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Introducing children to the great outdoors in Hastings

Rewild Hastings 2023. Film created by Mark Hutchinson – Shendao Silent Films

Introducing children to the great outdoors in Hastings

Almost 200 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 holidays.

Luke Funnell, director of Project Rewild CIC, explained:

“Through these events we wanted to connect, educate, and inspire young people of Hastings to get outside and get active.” 

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

The project introduced the children to environments and activities on their doorsteps which they had not necessarily explored before. 

Luke 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.

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

Luke said: “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 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.”

One parent described the opportunity as ‘amazing’, adding:

“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.”

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.” 

Although the funding has now come to an end, Luke hopes there will be more free sessions in the future.

Luke said: “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.”

Andy Wright, Strategic Relationship Manager at Active Sussex said how nice it had been to work with the Project Rewild team.

“They clearly work hard to listen to local young people and their families from carefully targeted areas of their community to understand ways of helping them to get more active. 

“They make brilliant use of their natural environment and teach the young people life skills that will help them to stay active and healthy for the rest of their lives. 

“We hope to work with Project Rewild again.”

To find out more about Project Rewild, visit www.projectrewild.co.uk

To read more case studies from projects the Children and Young People’s Investment Fund has supported click here.

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
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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