Our vision is that people can access real-world practical learning from a young age, complementing primary and secondary education to boost their future employment opportunities. Our steam railway offers that central focus. We provide a broad range of educational activities for young people to get outside and active!
We are currently implementing our Centenary Development Programme to increase youth engagement, expand our practical learning activities, and increase the community involvement in what we do. If you would like to know more about our Centenary Development Programme please click here.
Part of this programme is firstly establishing new roots!
The village of Colwall has a rich tradition of fruit orchards. Orchards provide a perfect environment for people and nature to co-exist. Within our development programme, we are required to plant new fruit trees to compensate a set of trees we felled in December 2020. We do not want to stop there though. We wish to use this requirement to enhance environmental awareness in young children and increase the involvement of our local community.
We plan to create practical learning activities for young people to help re-establishing a full fruit orchard and increase our site's biodiversity.
Beyond Establishing New Roots, we aim to expand the activities on the Downs Light Railway to enable more children to be involved in practical learning. Getting them hands-on, provides them with a whole range of skills that is highly sort after in industry. Our Centenary Development Programme aims to achieve exactly this, by establishing better facilities and linking with businesses and charities at a national level.
We are leading on a national youth engagement initiative with key businesses in the commerical and heritage railway industries. Our initiative already has representation from:
- Heritage Railway Association
- Ravenglass and Eskdale Railway
- Chris Vine of Peter's Railway
- North Yorkshire Moors Railway
- Bluebell Railway
- Nene Valley Railway
- The Downs Malvern
- North Eastern Locomotive Preservation Group
- Wansford Miniature Railway
- Hereford Society of Model Engineers
- North Norfolk Railway
- Boiler and Engineering Skills Training Trust
- Young Rail Professionals
Before the COVID-19 pandemic, the UK was facing a major skills shortage in key industry sectors. There has been a growing call from national bodies for greater engagement of young people in STEM related subjects. Heritage railways contribute over £250M to the UK economy each year from tourism. COVID-19 has accelerated this shortage even further.
Our patron, The Lord Faulkner of Worcester highlights:
"The Downs Light Railway Trust is an excellent initiative which gives young people the opportunity to become engaged in really worthwhile practical activities of the sort that are vital for our nation's engineering, technology, and science industries. Like many others, the heritage railway sector depends for its future on the commitment and involvement of today's youngsters and it cannot afford to see any diminution or loss of skills."
Patrick Keef, Managing Director of Alan Keef Limited, a light railway company in Herefordshire with a worldwide reputation, affirms that:
"Anything that enthuses youngsters to get involved in engineering and technology generally, and railways big or small specifically, should be encouraged!"
Chris Vine, author of Peter's Railway book series explains that:
"Railways are a perfect short-cut to so many other aspects of science and industry. The chance to offer the children real practical skills is such a great opportunity for them. Thinking about problems in science and engineering is made so much easier with a practical/physical understanding, and this is sorely lacking in UK education in recent years."
The COVID-19 pandemic has adversely impacted many groups, with a growing concern for mental health and well-being. Young people and the elderly are two key groups that have suffered from major disruptions to their education and shielding respectively. There is a need for outdoor community events where social distancing can be achieved and where people from all ages can come together to strengthen the resilience of society. Simply seeing another face with a smile is often all it takes to raise one's spirit.
To get Establishing New Roots underway , we have entered into an informal partnership with the Colwall Orchard Trust, another local charity, who can support us with the necessary expertise and competence to plant and sustain a traditional fruit orchard. The aims of this project are:
- To create a series of educational activities from re-establishing our orchard for local schools to get involved in.
- To create annual community events from pruning and harvesting.
- To integrate this initiative with our existing activities. Using our steam railway, the children can to transport the arisings and fruit in our carriages. This will make the whole activities a lot more fun for both adults and young people.
- To get young people and adults working together for mutual benefit.
- To promote and enhance the natural environment around us.
- To promote our wider development programme, vision, and mission.
To realise this project's aims, we plan to spend the initial funding target on:
- Earth moving equipment
- A wide range of fruit tree and associated equipment
With the equipment and trees purchased, we can bring the community together to help complete preliminary earth works. This will prepare the site in readiness for constructing two new buildings in a few years’ time and allow the biodiverse environment to establish itself.
We will then organise educational activities with our members and local schools to learn how to plant the new orchard with the fruit trees we have purchased. This will be the opportunity for young people to learn about orchard growth and ongoing management.
Over the next few years as the fruit yields increase, the local community can join us in a wellness events to help the children harvest.
We take fundraising very seriously. To enhance confidence in what we do, we are registered with the Fundraising Regulator, and signed-up to their Code of Fundraising Practice and Promise.
All further donations beyond the initial fundraising target will go towards are wider Centenary Development Programme. Every donation made during this crowdfunding project will also be eligible for our donor reward scheme.
Thank you so much for taking the time to read through this fundraising page!
Together we can get children active, learning, inspired, and positioned to enter adult life prepared. Our future is in their hands!