By Toby Porter
Hundreds of young people from deprived areas will get hands-on experience of nature conservation, boost their job prospects and help maintain green spaces.
The Urban Ranger project will give 10 to 21-year-olds from Merton the chance to take part in activities such as creating wildlife habitats and community orchards, installing ponds and managing native woodlands.
The scheme, run by staff at the National Trust’s Morden Hall Park – a 51-acre site on the banks of the River Wandle – will also allow young people to gain qualifications while boosting their mental health.
It’s made possible thanks to a £130,400 grant over three years from City Bridge Trust, the City of London Corporation’s charity funder, which gives out £25 million a year to good causes across the capital.
City of London Corporation City Bridge Trust Committee Chairman Dhruv Patel said: “Being out in the open air, getting close to nature and learning about the natural world is something that’s of great value for the physical and mental health of young people.
“This scheme will have the twin benefits of helping young people to get on in life and helping to look after the green spaces which I’m sure people in Merton value more than ever after a year of Covid restrictions.”
The Urban Ranger scheme will give young people the chance to create or improve seven community green spaces a year near Morden Hall Park.
It is being run in conjunction with Tooting & Mitcham United Football Club and the south London-based training provider Beats
Learning, and will provide the opportunity to earn qualifications through the education charity AQA.
Senior Programming and Partnerships Co-ordinator at National Trust Morden Hall Park David Coughlin said: “This scheme will make a real difference to the lives of young people from some of the most deprived parts of Merton, improving their employability and boosting their confidence.
“When we’ve run similar projects before, there’s a massive difference in the young people we work with. They tell us the skills and experiences they gain give them the confidence to take the next steps they want in life.”
‘Being outside and active really helps’
Veru started off as a volunteer co-ordinator for the Community Kitchen Garden at Morden Hall Park, and has gone on to do further work at Morden Hall Park and for the National Trust centrally.
She also became an Urban Ranger after handing over the kitchen garden to another volunteer.
She said: “I started volunteering in February 2018 to alleviate mental health issues – being outside, active and just doing something really helps, so much so that my episode occurrence has decreased from once a fortnight to once every few months.
“Through seeking to decrease frequency of my own mental health episodes, I have improved the Merton community’s access to a kitchen garden, making it an easy and relaxing place for everyone to use.
“Already the Community Kitchen Garden has improved my own quality of life, become a learning space for scores of people from all walks of life, and is bringing the community closer to nature.”
More information about the National Trust’s Morden Hall Park is available online at www.nationaltrust.org.uk/morden-hall-park
The City of London Corporation’s charity funder, City Bridge Trust, is London’s biggest independent grant giver, making grants of over £25 million a year to tackle disadvantage across the capital – www.citybridgetrust.org.uk
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