See the end of this post to watch the film…

In the summer just passed a group of Furness College students came to join us at Great Lindeth Wood for a day to learn about Charcoal burning and immerse themselves in the woods.

This was part of a four-day project, a collaboration between the University of Central Lancashire and the Rusland Horizons Trust. The project aimed to provide the opportunity for some ‘harder to reach’ young people to access the woodland landscape, learn about how it functions and thrives, and how to protect it. The students got to experience ways of being in the woods and reflect on how it felt for them personally, as well as consider the barriers for young people to access woodland for themselves.

The day at Great Lindeth was a chance to see how people live in the woods whilst managing it and making a living from a woodland industry – in this case, the production and sale of charcoal products, by The Natural Charcoal Company, which is run by my partner Darryl.

It was a cracking day with plenty of hands-on work with the charcoal burn, and plenty of kicking back, making tea and chocolate bananas on the campfire, and playing on the slackline strung between two trees in the glade by our caravan. The sun shone and there was lots of good chat and a great vibe. I really enjoyed being with teenagers again, I love them (though I couldn’t eat a whole one!). I used to work supporting teenagers at risk, and it was great to be amongst that energy of theirs again. The group were great, they definitely encountered personal challenges and got stuck in with the practical tasks – and with engaging their brains: thinking, questioning and expressing opinions.

I think it’s easy to assume that young people can access woodland with no problem and not see the barriers they may face. I guess that’s true if they have parents that take them out in the woods, or if they live close to woodland and are independently active and adventurous. A big barrier, that prevented others from the college from joining the project, was (I’m told) that ‘there’s no toilet’ in the woods. There’s also the ‘What do you wear? I don’t even have those clothes!’ and ‘What about the insects and the mud and the wet, and the horror films where bodies get buried in the woods?’ Overcome all that, and you still have the massive issue of a lack of public transport in rural areas to take you to those places.

Anyway, this short film by Rachel Capovila, tells the story of 6 young people from Barrow in Furness and their experience in the woods and how it may have broadened their horizons.

FINAL – BROADENING HORIZONS from rachel on Vimeo.