Royal Opening for Nower Wood
Thursday 20th April 2017
HRH The Countess of Wessex GCVO joined school children on a minibeast hunt at the opening of Surrey Wildlife Trust’s brand new education centre at Nower Wood today.
Her Royal Highness studied woodlice, centipedes and spiders under the microscope, as the Trust’s education team encouraged youngsters from Busbridge Infants School in Godalming to hunt through leaf habitat. She also joined the class to make a bluebell fairy picture out of natural materials, before meeting disabled adults discovering the wonders of the woodland.
The Countess of Wessex also met volunteers, donors and Trust staff, as she toured the new facilities near Leatherhead, before unveiling a commemorative wooden plaque. Her Royal Highness was also presented with a ‘bee hotel’ by the school children, which was made by volunteer Chris Fry.
Speaking at the event Her Royal Highness said: “Some of us had the opportunity growing up to access woodland and wild areas in our childhoods - for that opportunity to be given to children is so important, both for education but also as part of growing up and allowing children to be children – that is something of true value.
“Thank you to all of you for inviting me and for making this all happen and a special thank-you to the volunteers, without whom this place could not function – well done and please keep up the good work.”
The new £1.1m Nower Wood Education Centre houses three spacious heated classrooms, allowing the Trust to expand its programme of educational activities - up to 90 students can now be accommodated at any time of the year.
The Countess of Wessex has a strong interest in provisions for people with disabilities and embracing opportunities for young people. The design of the centre and its surroundings opens up Nower Wood to new audiences, including those with special educational needs and disabilities.
Aimee Clarke, the Trust’s Director of Education, said:
“We were honoured to welcome Her Royal Highness as our very first official visitor. It was fantastic to see her so engaged with the children and she showed a great interest in our outdoor learning activities.
“We hope our fantastic new facilities in the heart of Nower Wood will encourage people of all ages, backgrounds and abilities to come and get closer to nature in such a beautiful woodland setting.”
Victoria Scarborough, a teacher with the Busbridge Infants School group, said:
“We love coming to Nower Wood, it’s just perfect for teaching children about the environment – some learn much better outside than in a classroom. One of the children said today this was the best school trip ever!”
The new centre has been funded by a grant from the Heritage Lottery Fund as well as donations from individual supporters and local businesses, including The Veolia Environmental Trust, Toyota (GB) PLC, Fidelity International, SYSTRA Ltd, Hansgrohe Ltd, Kier Services and Marshall Surfacing.
Nigel Davenport, the Trust’s Chief Executive said:
“We are so very grateful to everyone who has helped us reach our fund raising target – members, volunteers, corporate supporters and the Heritage Lottery Fund have all come together to turn our dream into a reality.
“Education is at the very heart of the Trust and this new centre will help us continue our work encouraging a love and understanding of nature, so that future generations will be inspired to protect it and that is so very important.”
The new Nower Wood centre is situated in 81 acres of ancient woodland, which was bought for use as an educational nature reserve in 1971. The Trust hopes 15,000 visitors of all ages will visit the new centre every year to take part in pond-dipping, bug hunts, wild play, mammal studies and environmental surveys.
Nower Wood also welcomed its first school group this week and is holding family open days this weekend (April 22nd), enabling everybody to come along and see the new centre, take part in wild activities and walk in the stunning bluebell woods.
The Trust is still raising funds to buy wildlife cameras, computers, tools and office furniture for Nower Wood. If you, your business or community group can help with our final push to kit out the centre please contact Tania Ord-Smith on 01483 795469 or email Tania.Ord-Smith@surreywt.org.uk