Behind the scenes at Create for Nature in Bickley Hall Farm
- Credit: Steve Ball
Cheshire Wildlife Trust’s Sam Salisbury shares details of a group making great strides in sustainability
When Cheshire Wildlife Trust converted a cowshed at their headquarters at Bickley Hall Farm, little did they know they would breathe life into more than an underused building. That cowshed is now home to Create for Nature, a sustainability focussed social engagement project in a wood working workshop built with the help of volunteers and students from Cheshire College South and West.
This thriving, creative hub is now a place where the trust can work with volunteer groups to design and produce a variety of wooden wonders, including indoor and outdoor furniture.
All of the products are made from trade waste wood, such as pallets and scaffold planks, and are sold with all proceeds funding the Trust's work to protect local wildlife and wild places. This means multiple wins; for the environment, recycling waste and reducing landfill. For the volunteers it's a hub for social engagement. And the county's wildlife benefits too through income generated for Cheshire Wildlife Trust.
What started as a very simple idea two years ago has organically grown and developed in several new and exciting ways - and next year will only improve with several new branches to Create for Nature.
It was following our appearance on BBC's Countryfile that we had a huge upturn in demand for our custom furniture and interest from potential new volunteers who wanted to join us in the workshop to use skills they already possessed and learn new ones. We have also been running weekend courses for the general public, showing them how to make unique items for the home from pallets.
For corporate partners and clients, we've been delivering team-building events, taking teams into the workshop for a day to provide a different environment and experience. Delegates get to know each other better in a creative and collaborative atmosphere. It's a real feeling of achievement to make something from 'nothing', and actually great fun rolling up the sleeves and getting stuck in. As one of the homemade signs in our workshop says, 'Sawdust is woodworkers' glitter'.
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We have come a long way since our beginnings, making a few bespoke orders with modest start-up tools. Some of the money raised has been invested back into the project and we now have a fully kitted-out workshop with everything it needs to create special, professional products. Add to this a growing team of incredibly skilled and dedicated volunteers and we have now the capacity to take on substantial projects and deliver bespoke furniture solutions on a large scale.
You can spot some of our creations at Warrington's new Time Square regeneration in the modern market hall. We worked with our partners at The Welding Academy in Chester to create a variety of metal-framed tables with tops made from reclaimed scaffolding boards. We are extremely proud of the finished tables and are looking forward to working on some more custom-made original products.
We have also created a range of sustainable rustic items to hire out for special events and celebrations. With people becoming more concerned with how they can live every aspect of their lives more sustainably, there is a growing market for everything from green burials to rustic, wildlife-themed weddings.
A wedding is often the most special day in a couple's life, but they can also create a huge level of waste. According to Sky Ocean Rescue, the average wedding is responsible for nearly 20kg of single use plastic. In the UK last year 245,513 weddings took place, resulting in 4,910 tons of plastic waste. For scale, that works out as the same weight as around 800 elephants or 3,000 cars. Considering these kinds of figures, giving people the opportunity to make a positive environmental impact, however small, with their wedding has to be a good idea.
We have created everything from a rustic sweet-cart, 10ft pallet bar, and light-up 'LOVE' letters out of 100% recycled timber. With all proceeds going directly to fund local conservation work, hiring these for the big day contributes to a fantastic day for a couple celebrating their love, leaving a smaller environmental footprint, while also supporting protection and restoration of local wildlife.
A key lesson from the Create for Nature project is people genuinely care about the environment and welcome having a variety of ways they can support local conservation, while also benefitting from being part of a community.
Create for Nature broadens the scope of how people can support us in our work. Whether it's lending their energy and creativity to us in the workshop, making their celebration a sustainable success story, or getting in touch when they want to commission that special piece of furniture for their home or garden.
Create for Nature has only scratched the surface of the potential creative talents people may have to engage with wildlife, with each other and to support conservation work. It's fantastic to think it could grow to include everything from fabric arts and willow weaving, through to blacksmithing and jewellery making, all with the purpose of sustaining the precious wildlife all around us and engaging individuals with nature.
For more information, please contact SSalisbury@cheshirewt.org.uk or visit www.createfornature.com