Students with learning disabilities from Lifeworks College are doing their bit to make some of Dartington’s tiniest visitors feel more at home.
They are supporting the dormouse population on the estate by making nesting boxes – developing new skills and gaining independence in the process.
Lifeworks, which supports children and young people with learning disabilities, is one of over 140 business tenants on the Dartington estate that range from counsellors to illustrators, garden machinery sales to architects.
The estate encourages local groups, schools and training organisations to use the woodland for research and education, and to provide opportunities for the community to be involved in all aspects of the management of the woods through an Estate Environmental Conservation Group.
“The work the Lifeworks students are doing as part of the Dartington Woodland and Conservation programme will help protect one of Britain’s most endangered mammals, whose deciduous woodland and hedgerows habitat are being lost,” said Mike Newby, Dartington’s Amenity Warden, who is managing the project.
“Our woodlands and conservation team are also replanting dormice sites with hazel to give them food and cover from predators. The nesting boxes will provide shelter for these nocturnal animals and a place to rest in a deep sleep state during the day.
“We’re also collecting data as part of the People’s Trust for Endangered Species survey, where volunteers report on numbers and distribution of threatened species across the UK.”
Lifeworks College trainees such as Sam Skinnard are learning to use carpentry tools including electric drills, and all are enjoying the experience. Volunteer Emma Wilson commented: “It’s really fun sawing, drilling and filing the wood down”.
A Lifeworks College teacher said: “It is great news that The Dartington Hall Trust are giving our students the opportunity to participate in such an important project.
“Our students work towards greater independence and building-up their work skills. This project is enabling our students to gain valuable practical woodworking skills as well as encouraging them to work together and gain volunteering hours towards their DofE Bronze Awards.”
All the students are volunteering their time at Dartington as part of their Duke of Edinburgh Award. Dartington’s Volunteer Manager said: “The students are a fantastic group of young people to have around – really enthusiastic”.