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Hastings Rewild – introducing children to the great outdoors

Hastings Rewild - created by Mark Hutchinson from Shendao Silent Films

In total 185 children from deprived areas of Hastings have benefited from an outdoor adventure project.

Rewild Hastings aimed to introduce children to the local environment through activities such as playing in the woods and over the fields and hills, fishing in the sea and exploring the coastline, alongside an element of conservation work. 

The project ran between September 2022 and March 2023 and included weekly term-time sessions as well as during school holiday.

Project Rewild was given £7,667 by Active Sussex from the Children and Young People Investment Fund to run this project, which meant the 185 children were able to access the sessions for free.

A highlight of the project was that it introduced the children to environments and activities on their doorsteps which they had not necessarily explored before. 

Luke Funnell, director of Project Rewild CIC, said: “Our school holiday beach sessions have offered local children exciting new experiences along the town’s magnificent coastline. 

“Sessions included sea fishing with our professional angling instructor, coastal exploration and education, beach-based crafts, and loads of active play and games on the beach. 

“Despite Hastings being a coastal town, many of the children who attended had never played on the beach in this way, and most had never tried fishing.

“We also made use of the town’s stunning hills and cliffs during this project. 

“We took children exploring and playing over the East Hill and Hastings Country Park. 

“These sessions included lots of walking, running, climbing and playing. Again many of the children involved had never been over these hills.”

Luke added: “We also delivered woodland sessions in the school holidays, as well as our weekly group. 

“The large public woodland in Hollington allowed children to play free and be wild directly in their community. 

“Children kept active by running and playing in the woods and they learnt new skills in bushcraft and archery. 

“The consistent use of the same woodland gave local children a sense of security and belonging to the space and we know that many kids have since explored the woodland without us.”

The children were primary and secondary school age and many of them came from areas of deprivation, including Church in the Wood (Hollington) and North’s Seat (North Hastings). 

Luke said: “The communities we have been working in the most, including Hollington, are in the top 10 per cent most deprived communities in the country. 

“Up to two thirds of children are living in poverty – the recent cost of living crisis is hitting our communities extremely hard.” 

A group of yungh boys running through a woodland in autumn time with lots of fallen leaves on the floor
Exploring local woodland during a Rewild Hastings session. Photos taken by Claire Thompson – Project Rewild CIC

The facts:

  • 31 Rewild Hastings sessions delivered from September 1, 2022 – March 31, 2023
  • 23 weekly after school woodland sessions in Hollington (Churchwood) to 53 children.
  • 8 school holiday sessions in local woodland, the beach and on the East Hill, engaging 102 children.
  • A family day in the October half term saw 30 children and 20 adults take part.
  • Total number of children reached: 185. 
  • Every group delivered in this project was fully booked and had a waiting list. 
  • The after-school group has 29 children on the waiting list at present. 

Sessions included: 

  • Woodland sessions: nature-based play, climbing, exploring, archery, bushcraft. 
  • Coastal sessions: Sea angling, beach craft, beach-based games, and activities. 
  • Greenspace sessions: Classic childhood games, exploration, team activities and play in local green spaces around town. 
  • Conservation work: Elements of physical conservation work will be undertaken in the outdoor spaces we use to help young people build a closer relationship, and take ownership of their local outdoor spaces.
Two youg girls and a young boy watching a man show them how to hook a worm on a fishing rod while kneeling on a stony beach
Children learning to sea water fish at Rewild Hastings. Photos taken by Claire Thompson – Project Rewild CIC

What worked well?

Outside and active: 

The groups successfully engaged nearly 200 local children in exciting and fun outdoor activities. These activities helped children to run, climb, roll, spring, balance, splash, explore and play. Children were being physically active whilst having loads of fun. Parents repeatedly said their children were exhausted after the sessions, but full of exciting stories about the day. 


With this funding Project Rewild was able to run groups almost every week for six months. This consistency allowed many children to go far beyond one-off exciting experiences. Children were able to return again and again, allowing them to make more friends, be more active more of the time, get fit while having fun, and spend more time outside in nature. 

Engaging the targeted community: 

The free term-time weekly group was directly in Hollington. 42 of 53 children who attended this group were from the Hollington area. That is 79 per cent from the targeted area. 

