The Belfast Hills Partnership has been working with young people from West Belfast encouraging them to ‘Go Wild’ and explore the Belfast Hills. The project is funded by the Big Lottery Fund as part of the Our Bright Future programme; a forward-thinking social movement that supports young people to lead progressive change in their communities and local environment. We want local young people to learn about the uplands and encourage a lifetime of respect, safe use and exploration.
The Belfast Hills Partnership youth outreach team have been delivering elements of this programme through the use of the John Muir Award. This award is an environmental scheme focused on wild places which encourages awareness and responsibility for the natural environment in the spirit of fun, adventure and exploration. It is an educational initiative with four challenges at its heart, Discover, Explore, Conserve and Share.
To date over 250 young people have taken part – using the Belfast Hills as their playground, they have discovered the secrets of Cave Hill, found fascinating fossils in Colin Glen Forest, performed a mountain rescue expedition on Divis Mountain, and improved their school grounds by planting native trees and a blooming marvellous wildflower meadow.
Dermot Niblock a teacher at St Gerard’s Special Needs School said “I cannot say how much the pupils enjoyed their experience. They have improved in every area. Exploring the Belfast Hills was brilliant; the leaders were experts and taught the kids so much. The boys say they will remember it forever!”
Lizzy Pinkerton, Scheme Manager with the Belfast Hills Partnership said “taking part in the John Muir Award has been an amazing experience for everyone, not simply helping the young people to appreciate their local wild spaces, but also learning valuable life skills such as leadership, communication and teamwork. We hope that the young people who took part will become future ambassadors for the environment.”