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Veteran walnut tree inspires young carers

A brand new interpretation board for a veteran walnut tree designed by young carers has been unveiled in Lydiard Park near Swindon. The tree has been at the centre of a project that helps young carers through outdoor and nature activities in the city.

The Young Carers Nature Challenge asked the group to design an interpretation board about the magnificent veteran walnut and they set about the task with relish.

The veteran walnut tree in Lydiard Park, Swindon
Veteran walnut in Lydiard Park, Swindon

The children explored the park looking for veteran and ancient trees and learned why these trees are so important for wildlife, with all their secret nooks and crannies. They talked about all the things the tree might have seen since it started its life as a simple walnut. Eventually the discussions led into writing poems, drawing pictures, and writing about the many wonders of the veteran tree.

The young carers set to work on the design
Swindon young carers work on the interpretation board

"When we’re at home we hardly get to go out and don’t have a chance to play. So it’s really good to come outdoors (on the YCNC) and have all this space to run around and play in", said 15 year old Laura, one of the young carers. The project aims to give young carers respite from their caring responsibilities by getting them involved in fun, nature-based activities and practical conservation tasks.

Laura, aged 9, a young carer shows off the new interpretation board
Laura, aged 9, shows off the interpretation board

With a bit of tweaking, and some help from the professionals, including Jill Butler of the ATH, the interpretation board was finally unveiled by the Mayor of Swindon, Cllr Mick Bray, on the Swindon Young Carers Nature Challenge Celebration Day, on a cold crisp afternoon in March. The unveiling ceremony was followed by the awarding of certificates, including the John Muir Discovery Award, and the TCV Award for building bat boxes.

Young carers receive their awards at Lydiard Park
Young carers receive their awards

The Swindon Young Carers project has been running for two years, and in this time almost 500 young carers and their families have participated in 130 conservation activity days, working and playing on over 40 different sites in Wiltshire, Somerset, Bristol and BaNES. Sadly, the project has now come to an end but organisers say more funding is being sought.

The Young Carers Nature Challenge is part of the Access to Nature grant scheme managed by Natural England with funds from the Big Lottery Fund. The YCNC teaches young people about the natural world whilst also improving green spaces for local communities. It also gives young carers the opportunity to meet other young people with shared experiences, and make new friends, whilst boosting their confidence and encouraging them to take part in new challenges, say the project's leaders.

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