I OPENED my mail the other day and, to my complete surprise, there was an award certificate. It was an award from Bristol Council’s Better Together Project. The award was for my many years’ commitment to work to improve the life of children and young people and their families in Bristol.
I have worked with Russell Henderson and his team for many years, mainly in partnership with Orchard School Bristol, helping young people who are in a disadvantaged position.
Kids really benefit from coming to Stoke Park for activities like bushcraft or wildlife walks.
The most exciting thing we do is a daytime ghost walk. We go to one of the woods, where there is a monument, at Stoke Park. We stand there and I tell a tale of the ghostly goings-on in the park. Out come their cameras to see if they can capture an image of a ghost. As they are taking pictures I hide behind a hedge without them seeing me. I rattle a hedge and whisper something that always gets them going. They leg it, screaming “A ghost, run”.
Being in an outdoor environment is without doubt the best way of helping youngsters who are struggling with various issues. Imagine being that age again and having self-doubt – you do not have the communication skills or confidence to ask for the help of an adult, so how do you express yourself?
More often than not children will go in on themselves and shut out the outside world, as I did as a kid.
Organisations such as the Better Together Project and schools and youth groups love coming to Stoke Park. Their highly-trained staff encourage close working relationships with the children, and explain to them that making mistakes in life is essential and that they should not be afraid of failure. I do not know of any person who was born a winner – I certainly was not.
Working with young people is the most rewarding job possible. When you see them at primary school and support their development until the time they leave school and go on to college and then on to employment, it is one of the most satisfying things a teacher could imagine. That is why teachers are teachers.
Please log on to my website www.steveengland.co.uk
Steve England is a Royal Horticultural Society horticulturist, amateur naturalist and chairman of the Stoke Park steering group. He lives in Lockleaze and has spent much of his life at Stoke Park, from playing there as a boy to studying its history, wildlife and prehistoric past.
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