Archive for the ‘Hidden Voices’ Category

Hidden Voices: An Overdue Post After a Busy Summer, by Caroline Bennett, Education Officer

Wednesday, September 12th, 2012

‘Hidden Voices’ is an inspiring project being run by that participation and learning team at Westonbirt, The National Arboretum, engaging community groups in environmental issues. The Macular Disease Society, Asian women’s group, Awaz Utaoh, and Bristol Drugs Project will develop their personal connections with Westonbirt and ‘raise their voices’ to show why an arboretum may be relevant to their lives.

Autumn is peeping at the gates here at Westonbirt Arboretum. It has been a busy, family-focused summer. As well as running our family events for the general public throughout the school holidays we have been fitting in our regular visits from our three groups of participants.

The Macular Disease Society group made coasters from Westonbirt wood, and they helped us to create the wording for our 12 new tree labels. The labels will be on twelve trees that the group chose for their different sensory qualities. They are bigger than our standard tree tags and have black writing on a yellow background, which is what the group recommended to us as most accessible to them.

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Bristol Drugs Project participants were invited to come to a family day, where they could bring their children to share Westonbirt with them. Activities included den building and a walk with lots of sensory and nature activities. We had the benefit of meeting some new participants on this day, who would not normally be able to take part in the practical sessions due to family commitments. Below are two sisters taking their mum to “meet a tree”, an activity the adults had done with us before but the children were keen to share.

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Awaz Utaoh had chosen to avoid a visit during Ramadan to respect those members of their group who were fasting and so a family day was organised after Eid at the end of August. We met lots of children and grandchildren of group members and some husbands, cousins and even their Police Community Support Officer came too!

A well packed day, it featured tree food tasting (an activity we had run before and that they requested we repeat with the children), willow hurdle making, walking stick decorating, clay leaf tiles and a walk in the arboretum. Below are two of our regular participants with some of the younger people who visited for the day.

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Useful links
Find out more about the Communities in Nature project
Information about Westonbirt’s Learning and Participation Team

Hidden voices: Two visits – one crazy, one productive, by Caroline Bennett, Education Officer

Monday, May 28th, 2012

‘Hidden Voices’ is an inspiring project being run by that participation and learning team at Westonbirt, The National Arboretum, engaging community groups in environmental issues. The Macular Disease Society, Asian women’s group, Awaz Utaoh, and Bristol Drugs Project will develop their personal connections with Westonbirt and ‘raise their voices’ to show why an arboretum may be relevant to their lives.

The past few weeks have been very busy indeed and we have hardly had time to update our side of the blog, despite lots happening here at Westonbirt Arboretum.

We had a fairly challenging day on the 9th of May when on the morning of the Awaz Utaoh visit we discovered that local work in the village of Westonbirt meant we had no electricity on site (and the knock on effect of no running water too) for the entire day.

Despite this, we managed, with the help of a petrol stove to make everyone a cup of tea, used buckets of water to wash hands and just had to cope without flushing toilets! The group went on a trailor ride around Silk Wood, at which point it started to rain fairly heavily – photo evidence below!

By the end of the day everyone had had a chance to dry off in our undercover area and the ladies made some beautiful painted coasters using Westonbirt wood and had a tree food tasting session which was greatly enjoyed! Elderflower cordial was the definite favourite.

The second visit on the 17th of May was with the Bristol Drugs Project. The group did some creative writing / photography and a little natural art with Chris and continued with their Laurel coppicing in the other half of their day. The group were very enthusiastic about the felling of the Laurel (and became highly efficient at it) which was reflected in their feedback at the end of the day!

And as a final note, I can’t resist sharing this beautiful poem one of the BDP participants wrote whilst working with Chris on creative writing in the arboretum:

The tiny wren playing hide and seek,
The tree lined path it’s secrets keep,
The inner child in me awakes
and makes a chain of daisies,

The connection to the earth is strong,
Among these trees with shadows long,
It grounds and calms my healing soul
and silences the crazies.

Fallen branches in the grass,
Like antlers from a deer,
It’s easy to imagine now,
The fairies playing near.

And lying here on dampened grass,
I’m hypnotised by music,
I feel the turmoil slowing now,
The trick is not to lose it!

Hidden Voices: three very different first visits, by Caroline Bennett, Education Officer

Wednesday, May 9th, 2012

‘Hidden Voices’ is an inspiring project being run by that participation and learning team at Westonbirt, The National Arboretum, engaging community groups in environmental issues. The Macular Disease Society, Asian Women’s group and Bristol Drugs Project will develop their personal connections with Westonbirt and ‘raise their voices’ to show why an arboretum may be relevant to their lives.

The last two weeks have been very productive for the Hidden Voices Project here at Westonbirt. We have had the initial visit for each of our three participating groups.

The Macular Disease Society were the first to visit Westonbirt and Chris led them on a sensory walk around the arboretum and created leaf sculptures using willow.

Macular first visit
The Bristol Drugs Project worked on some pratical woodland management, coppicing laurel and had a guided activity walk with hands on activities such as “meet a tree” pictured below!

meet a tree
Awaz Utaoh enjoyed seeing the spring colour in the arboretum and they worked to produce handmade paper and willow butterflies.

Awaz Utaoh first visit group
Each group has different interests and reasons for visiting the arboretum. It has been a promising start to the Hidden Voices project. We look forward to continuing our work with all of them.

Useful links
Find out more about the Communities in Nature project
Information about Westonbirt’s Learning and Participation Team

Hidden Voices: forms for all, by Caroline Bennett, Education Officer

Tuesday, May 8th, 2012

‘Hidden Voices’ is an inspiring project being run by that participation and learning team at Westonbirt, The National Arboretum, engaging community groups in environmental issues. The Macular Disease Society, Asian Women’s group and Bristol Drugs Project will develop their personal connections with Westonbirt and ‘raise their voices’ to show why an arboretum may be relevant to their lives.

Before the project could start, there was alot of work to do behind the scenes in preparation.

Consent forms adapted to the different needs of each group
Consent forms went out to groups with slight adaptations for particular needs:

* The Macular Disease Society group informed us that they find it easier to read black print on a yellow background with at least a 24 font size print.

* The Awaz Utaoh (“Raise Your Voice”) group are using their own translators to help their participants fill in the consent forms and requested tick boxes to speed the process up. They say it can take up to an hour to complete each form, making sure the group members understand what they are signing up for.

* Some of our participants may need to protect their identity so we have separated the photo and film consent from the quotes and comments. This way we can still gain valuable feedback and evidence from those group members.

Useful links
Find out more about the Communities in Nature project
Information about Westonbirt’s Learning and Participation Team