As well as offering a wide-ranging programme of land-based learning for children and young people, the Ernest Cook Trust gives grants to registered charities, schools and not-for-profit organisations wishing to encourage young people’s interest either in the countryside and the environment, the arts (in the broadest sense), or in science, or aiming to raise levels of literacy and numeracy.

Since the ECT is a land-based Trust, work which encourages or ensures the continuation of rural skills and crafts is of particular interest to the Trustees. All applications are expected to link in with either the National Curriculum or with recognised qualifications.

Each year the ECT Trustees give around £1.8 million to support hundreds of educational projects throughout the UK. Click here to download a list showing a selection of recent grant recipients.

A large grants programme for awards of over £4,000 and a small grants programme for awards of under £4,000 operate throughout the year.

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Children make musical connections

Connections (500x333)Gloucestershire schoolchildren joined world-class musicians recently in a creative music project inspired by Stroud and Gloucestershire’s canal and railway heritage.

The Connections project, which was part-funded by ECT, involved 120 pupils from Chalford Hill, Eastington and Stroud Valley primary schools and Tredworth Junior School, Gloucester, in a series of creative music workshops, culminating in a concert performance.

The project started with an ‘inspiration day’ where children thought about what life was like for those who worked on the canals and railways, and listened to classical pieces performed by the renowned Carducci String Quartet.

In later workshops the children produced artwork and creative writing inspired by the music, and were helped to compose their own songs.

Finally, accompanied by the Carducci Quartet and fellow musicians, the children gave a breathtaking performance to a packed audience at Stroud Subscription Rooms.

Photo by Graeme Dougan, courtesy of the Connections project

Latest Grants News

Among our most recent batch of grants awarded in September, there are many education initiatives doing great work, teaching children and young people about nature, the countryside and the environment.

13704-004 (500x333)One particular theme that stands out is gardening – we are currently funding an increasing number of community and school gardening projects, and helping to train young people in horticulture – an industry suffering from real skill shortages. Here are just some examples of the latest ECT grant recipients helping to cultivate our budding young gardeners of the future.

Groundwork Northamptonshire runs a community gardening and wildlife project in Kettering. A £7,400 grant from ECT is supporting the project’s environmental education sessions for schools, teaching children about the environment, wildlife, animal care, vegetable growing and where food comes from.

We have also awarded £6,550 to the Manchester Environmental Education Network to help fund forest gardens for schools. A forest garden recreates a woodland ecosystem through planting fruit and nut trees, shrubs, herbs and perennial vegetables. The grant will help create forest gardens at two local schools and generate curriculum resources.

A £5,000 grant has been awarded to the Cambridge-based Professional Gardeners’ Trust to help young people get the skills and qualifications they need to pursue careers in horticulture.

And £10,000 has been awarded to the historic Swiss Garden at Old Warden Park, near Biggleswade help train apprentices. This Regency garden, modelled on Swiss scenery fashionable in the 1830s, is currently being restored. The project, run by the Richard Ormonde Shuttleworth Remembrance Trust, will offer training in rustic decoration, stone conservation, garden maintenance and horticulture.

ECT has also awarded £8,871 to the Scotswood Natural Community Garden – an area of meadows, woodland, orchards, ponds and vegetable plots in Newcastle-upon-Tyne. The garden is used as an environment education resource for schools and the grant will help fund a part-time education manager and education officer.

In Stroud, Gloucestershire, ECT is funding two gardening projects. £8,500 has been donated to the Stroud Valleys Project to help pay for an environmental education outreach officer. The organisation aims to provide a range of sustainable gardening projects for local schools.

And a £6,371 grant has gone to The Door Youth Project in Stroud to help train young people to become self-employed gardeners. The Door’s new initiative will teach them the horticulture and business skills needed. The ECT donation allows the project to employ a part-time tutor.

Sutton Community Farm in the London suburbs has been awarded £10,000 to help it train apprentices.  This not-for-profit social enterprise is to offer a structured apprenticeship programme, giving trainees the skills and experience needed to manage land to grow a range of crops.

Sunderland-based charity Community Environmental Educational Developments (CEED) received an £8,330 grant to fund environmental education programmes for disadvantaged youngsters. The funding will contribute to training sessions for young people in the environment, conservation, traditional skills, gardening and green woodworking, to give them new skills and help them into further education or employment.


Graduate chooses woodland career path

Young graduate Fiona de Wert has chosen an unusual career – working in a Dorset woodland, learning an ancient rural craft.

Fiona, aged 25, is the first trainee in a newly-funded apprenticeship scheme designed to halt the decline in the traditional rural skill of coppicing.

The apprenticeship is backed by a £1/4m investment from the Ernest Cook Trust, and is run by the charity Small Woods working in partnership with Dorset Wildlife Trust.

ECT’s funding has been granted in perpetuity and will fund the training of a new coppicing apprentice every three years.

Fiona de Wert and Toby HoadCoppicing is a centuries-old and environmentally-friendly way of managing woodland. Trees are cut at ground level causing straight rods to grow, which are harvested to make products such as rustic furniture, garden hurdles and walking sticks.

It has been identified as an endangered rural skill with an ageing workforce and a shortage of new recruits.

Fiona de Wert is part of a new younger generation choosing the woodland as their workplace. She graduated from the University of Exeter’s Cornwall Campus four years ago with a degree in conservation biology and ecology, and has moved to Dorset to take up the apprenticeship.

She will spend the next three years training with coppice and green wood worker Toby Hoad on the Rempstone Estate, Isle of Purbeck. When fully trained, Fiona aims to set herself up as a self-employed coppicer, managing an area of woodland, making coppicing products and selling them.

She said: “I realised after my three years at university that the academic side isn’t for me. The thing that really sparked my interest was being practical, doing things with my hands.

“This apprenticeship is exactly the challenging learning environment I’ve been looking for. Hopefully the new skills I’ll learn will benefit the woodlands of Purbeck as well as allowing my creative side to flourish.”

The Ernest Cook Trust’s Chief Executive Nicholas Ford said: “We are very pleased to be supporting Fiona in her training over the next three years.

“Our investment of £1/4 million in coppicing apprenticeships was made to celebrate the Trust’s 2012 Diamond Jubilee year, to help halt the decline in this traditional rural craft. It is so good to know that there is a younger generation eager to come in and learn these old skills and help keep them alive.”

Small Woods’ Apprenticeship Officer Fran Fowkes said: “We are really pleased that we can support an apprentice in Dorset.

“This area has such a long history of coppice management that it is essential to keep it going. We are very grateful to the Ernest Cook Trust for supporting the coppice sector and providing this opportunity.”