An ambitious two-year project, spearheaded by Beyond Housing, together with partner groups and organisations, has transformed a neglected area of Loftus into a woodland wonderland.
The £220,000 scheme has transformed a 4.6-acre disused allotment site and has included:
- Daylighting a cultivated spring and the creation of a pond and wetland area
- Planting 400 trees plus hedge and fruit saplings
- Sewing wildflower meadows
- Installing 700 metres of accessible pathways suitable for wheelchair users and wide enough to allow accompanying visitors to walk alongside them.
The aims of the community wood are to improve access to nature by providing a space for people to visit and walk in and provide employment through the Government Kickstart scheme whilst also offering opportunities for community groups and school children to get involved with volunteering activities.
The Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs (Defra) Green Recovery Challenge Fund has sponsored the scheme to the tune of £124,000.
Original match-funding of £20,000 came from Beyond Housing, £50,000 from Groundwork NE & Cumbria, and £30,000 from ESH Construction, which is building 129 homes in the area for Beyond Housing.
The woodland’s creation has also been supported by Loftus Town Council, Redcar & Cleveland Borough Council, Loftus ACCORD Walking Group and Middlesbrough Football Club Foundation.
Partners in the project were recently invited to tour the regenerated area.
James Hayward, who chairs Beyond Housing’s Board, said: “Beyond Housing has invested in a community wood in Loftus to support our community because we believe that not only managing houses is important, but also providing an environment for the local communities to enjoy and this is a fantastic example of that.”
Darren Milne, ESH Construction contract manager, said: “It will be amazing for the new families that are moving into the development that my team are currently building.
“The woodland will provide an area of opportunity for people to come and experience with their families.
“It’s really good for mental health being out in the open air and it will be an excellent place to come to and walk through the trees.”
Sara Sillett, Green Recovery Challenge Fund project manager, said: “It’s delivered on all three of our aims – connecting people with nature, delivering on climate change aims, and creating and retaining jobs; most importantly nine Kickstart trainees.
“It’s been really rewarding to see what’s actually happened on the ground.”
Work on the woodland site included young people undertaking work experience placements with Groundwork NE & Cumbria as part of the government-funded Kickstart training and employment scheme.