partnership Scheme. HLF enables communities to celebrate, look after and learn more about our diverse heritage. From our great museums and historic buildings to local parks and beauty spots or recording and celebrating traditions, customs and history, HLF grants open up our nation’s heritage for everyone to enjoy. They have supported more than 33,900 projects, allocating £4.4billion across the UK. Website: www.hlf.org.uk
5. GrantScape – GrantScape has a twelve-year environmental and community grant-making heritage. It is also a major funder of biodiversity projects across England and Wales (see www.grantscape.org.uk). Since 2005, GrantScape has awarded some £10 million through its Biodiversity Challenge Fund to 25 major projects considered to deliver the most significant gains for UK Biodiversity Action Plan (BAP) priority habitats and species. Grow with Wyre’s “Rejuvenating Traditional Orchards, Special Trees and Ancient Hedgerows” project was one of six grant award winners under its 2007 Biodiversity Challenge Fund. The £294,000 grant from GrantScape is also being made available through the Landfill Communities Fund, using monies provided by Waste Recycling Group Ltd.
Bob Griffiths (Wyre Forest Landscape Partnership/Forestry Commission) on 01299-269228 or email email@example.com
Alison Coggon (Administrative Officer - Grow With Wyre) on 01584-813828 or email firstname.lastname@example.org