Countryside Trainees (Kickstarter apprentices) have got straight to work on a Torbay project which was awarded £223,300 a few months ago.

Ten new apprentices – known as Countryside Trainees - have got straight to work on a new project for Torbay which aims to improve the local environment, making it more widely accessible for the public, while creating a range of educational opportunities and job vacancies.

The new Westerland Valley project is being delivered by environmental charity Groundwork South working with Torbay Council and SWISCo and will provide four new jobs and nearly 40 volunteering opportunities in the Bay. It’s being funded by the national Green Recovery Fund, with £223,300 awarded to Torbay Council to work with partners on the scheme.

A former reservoir bought by the Paignton Waterworks Company in 1890, Westerland Valley is a hidden gem, off the Kings Ash Road in Paignton, next to the Great Parks Community Centre and a short step away from a local housing estate. It’s home to Brown Hairstreak Butterflies, Greater Horseshoe Bats and 24 species of bird.

Work completed so far by the Countryside Trainees at Westerland Valley includes installing planters, clearing overgrown areas (including revealing a historic wall at the former reservoir), making ‘hibernaculars’ (creating areas of grass with holes in for slow worms to use), creating a large compost bin, planting trees, and other projects will include a ‘spiral effect’ wildflower meadow. In the summer there are also plans to recruit volunteer ‘River Rangers’ who will help monitor water quality among other activities. All of the activity aims to improve the local environment, make it more accessible and increase biodiversity.

What do the Countryside Trainees themselves say?

The Countryside Trainees are on six month Kickstarter placements and are at different stages of their placements.

Elliott Aldred, aged 20, has been a Countryside Trainee for five months and has one month left to go. Elliott said: “I’ve really enjoyed working here and it has given me a lot more confidence. I joined in December 2021 and I’ve worked with my team to help make the north reservoir more accessible and a lot tidier. This means that when it’s more rainy and muddy, it allows for more room for footing when traversing down into the north reservoir. Other jobs have included clearing off ivy from our cobbled wall.”

Fellow Countryside Trainee Jade Smith, aged 19, said: “I’ve only been doing this for two months so far but have already helped created the compost bin and put in the planters.”

Kelsey Batt, aged 21, who is also a Countryside Trainee, who has also been working at Westerland Valley for two months, said: “It’s my first ever job but I love working down here, it’s like a family here and we all get on so well. I would definitely like to do something similar to this when I move on.”

Steve Darling, Leader of Torbay Council said: “We are delighted that Torbay has been chosen for this project and its fantastic news for the Bay. We are committed to improving our open spaces and working with local and national partners to tackle climate change, as well as involving the local community, so this project ticks a lot of boxes for us. It is also brilliant that this scheme will give much needed jobs and training to Torbay’s young people. We look forward to working with Groundwork, SWISCo, and all of the Westerland Valley staff and volunteers.”

Darren Cowell, Deputy Leader of Torbay Council said: “Our Community and Corporate Plan outlines our ambition to become a Carbon Neutral Council and work with others to create a carbon neutral community. This is one of a number of council backed projects that will help towards this aim and also demonstrates our commitment to further engagement with the local community.”

The Green Recovery Fund which is administered by the National Lottery Heritage Fund, Natural England, Forestry Commission, and the Environment Agency, aims to support nature-based projects to tackle climate change, restore nature, and connect people with the natural environment, all the while kickstarting a green recovery through the creation and retention of ‘green’ jobs across England.

Christopher Smith, Countryside Development Manager for Groundwork South commented, “We are very excited to have been awarded this funding boost for Paignton and look forward to working with Torbay Council and a range of partners to help secure a greener future for Torbay”.

Pictured left to right: Countryside Trainee Elliott Aldred, Emily Tyak from Groundwork South, Countryside Trainee Kelsey Batt, Davina Luther from Groundwork South, Christopher Smith from Groundwork South, and Countryside Trainee Jade Smith. Photo courtesy of Sofia Berardino, Countryside Trainee.

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