Warwickshire woodland revamp to offer education for children and retreat for dementia sufferers

A unique Warwickshire woodland area is to be officially re-opened this week after extensive renovation, which will restore the woods as an environmental education resource for local schoolchildren but will now also enable people with dementia and their carers to use it for calm relaxation.

Local volunteers from Age UK Warwickshire, aided by teams from local businesses spent the winter and spring with shovels and wheelbarrows, clearing overgrown areas and putting down new, safer, paths and re-creating a woodland pond.

The pond alone required 10,000 litres of water to be refilled, which had to be brought to the site in a huge tanker. The volunteers will continue to maintain the woodland once it is re-opened. The revamp was supported with grants from Leamington Spa Town Council and other organisations.

The woodland, Painting’s Plantation, is located in the grounds of Campion School, and was planted in 2000 in honour of the late actor Norman Painting OBE, who played Phil Archer in BBC Radio 4’s The Archers for more than fifty years.

Leamington-born Mr Painting was passionate about trees and finding ways to encourage young people to take an interest with them. He was also Vice-President of the Tree Council, a national organisation which promotes trees in the UK. The Council, together with Age UK Warwickshire and Campion school were partners from the beginning of the scheme.

The woodland contains a wide mixture of different types of trees and bushes, together with walkways and sheltered seating areas. A new highlight of the 1.5 acre scheme will be a sensory garden and pond, which will provide pleasure through sounds and scents to those of all ages.

In addition, the area has been redesigned and refurbished, creating new safe pathways and removing trip hazards, to enable people with dementia to walk round the grounds safely with their carers and enjoy the peace and relaxation the woodland offers.

The woodland has also been planted with wildlife in mind, offering a habitat for many species, including birds.

The garden will be officially opened on Thursday 19th July by popular BBC presenter and journalist Liz Kershaw, who is Patron of Age UK Warwickshire.

Liz said: “I can’t think of a better way of spending a summer’s morning than opening this beautiful woodland. I have fond vivid memories of my primary school teachers taking us into adjacent bluebell woods for lessons on hot summer’s days. So I know the children of Campion School will love this woodland now and treasure the experience for ever. And it will be of great benefit in evoking memories amongst older people with dementia. I know the team at Age UK Warwickshire can’t wait to show people the plantation. It will be such a treat. And now Campion School have another resource to help children love trees. We are so grateful for all of the time and commitment of local volunteers and companies who have made this happen.”

Painting’s Plantation will be officially re-opened by Liz in a brief ceremony being attended by The Leamington Town Mayor Cllr. Heather Calver and representatives from local organisations, the Tree Council and friends of Norman Painting.

Head Teacher, Jassa Panesar of Campion School said: “We are very grateful for this refurbished woodland area in the grounds of our school. It will continue to be a living resource for teaching, especially in the areas of the environment and science. And we are especially delighted that now, people with dementia with their carers will have access to this haven. We would like to thank all those involved for their hard work in all weathers which has enabled this woodland to have a new lease of life.”

This is a great opportunity for people who like being outdoors to come and volunteer.