New opportunities: 

The school holiday sessions offered opportunities for local children to discover and explore some of the town’s most magnificent natural spaces. They have been on the amazing coastline, explored the East Hill and Country Park as well as lots of woodland fun. Many children who attended these sessions had never been over the Country Park or spent time playing on the beach outside of the summer months. As well as the wonderful locations, children were given lots of new skills and activities to enjoy, including sea fishing, crabbing, archery, slacklines, abseiling, climbing, bushcraft, foraging and loads of games and play. 


Thanks to the Active Sussex funding, all the sessions were free and accessible. Hastings Rewild specifically targeted key areas of deprivation, especially the Hollington area. Many of the children who attended had Special Educational Needs. Four of the regular children were living in foster care, and many more were receiving Free School Meals. We know from discussions with parents that these groups have been invaluable to them, having free activities in their local community that their children love. Activities which keep their children active and outside instead of indoors on screens. 


The exciting promotional campaign on social media, mailing lists, and posters around town helped with the project’s reach. They particularly targeted the communities they wanted to engage. 

Fur young children balancing on suspended horizontal ropes in the woodland so they can try to walk along them
Children enjoying a balancing activity in the woodlands. Photos taken by Claire Thompson – Project Rewild CIC

Quotes from parents and children who attended the sessions:

“Can’t imagine Hasting’s life without Rewild. First thing I ever dropped my son off at… he loves the energy and all-weather adventures. Big respect to the highly experienced team and what they offer to local children.”

“My nine-year-old absolutely loves the activities and has such a good time. Luke and his team are brilliant. I know I am leaving him in safe hands and he comes home happy and stimulated by the time spent with Project Rewild.”

“I highly recommend sending your child/ren to sessions run by Project Rewild. They give local children the most amazing outdoor experiences, where they learn new skills, knowledge and develop friendships. 

“Luke and his team are fantastic at providing so many activities and both my children thoroughly enjoy each and every one they attend. I feel happy knowing my children will be looked after and will come away with skills I could never teach them!”

“This is an amazing group. My children absolutely love going and have loads of fun outside. They particularly love building campfires and making different crafts and all the games on offer. The leaders are so friendly and care for the children well. I would highly recommend Project Rewild to anyone!

“What an amazing experience. What a lovely group of caring people. All members of Project Rewild team are delivering an incredible learning/life experience for our daughter.”

“The only time I want to leave the house is for this group,” Layla, 12 – November 2022 

“This is the best day of my life,” Kacey, 7 – February 2023 

 “We are so lucky to have Project Rewild in our town. My children always come home tired, muddy and full of magical stories of their adventures. This is what all children should be doing.”

Children and one male adult standong in a large field
Rewild Hastings. Photos taken by Claire Thompson – Project Rewild CIC


Total cost: £7,693.23 

Overspend: £26.17 over the Active Sussex funding received. 

Extra funding: Hastings Rewild had a little extra help with food from Tesco Community Fund as Project Rewild realised extra food was needed for the after-school group as the children were extremely hungry at that time of day. 

What next? 

Luke said: “The Rewild Hastings Project has been a great success. 

“The problem this leaves, is the void created when funding ends. Lots of children have come to love their time in our groups, especially those attending the weekly after school group. Parents often tell us of the positive effects the group is having on their children, for example,  improved confidence, social skills, and reduced anxiety. 

“We know the end of this project is disappointing for many children and parents. 

“At Project Rewild we are actively applying for funding to expand this free community work. 

“We do have a small pot of Funding from ‘Tesco Community Fund’ to deliver sessions in the Easter Holidays. 

“We also have HAF funding for the whole of 2023. 

“We hope that we have inspired children and parents to get outside and enjoy these amazing spaces more often. 

“But we are aware that the wider benefits of group-based work for children, held by experienced professionals, is hard to replicate. 

“We will continue to explore various funding options to maintain this valuable work in our community. 

“We hope to work with Active Sussex again wherever possible. 

“We are grateful for the opportunity this funding gave us, and very proud of what we have been able to achieve for our local community.”

A metal low fire pit with sticks and flames and children's hands ading more sticks to the fire.
Children learnt how to make a campfire during one of the Rewild Hastings sessions. Photos taken by Claire Thompson – Project Rewild CIC
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