Communitree project – connecting people with nature

Communitree project - connecting people with nature

Danny English is a remarkably determined individual who says he wants to, "get people into woodlands and to help them connect with themselves and nature." He's not just about theoretical ideas but initiates dozens of events on a semi-commercial basis at a site called "The Island" in Summerseat, Lancashire, near to Ramsbottom. For example, he organises "Nature art", forest school and play-based learning around stories. One of Communitree's most popular activities is children's parties - these are typically for 10-15 visitors and last for 2-3 hours by which time everyone is exhausted and muddy but they have, hopefully, got closer to nature. Such parties include games, woodland art, cooking and eating a meal with chilli and bread cooked or heated on a fire. They had four parties scheduled for the weekend when I met up with Danny and he's also organised woodland weddings which he says are very "earthy and memorable".

The idea for Communitree sprung from Danny's background as a graduate of Outdoor and Environmental education at Liverpool University, which inspired him to base his project at "The Island" woodland - which was council owned but now belongs to the village, The community have been totally integrated with the work and have even helped plant an apple orchard and created raised flower beds. When it's raining Communitree sets up a 6 metre tarpaulin to make a dry space for cooking, washing and camp craft. Although the site is 12 acres in total, the Communitree Initiative is able to do most of its activities in the 2 acres which it controls, demonstrating how much can be done in a small woodland.

Problems with vandalism have been the most difficult part of Danny's project, but he home in on the perpetrators: "my strategy has been to engage with the people who did it and we succeeded in getting them involved. They ended up helping with the site maintenance. I told myself these people at least want to be in the woods - they just don't know how to engage."

Communitree has an inspiring website at www.thecommunitreeinitiative.com which explains their vision for what can be done in local woodlands and they believe that "people grow healthier, wiser and more content when they feel part of a strong community and realise their deep connection with nature."

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Hi Angela,
I’m also looking for a small woodland for the same reason as Danny. We have moved too far away from nature and need to reconnect with it. I also live in Bristol and would be interested in hearing from you. There may be a way of getting round the covenant by buying a mixture of pasture/meadow plus woodland. Hope to hear from you.


24 March, 2016

Hi Angus and Danny,
What a fantastic project.
I am setting up an outdoor education project here in Bristol. It might be more meadow and less woodland round here but I am inspired by your account. The problem I am encountering with woodland is the covenant and ability to do regular as opposed to occasional work with children in the woodland – the hypothetical woodland! I am looking to buy at the moment.
Keep up the great work!

angela hill

17 March, 2016