It's harvest time in The Springhead Trust's productive gardens! We chatted to Edward Parker about the Trust's gardens and how they are helping to encourage children to get back to nature.
Edward has years of experience in the educational and environmental sector, having worked with key conservation organisations including WWF International, Royal Botanic Gardens Kew, the National Trust, and more recently as project manager of the Woodland Trust’s national Ancient Tree Hunt. He is also a published author, photographer, campaigner for the protection of ancient trees, and has delivered environmental education in secondary schools.
Please tell us a bit about yourself and your role at The Springhead Trust
"I have worked in environmental education and campaigning for more than 25 years travelling to more than 50 countries as a photojournalist with organisations such as WWF International. I have been the Director at the Springhead Trust for the past six and half years where I have been helping to develop not only the environmental education activities for visiting school children and adults but also promoting organic agriculture and sustainable living.
Can you tell us a little bit about the history of the charity?
The Springhead Trust was set up in 1973 in memory of the environmental pioneer Rolf Gardiner who lived at Springhead from 1933-1973. In his lifetime he championed organic agriculture and the health benefits of being outside long before the concepts were popular. Over time the various buildings have been converted to be able to receive residential visits from schools and other groups. Today as many as 50 can stay overnight.
Why does the Trust exist and what is your mission?
The Trust’s vision is to provide a space in the Dorset countryside where children and adults of all abilities and backgrounds can come and experience nature and the changing seasons first-hand. The gardens and the wild areas are deliberately managed to support a wide variety of wild plants, insects, birds and animals. The Trust also promotes the growing of organic food in its kitchen garden and champions sustainable living. We have both solar panels and a hydro-generator to produce electricity and rush and willow beds to process our waste-water.
How does the Trust help kids get back to nature?
When children come to stay with us they spend the majority of the daylight hours outside involved in fun activities such as bug hunting, den building, river dipping, and helping in the organic gardens. We also take them on long walks out into a nearby national nature reserve and even go out at night with bat detectors.
What do you feel are the benefits for children when they spend time in nature/ are involved in growing produce?
Children who stay with us for a full week are noticeably different by the end of their stay. They benefit from simply being able to move around and learn at the same time and quickly become able to concentrate and enjoy learning about nature. Being outside close to nature seems to have a calming effect on many of them too. They particularly love pulling up vegetables or harvesting fruit for their meals and this often results in stimulating an interest in trying new foods and learning about where their food comes from. We also find that the large, regular, wholesome meals we provide, along with all the exercise, means that they tend to sleep soundly as well.
How does the Trust include children from disadvantaged backgrounds?
Over the last 30 years the Trust has developed relationships with a number of schools, so that before they visit each year we talk to them about what sort of children are going to be coming and what activities would best suit them. We are a not for profit organisation which means that we can charge a low rate for children to stay and we can also offer subsidies for vulnerable children - it is often these children who will benefit most from a trip away to the country and an opportunity to eat regular wholesome food. For example, more than 50% of the pupils of one of our visiting schools fall into the category “Pupil Premium”. We are able to help subsidise these children (with the help of a charitable trust) allowing us to ensure that all the children have the opportunity to visit and enjoy Springhead.
Please tell us about the project that Frugi will be helping through our Happy Childhood Fund ?
Frugi are helping us to buy equipment that will enable children to take part in practical activities in the garden and in the kitchen, so we can do some field to plate activities that will help children understand how their food is grown and some of the many advantages both to themselves, in terms of health, and to the ecosystem, of eating fresh organically and locally grown food. This will include smoothies and ice creams from soft fruit they can pick for themselves and juicing apples from our new community meadow and orchard.
They'll also be helping us to create a new orchard and wildflower meadow that school children can enjoy.
How can Frugi customers help?
Frugi customers can help by joining us in supporting local farmers (particularly organic ones) and by trying to persuade their friends and families to live a more sustainable, less wasteful and healthier life."
Huge thanks to Isaac and Elliott for being fab Frugi models in our outerwear!