FOREST schools isn’t just for kids – Tameside’s Wild Ways group is proving how getting out and about in great outdoors can benefit all ages.
The group, run by the Council’s Cultural Services, is aimed at adults with additional needs and is based at the Etherow Centre in Broadbottom.
Six adults, aged from 29 to 60, regularly attend outdoor activities from nature walks, willow-weaving and cooking on campfires to building bird boxes and bug hotels.
At the end of every session they write journals about their activities, which they can then share with family and friends as well as each other, to keep a record of what they have been doing and what they have enjoyed.
Outdoor Arts and Events Officer Lesley Bardsley, who has run the group for nearly four years, said: “The group came about after an adult services review where service users were given more control over their own budgets and given choice about the activities they were interested in getting involved in.
“This group expressed an interest in doing things outdoors and it all developed from there.”
Group members cite “friendship”, “learning new things” and “getting outdoors” as being what they enjoy most about the group.
Lesley said: “Everyone is very supportive of eachother and has their own strengths and characters that they bring to the group.
“Every day they come up with ideas of what they would like to do and then we have a vote so everyone feels like they have been involved in making a decision – something adults with learning disabilities don’t always feel they get to do.
“It always involves getting outside somewhere – sometimes we take a packed lunch and are out all day. The group enjoy recoding their steps on a pedometer and we often clock up over 10,000 steps during the course of our activities.”
The group is supported by regular volunteers , who bring their own skills and personalities to the Wild Ways “family”.
Retired paramedic Alan Isherwoord said: “Volunteering with the group gets me out and keeps me fit. I also like being with people and the enthusiasm of the others just rubs off on you.”
Another volunteer, Keith Pilling, said: “I enjoy being with the group, we have a laugh – everyone has their own personality. You get much more out of it than what you put in.”
For more information on the group and opportunities to volunteer with Cultural services call 0161 342 4144. You can also see countryside volunteering opportunities at http://www.tameside.gov.uk/countryside/volunteering