Twenty five acres of farmland in Weymouth currently used for cattle grazing, is set to be transformed into a community hub providing ‘outdoor classrooms’, community allotments, environmental training, fitness projects and formal training to help get the unemployed back into work.
A 30 year-long lease for the land, called Tumbledown Farm, has been granted to Groundwork Solent from Weymouth and Portland Council to maintain and transform the space into a dynamic outdoor ‘lung’ for Weymouth and the surrounding area.
Tumbledown Farm is currently privately rented by two cattle farmers and consists of natural grassland and grazing areas, a small woodland and SSSI nature reserve.
Until the lease change the public have had limited to access by the space using the footpaths.
This large-scale project will be shaped by the needs and wants of the local community, including programmes that support the improvement of health and fitness, education, wellbeing and employment.
Toni Powell, Dorset Programme Manager, said: “Our aim is that every visitor to the farm will learn, be inspired and reconnect with the natural world all year round, whether they are visiting as individuals, part of a school trip, coming for a family day out or immersing themselves in community activities.”
“This is such as exciting project for Weymouth and the surrounding area, with the ability to provide a huge range of projects and services to visitors. People can come here to walk and enjoy the landscape and views across the bay or use the land to grow their own food, to learn more about the environment or even to host events here.”
“We want to ensure children, young people and adults gain new skills, knowledge and understanding of environmental issues, with particular emphasis on food growing, healthy eating, conservation and woodland management and developing programmes that can be integrated within the schools’ curriculum.”
Long-term aims for the land are to see an increase in woodland space, the introduction of rare species of animals into grazing areas and major improvements to public access.
Groundwork aims to work with local organisations and community groups, including the Transition Town Group and Weymouth and Portland Council as well as working with neighbouring organisations and schools, giving local children access to the space, new facilities and events. This would include providing weekly and school holiday events such as healthy eating cooking lessons, how to grow a kitchen garden, orienteering, ghost walks, fitness walks, bootcamp activities, den building, nature walks and family picnics.
As well as maintaining the land, Tumbledown Farm currently has unusable outbuildings, which Groundwork has the long-term desire to replace with new buildings which would provide an indoor training centre, public toilets and a cooking and eating area - which would work hand in hand with the allotment and community growing spaces on site.
At a public consultation in November 2013 local residents talked about their aspirations for the space, among the most popular included; environmental education, horticulture therapy, community growing and accredited training opportunities. With the majority of people who attended wanting to volunteer at the farm.
These views have helped decide the initial five themes of projects the farm will focus on;
- developing an outdoor classroom and working with local schools and young people
- providing accredited training for local unemployed people to assist with job seeking
- creating growing and eating projects, such as allotments and a kitchen garden
- improving public access to the land and improving footpaths
- setting up eco-therapy projects to support people with physical and mental health issues, such as a sensory garden for relaxation and bootcamps for motivation.
Work hope to begin on site in early 2015 with a further public consultation aiming to take place by mid 2015.
It is hoped that the public will be able to access the land from April 2015.
Partners / Stakeholders / Funders: Weymouth & Portland Borough Council, RSPB and Weymouth’s Transition Town Group.
Project lead: Claire Salerno
Energy Youth Centre,
79 Leigh Road,
Eastleigh SO50 9DQ
Tel: 02380 642943
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