Perth and Kinross Countryside Trust (PKCT) has received a three-year grant from The Gannochy Trust to help fund a new Discovery Learning and Engagement Officer post, for which Catherine Leatherland was appointed in 2022. The funding will enable PKCT to provide a dedicated outdoor learning and development resource for the community of Perth and Kinross, with a focus on young people. Additional funding was provided by the Forteviot Trust.
Catherine Leatherland is passionate about her new role and the positive impact the countryside can have on her local community. She also believes raising awareness of countryside and conservation issues is key to its long-term preservation.
Catherine said: “Our vision is to get more people into the countryside, so they engage with and appreciate the natural environment. If people love the countryside, they’ll want to protect it. During Covid we saw more people exploring their natural surroundings and this has resulted in an increase in demand for countryside education at a time when resources have dwindled.
It is critical we make the most of the public’s renewed interest in nature, which is why the Gannochy Trust’s grant came at just the right time. For the next three years, PKCT can dedicate time to providing education and outreach opportunities and improving access to the countryside for all people across the region.”
PKCT is also aware that engaging young people is a key driver to protecting the natural environment in the future. To this end, PKCT spend a lot of time developing outdoor learning programmes for local schools. These programmes are not only a useful education tool, they play a major role in enhancing young people’s academic and personal development, as well as having a positive impact on their wellbeing.
PKCT have implemented a range of innovative projects with young people, including their Highland Primary Schools Birdbox Project. In partnership with GreenTweed Eco, 350 birdboxes have been made and delivered to every primary school in the highland Perthshire region. Teachers have also received a digital resource pack to accompany the learning. By regularly monitoring the boxes, the pupils can learn more about wildlife and the habitats they live in.
PKCT’s ‘Tree for every child in Perthshire’ is another ambitious outdoor education programme which hopes over the years to plant thousands of trees with, and for, the children of Perth and Kinross. As well as providing the opportunity for children to experience tree planting and to make connections with nature, the project has a positive impact on conservation by helping combat climate change and biodiversity loss. The pilot phase of the project came to an end in March 2023, with a total of 606 trees planted, and around 168 children from five different schools taking part in the full programme.
Catherine said: “Working with young people is not only a joy, it’s an important step in our journey to engage the public. As well as primary schools, we work with a range of youth groups across the region including the Scouts and The Strategic Youth Work Partnership. Our message is that young people can and should have access to the countryside and be able to play an active role in the protection of our wild areas, not only for their benefit, but for future generations.
We also work hard to provide engaging and enriching learning environments for young people. This is why the development of our volunteering programmes is so important. We have plans to develop our volunteering opportunities to enable people of all ages to play an active role in local countryside conservation.”
Over the next three years, Catherine Leatherland and her colleagues at PKCT will continue to develop a range of programmes to further PKCT’s aims to improve education and community engagement in countryside access and conservation issues, as well as continue to harness public support for the future preservation of these precious community areas.
Photo credit:©Ian Biggs