A new social enterprise, developed by charity Small Woods and Telford & Wrekin Council, will help to look after some of the 500 hectares of council-owned woodlands and use them as venues for social, craft and training activities that boost people’s confidence and wellbeing.
Small Woods, which will manage the enterprise day to day, already looks after Nedge Wood and has done a lot of work in Telford Town Park, Stirchley, Priorslee Flash, Hinkshay Mound, Lloyds Coppice, Cherry Tree Hill and Tweedale Wood. In addition the charity manages the Coalbrookdale station site and surrounding woodlands.
The £80,000 Telford 50 Legacy funding confirmed this month will mean the charity can now set up the social enterprise, which it hopes will be up and running next year. The enterprise is one of a number of schemes being funded from the £2m legacy pot that help to tackle key social issues in the borough that are.
Ian Baker, Chief Executive of Small Woods, said: "We have a long history of managing woodlands in a sustainable way that benefits wildlife and involves communities. This enterprise will help us to reach out to more people and also improve the life chances of vulnerable people in our communities. Bringing everyone together to enjoy our woodlands, take responsibility for local woods and learn new skills are what this is all about.
"We will use traditional crafts to create woodland products that generate income for the enterprise to help it grow. As a registered charity, we will also have access to other funding streams to help us deliver our ultimate objective, which is to work with the council to look after our woodlands for the benefit of everyone.”
Cllr John Minor, Telford & Wrekin Council cabinet member for green spaces and parks, said: "This is an exciting venture that creates an opportunity for us to transform the way we care for our woodlands, combining traditional woodlands management with providing social benefits that have people and their wellbeing at heart. As local authority budgets get smaller, these sort of partnership initiatives are increasingly important.”
Now the funding is in place, Small Woods will work with the council to scope out the structure and remit of the social enterprise which aims to officially launch by summer 2019.