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Local outdoor educators plead for funding lifeline

The Countryside Education Trust has been relying on donations and crowdfunding to keep going
The Countryside Education Trust has been relying on donations and crowdfunding to keep going

STAFF at a Beaulieu outdoor education charity have joined a national campaign calling on the government for lifeline funding to weather the pandemic.

The Countryside Education Trust (CET), in Palace Lane, offers residential breaks for school-age youngsters to learn more about nature and the countryside.

The facility, which was founded in 1975, has been closed for overnight stays since March and has relied on donations and crowdfunding to help maintain animals living at the small on-site farm.

The trust has now joined a national Save Our Outdoor Education campaign calling on the government to help plug the financial shortfall.

CET chief executive Jane Cooper said: “It has been terribly sad to see the residential centre empty, knowing that some children will never have the chance to come away on a visit after missing out this year.

“We love hosting children of all ages and backgrounds.

“Their time with us working on the farm, harvesting food and getting to grips with the countryside can be life changing. The children learn social skills, resilience and teamwork alongside the formal requirements of the national curriculum.”

Campaign organiser, the Institute of Outdoor Learning, has warned that without financial help up to half of all outdoor education charities could close permanently with the loss of 15,000 jobs nationally.

Ms Cooper added: “Most have been unable to earn any income since March when the government told them to close, and they are looking for financial support to help them survive until spring, which is when they might be able to re-open and start earning again.

“The Scottish government has pledged £2m but there is no equivalent offer in England currently.”

The CET also relies on public events and weddings to supplement its income, which have been unable to go ahead this year.

Nearby Buckler’s Hard and Beaulieu have also been seriously affected by the pandemic with the loss of around 10 posts since March.

The 7,000-acre Beaulieu Estate, which is home to the National Motor Museum and Palace House and gardens, has been hit badly by the closure of the attraction in the first national lockdown and strict Covid-19 rules throughout the summer season.

In his annual report, Beaulieu peer Lord Montagu said: “The lockdown meant that our attractions were completely closed between late March and mid-June and all our major events had to be cancelled, including the International Autojumble in September and, most recently, the fireworks fair.

“This has resulted in a significant drop in income and, like many businesses, we’ve had to adapt quickly.

“The majority of our staff were put on the government’s furlough scheme and many are now again.”

The attraction has also made savings by freezing much of its project expenditure and reducing staff hours.

To support the CET with donations visit www.cet.org.uk

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