HRH Countess of Wessex was in Surrey today to open a new £1.1million education facility for Surrey Wildlife Trust at Nower Wood. The Countess took the opportunity to take part in several tasks; including looking through leaf habitat alongside pupils from Busbridge Infants School near Godalming, who were being encouraged by the Trusts education team. She also joined a class making a bluebell fairy out of natural materials before joining disabled adults discovering the wonders of the woodland.
As she toured the centre near Leatherhead, she met Trust staff, volunteers and donors before unveiling a commemorative wooden plaque, the Countess, in turn, was presented with a “bee hotel” by the school children which had been made by volunteer Chris Fry. The Countess spoke at the event and said: “Some of us had the opportunity growing up to access woodland and wild areas in our childhoods – for that opportunity to be given to children is so important, both for education but also as part of growing up and allowing children to be children – that is something of true value.
“Thank you to all of you for inviting me and for making this all happen and a special thank-you to the volunteers, without whom this place could not function – well done and please keep up the good work.”
The Countess of Wessex has a strong interest in provisions for people with disabilities and embracing opportunities for young people. The design of the centre and its surroundings opens Nower Wood to new audiences, including those with special educational needs and disabilities. The centre houses three spacious heated classrooms, allowing the Trust to expand its programme of educational activities – up to 90 students can now be accommodated at any time of the year.
Aimee Clarke, the Trust’s Director of Education, said: “We were honoured to welcome Her Royal Highness as our very first official visitor. It was fantastic to see her so engaged with the children and she showed a great interest in our outdoor learning activities.
“We hope our fantastic new facilities in the heart of Nower Wood will encourage people of all ages, backgrounds and abilities to come and get closer to nature in such a beautiful woodland setting.”
The new Nower Wood Centre is situated in 81 acres of ancient woodland, which was bought for use as an educational nature reserve in 1971. The Trust hopes 15,000 visitors of all ages will visit the new centre every year to take part in pond dipping, bug hunts, wild play, mammal studies and environmental surveys. Nower Wood also welcomed its first school group this week and is holding family open days this weekend (April 22nd), enabling everybody to come along and see the new centre, take part in wild activities and walk in the stunning bluebell woods.