A group of twelve young people aged 13-16 took part in an exciting wilderness expedition this summer, not in the far flung Highlands of Scotland but closer to home in our very own Surrey Hills! The group, brought together by the Leatherhead Youth Project experienced two days of self-led navigation across 15km of Surrey Hills terrain, undertaking ‘wild’ camping & cooking to complete the very first ‘Into the Wild’ expedition.
Oli Bell, Senior Youth Worker for the Leatherhead Youth Project comments;
“I’m so delighted with the success of this first ‘Into the Wild’ expedition. Watching this group of young people move away from their comfort zones, challenge themselves and come together as a team was inspirational. The aim of the exhibition was to provide each of them with a wilderness experience which would teach them lessons about themselves, each other and the world they live in.”
The group set off from Westcott, with a small amount of equipment to see them through the next few days. The 15km trek took them up into the heart of Winterfold Forest where youth workers led some reflective exercises with them including a 20 minute silent walk.
Oli continues; “The silent walk proved a challenge to some of the group as many of them were used to constant noise and entertainment. Being silent for 20 minutes allowed them to experience nature in a new way, listening to noises and looking around them.”
The group successfully navigated their way through the woodlands of the Surrey Hills, eventually setting up camp at 7pm. Despite being exhausted from a full day of exercise and fresh air the group set up survival hammocks, strung between the trees and set about starting a campfire from flint in order to cook their evening meal.
The next morning the group packed up and set off on their trek again, taking in the views of the Surrey Hills landscape and bonded by their shared experience. Reflecting on their experiences the young people commented;
“Nature is relaxing, the new discoveries are never ending”, “Freedom, destiny, adventure, escaping the ordinary”, “Wild times, exciting, successful, funny”.
This ‘Into the Wild’ two day expedition was made possible by a grant from the Surrey Hills Trust Fund, Leatherhead Community Association and Community Foundation for Surrey. As part of the expedition young people achieved the John Muir Award. An outdoor award based on the foundations of exploration, discovery, conservation and shearing experiences.
The Surrey Hills Trust Fund, established in partnership with the Community Foundation for Surrey, aims to help local communities enjoy the Surrey Hills Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty (AONB) and safeguard its future for generations to come.
Neil Maltby, Chairman of the Surrey Hills Trust Fund comments;
“Many of the young people had never been into the Surrey Hills before and this is exactly what the Surrey Hills Trust Fund is about – encouraging everyone to respect and enjoy the countryside on their doorstep and leave with a passion to protect it. We’re delighted to have played a part in the inaugural ‘Into the Wild’ expedition and hope to see many more like it. Offering young people an experience they don’t usually get is just wonderful.”
To donate to the Surrey Hills Trust Fund, apply for a grant or for further information visit https://www.surreyhills.org/trust-fund/