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London South East Colleges’ students build their own natural paradise in Bromley

A group of students at London South East Colleges’ Nido Volans Centre have successfully transformed a giant area of wilderness within the grounds of its Bromley Campus into an area of beauty and tranquillity.

At the beginning of the project back in September 2018, it was virtually impossible to get more than 3ft into the wooded area that forms a perimeter to the Colleges’ huge playing field area because of its dense undergrowth. Now, students, staff and visitors can enjoy a long stretch of woodland nature trail taking in a small open-air theatre arena, an outdoor classroom and stunning views that include the Norman Park fishing lake.

This new nature trail is the brainchild of Special Educational Needs and Disabilities (SEND) tutor James Plant who has recently qualified as an Advanced Forest School Association Leader. Forest School is a specialised learning approach that focuses on providing outdoor and woodland education to (mainly) primary, secondary and special needs pupils and students around the world.

Leading his team back into the woods for a further session of clearing, digging, shovelling, barrowing and construction work, James said: “In all my years as a teacher, I don’t think I can ever remember a project that has engaged and captured the imagination of four complete groups of students like this one has.

“On day one, I could see the look of almost foreboding on each of our students faces as we tackled the brambles and forged our way into even thicker jungle. Eventually, however, we got on top of the task and worked relentlessly to clear vast areas ready for the construction of its wood bark pathways, hurdle fences, benches, and kestrel boxes.

“Once this was complete, we then began to restore the woodland to its natural fauna and into a habitat fit for wildlife and people alike. As each day goes by, we all become more and more enthusiastic about the next phase and we are all incredibly proud of our achievements.”

Recently, a member of the SEND team was awarded a cash prize for becoming a staff member of the week back in February. Rather than spending the money himself, he donated it to the students to buy an outdoor, night vision trail camera that can be used to capture videos and images of wildlife. During its first mission, the camera recorded 201 pieces of wildlife footage including badgers, foxes, rabbits, wild pheasants and wood voles.

Introduction to Work student Jack is just one of over 30 young people who have taken part in the conservation project. He says: “I love watching things take shape and this experience has given me so much confidence as well as a greater appreciation of the environment as the nature trail has developed. It’s been a wonderful experience.”

The College would like to thank id verde (the grounds maintenance services company who have the contract with Bromley Council to maintain its parks and open green spaces throughout the borough), and to Dan from Eagle Tree Care for the valuable help, advice and donation of materials for the project.

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