When you think of Wolverhampton, you might not immediately conjure images of the idyllic scenes found in something like The Wind in the Willows. This might be even less likely when talking about an area like Whitmore Reans, a place that many would sooner associate with stretches of terrace houses rather than grassy riverbanks.
But like many places in our city, it is home to something that you might not expect to find there. That something is the Wildside Activity Centre, a small independent charity that has been operating for the past twenty years. Its aim? To provide outdoor environmental education to the people of Wolverhampton via a wide range of activities that the centre is able to host.
An oasis of nature in the midst of this urban environment, Wildside is quite unique in its location. Situated on the bank of the Staffordshire and Worcestershire Canal, it offers visitors access to a diverse range of natural habitats that include the waterway, as well as surrounding wooded and meadow areas. This enables them to provide a staggering array of activities all designed to get people off the sofa and into the great outdoors.
Such activities include everything from bike rides and canoeing, to pond dipping and treasure hunts. While being fun for visitors, they are also created to educate and inform about environment and conservation issues that affect everyone in the local area, both now and for generations to come. They also boast their very own narrow boat ‘The Trebalisa’ which they are able to operate as a ‘floating classroom’ taking groups out for trips to learn about the natural and social history of the canal. Water way to have a good time!
All this nature on our doorstep is also something Wildside believe should not be the preserve of the few. They have a dedicated team of four part-time and one fulltime staff, plus many volunteers, whose aim it is to deliver this environmental education to the people of Whitmore Reans and beyond. Catering for schools, youth groups, families, private and corporate groups, there isn’t anyone who cannot enjoy the centre. In particular, they are proud of their work with disabled people and those with mental health issues. Even The Trebalisa is set up for disabled visitors ensuring that no one misses out.
And all this isn’t just what they do. They are also running various environmental projects at the same time. At the moment they have an active group of conservation volunteers that are working with the Canal and River Trust to improve the wildlife habitats along the canal. This recent work has seen the re-introduction of water vole into the area, so maybe we will see Ratty and Mr Toad down this way after all! As well as this success, another project has seen the centre recently acquire an allotment that can be used by the local community.
It’s amazing how something as simple as nature can be used to improve the lives of so many people in Wolverhampton. Wildside are making this happen and are also working with organisations such as Creative Black Country, Newhampton Arts Centre, and Whitmore Reans Connect to spread the message and get more people to enjoy this incredible place.
If you would like to find out more about Wildside Activity Centre, or would like to make a booking, call 01902 572240 or email firstname.lastname@example.org.