St Madoc Centre is a not-for-profit youth camp, usually catering for church and school groups. It is open to children of all ages and all religious backgrounds and is nestled amongst a rich tapestry of habitats including woodland and coastland. The site therefore has a vast array of biodiversity and the centre aims to allow young visitors to experience the outdoors and learn outdoor skills, something that often children, especially from more disadvantaged backgrounds, do not have the opportunity to enjoy at home.
Sarah Leedham, the Environment Wales Management Grant funded post-holder, kindly took us on a tour of the idyllic surroundings, which began in the woodland area of the site. The woodland was not dense and so the light danced through the leaves of the trees and various plants, fresh from their winter sleep, erupted from every nook and cranny. These included fresh, lime-green unfurling ferns and primroses that threatened to reclaim the meandering pathways. We passed a bee hive which an external group currently manages and the group wish to expand this area of activity to provide interpretation for their visitors.
Sarah then led us to a pond area which boasted its own, unique residents and she explained that this area provided an opportunity for children to try their hand at pond-dipping. We then walked past a bird-feeding station, past a small growing area complete with polytunnel and an outdoor classroom, the perfect place for children to learn.
We were then led onto the cliffs overlooking the sea, which was quite a sight after being surrounded by trees for the majority of our journey. Sarah lifted some reptile mats laid along the boundary of a field backing onto the cliff-tops and I saw my first adder – a male in this case, given away by his black markings. Butterflies busied themselves regardless of our clumsy steps, but unfortunately all of the common lizards were alerted to our presence and scuttled from their warm basking spots for cover. Sarah’s keen eye caught site of them but they were too fast for the rest of us to see.
Sarah told us of the centre’s activities and how they are able to support children from low income families to attend the centre with bursaries. The centre can provide a programme of activities for the youngsters, but often they just provide one or two educational activities and then the schools/churches have their own activities planned, set against the idyllic back-drop of the site. It was clear to see not only the educational opportunities in terms of biodiversity, habitats, and food growing that the centre provides, but also the social benefits, with children of all backgrounds being able to play and enjoy the outdoors together, far away from any stresses they might have at home.
We left the centre with a definite feeling of calm, appreciative of having had the opportunity of seeing such a wonderfully diverse site and to help support such a wonderful home for a myriad of small creatures.
Kate Fletcher, Environment