Under the Trees is now branching out

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More youngsters will be able to learn outdoors thanks to a funding boost for a Falkirk company.

Under the Trees has also created jobs thanks to the £66,500 it secured from the Big Lottery Fund’s Young Start, Celebrate, and Awards for All schemes, Falkirk Forestry Commission, and Dr Guthrie’s Association.

Last year the business provided over 700 youngsters with opportunities to learn outdoors.

The money will be used to establish a volunteer training programme and develop two outdoor picnics and four family events in Falkirk as well as organise further outdoor learning activities for children in Falkirk, Fife and Edinburgh over the coming year.

A volunteer development officer post has also been created thanks to the funding. Nicola Henderson took up the position in November and will work alongside UTT’s five sessional staff members and two part-time fixed term workers who also joined the team this year.

To help take on staff, owner Jess Thomson turned to Business Gateway Falkirk for advice to guide her through the recruitment process.

She said: “Creating employment is exciting and scary in equal measure but after we took on larger contracts with the likes of the Woodland Trust, Helix, and Forestry Commission last year I knew I had to expand my team.

“My adviser was really helpful, telling me everything I needed to know which helped me assess candidates and ask the right questions in the interviews.”

“Up until now we’ve focused on providing school aged children and their families with opportunities to learn outdoors. Now, with the funding in place, we can organise events that cover a wider age range and target harder to reach groups. Nicola’s main role will be to develop a two-year volunteer programme for 16-24-year-olds that will provide training and experience that can be used to gain employment as well as assisting UTT with our own development. This will help us reach even more people, and highlight the enjoyment and fun that can be had learning outdoors.”

Carron Smith, Business Gateway Falkirk principal officer, said: “Jess has big plans for her company, which includes expanding into Stirling and potentially creating an outdoor playgroup, which would be the first of its kind in the Falkirk area. With our help she was able to build her knowledge, confidence and understanding of the ins and outs of taking on staff members and has built an enthusiastic and talented team.”

A former Countryside Ranger, Jess, originally set up UTT with the help of fellow Countryside Ranger Steven Gregory in Edinburgh five years ago. After moving back to Falkirk in 2015, she discovered no local organisation offered outdoor learning so she began using the town’s green spaces to teach nursery and school children, and their families, the joys of learning in open spaces.

With funding in place, the organisation is able to offer its fun and educational events – that cover everything from bush crafts to mini-beast hunts and World War II – at a reduced rate and often free of charge.

Jess said: “Our aim is to get as many people as we can outdoors and we have to look at the barriers that prevent people from being able to do that – cost being a large factor. That’s why we apply for funding as it allows us to provide our time and services at either a reduced cost or in most cases at no cost. Funding has helped us get hundreds of youngsters outside, laughing, learning and instilling a love of nature that will grow with them.”

For more information on UTT visit: www.underthetrees.co.uk