Review of the Year 2023
14th December 2023
As we draw to the end of 2023, we reflect on the last year, which we know has been a challenging one for many; after the pandemic, we are aware of changing needs in the communities in which we work, as many people struggle with mental health issues and the impact of the cost of living and climate crises. We’re proud of the work we have done through the year to support people to access nature to feel good, adapting our programme to meet the challenges. Here are some of our highlights:
Since 2018, young children living in the Better Start Bradford area have enjoyed forest school activities with us in local woodlands all year round and in all weathers; rain, sun and snow. We’re entering the last few months of the programme now and have totted up that to date we’ve run 53 forest school programmes with 25 different nurseries – thats 553 three-year-olds who have taken part in the past 5 years!
Our Yorkshire moorlands are beautiful, and precious carbon stores which can play a vital role in preventing valley flooding. Last winter, two local schools, Harden and Sandal Primaries joined Sam and Julia on visits to the neighbouring moors, as part of a South Pennines Park project funded by Natural England. With experts on hand, children were fascinated to learn about the rich plantlife that lives there and the conservation work being undertaken on the moors on their doorstep.
In spring we launched the Green Spaces programme, a gardening project to brighten up the area around a Keighley community centre, made possible with funding from the Bupa Foundation. Residents from the Highfield area planted trees and made raised beds to grow fruits, vegetables and herbs, which were then used in the community kitchen. “It is amazing. You have changed the whole look of the centre. People say its more calming. They want to spend time here”
Woodland management work at St Ives estate meant our usual forest school site there was off limits. We moved this holiday club to Blackhills Scout Camp in Bingley. With very wet weather days becoming more common, we were glad of the scout huts to provide some inside space for children to access through the day. We’ll be running at Blackhills again in February as well as Saltaire and a new community woodland in Otley. Check out the February dates here
After five great years at Get Out More, Coordinator Julia Babbitt moved on to pastures new, and we welcomed Sue Barker onto the staff team. Sue started as a trainee on our Outdoor Futures employment course, so we’re thrilled that the experience has led her to a job with us. This year, we also thanked John Hamilton and Rachel Shaw for their sterling service on our board and welcomed Cat Thomas and Shabana Bibi as the new Directors
In the June heatwave, we were pleased to attend the Yorkshire Rewilding Festival in Otley. The event brought together landowners, ecologists and campaigners to network and share ideas on helping nature recovery in gardens, parks and estates. Our Nature Journalling workshop under the trees helped delegates relax away from heat, and reinforce their connections with nature and place.
This year, 57 people have undertaken forest school training with us, including parents from Keighley and playworkers and early years staff from Bradford. In July, Annie ran a programme for teachers at Skelton Grange in Leeds, as part of the Leeds 2023 cultural programme. In 2024 Get Out More will be running its first Level 3 programme, qualifying people to become forest school practitioners
Oh we do like to be beside the seaside! The summer holidays are always a busy time for woodland sessions, with forest schools running throughout the holidays. But blue spaces, as well as green spaces, are good for wellbeing, so Hazel and team led a trip for a group of families and adults to visit sunny Morecambe, as part of our Holiday Activities and Food Programme. For many it was the first trip on a train or to the seaside – we plan to go again next year.
SEPTEMBER: The Outdoor Taskforce continued to meet monthly to develop their skills on environment projects. Amongst coppicing, garden clearance, balsam bashing and hedge laying, group leader Ryan’s favourite task of the year was dry stone walling in September. Working alongside Friends of Park Wood volunteers learnt how to do this traditional skill and the results were impressive. The Outdoor Taskforce will continue in 2024, starting with tree planting in January – join up here
In the autumn, Yorkshire Dales Millenium Trust asked Get Out More to run some wellbeing programmes with people with less access to nature. Sue led a group of young refugees and asylum from Keighley College, who enjoyed a series of outdoor sessions including a trip Gordale Scar. The activities broke down language barriers and helped the sanctuary seekers establish relationships. “Back in my homeland, I had no friends but thanks to this I have lots now.”
Winter can feel like a time for hibernating, but getting outdoors with like-minded adults to learn some skills and share a hot drink around the campfire can do wonders for mood and energy. Volunteers from Missing Peace, a peer support social enterprise in Keighley had a good laugh in the woods with us this November. With CNET funding, we’re starting a new Winter Wellbeing group in January for adults who’d like to fight winter blues outdoors. Its free – come and join us!
This month we received the fantastic news which will mean our programme of community activities and wellbeing events is about to step up a gear. Excitingly, we also have plans afoot to move our office base to somewhere with extra space for community workshops and training. We can’t reveal all just yet, but watch this space!
We’re really excited about what 2024 has in store. Thank you to all our participants, practitioners, partners and funders who have supported us through 2023 and we look forward to seeing you again next year.
We wish you a happy Christmas and a healthy new year!
From all the Get Out More Team