Breaking barriers in Swansea with outdoor learning

4 Mar 2024

Nico, our Project Officer in Swansea, shares her thoughts on a flagship project we have been delivering in the area.

As ‘Breaking Barriers’ comes to an end, it is time to reflect on the amazing experiences we have had with culturally diverse groups of people over the past few months.  

The project was funded by the Heritage Lottery, and was designed to enable adults and families from multicultural backgrounds across Swansea to learn new outdoor skills. This project also helps us to learn more about different cultures, and support the individual needs of our participants. 

We started off the project with some taster sessions for our two partner organisations – the Centre for African Entrepreneurship (CAE) and Race Council Cymru (RCC) - at Kilvey Hill. There was a real mix of activities: foraging walks, green woodworking, fire lighting, making cordage out of nettle, nature connection and making bird boxes. This gave everyone involved in the project a chance to experience the benefits of these type of sessions, which means they can explain them to potential participants with real conviction! 

Over the summer holidays we ran family sessions with RCC, there was so much interest that we ended up needing to provide them twice weekly. These busy sessions were attended by children of all ages, who enjoyed  bug hunting, nest building, clay modelling, fire lighting, making fairy gardens, shelter building, soap and candle making. We also did lots of outdoor cooking and for our last session prepared, cooked, and shared a variety of dishes from all corners of the globe.  

In the autumn, we ran a walking group around Clyne Valley woods with RCC, completing six trails and learning about different tree and plant species and the industrial history of the area. We also held four sessions for women at Hillside Wildlife Corridor with two of our female leaders. These were based around the different medicinal properties of native plants and making some simple herbal preperations. We also had more tasty meals cooked on the fire, Shrikhand (a Gujarati spiced yoghurt) and Gujarati Auro (an aubergine dish) with naan being a particular favourite. 

Over the Christmas period we ran an adult wreath making session and a family Christmas craft session at Kilvey Hill and we ended the project with four willow weaving sessions at NRW’s Crymlyn Bog centre, during which we made our own baskets. One participant especially enjoyed these as her father had been a basket maker.  

Our celebration event was held at Penllergare woods over half term where everyone got stuck in to making elder bread, bird feeders from oranges and wands. We also had another amazing lunch – two different curries and stuffed dates for pudding.  

The prevalent themes of this project have been food and community, coming together to share a meal or a recipe has been a central part of every session. Many people told us how they loved preparing food on the fire, as it reminded them of home where they often cooked outside with their family. These very human experiences often helped us all to overcome the language barriers that sometimes arose. 

Working on this project has been an amazing experience and I am naturally sad it is coming to an end. The good news is that we are continuing our partnership with Race Council Cymru on our new Arts Council Wales funded project ,where culturally diverse groups will learn different printmaking skills in the woods with  Swansea Print Centre. I really can’t wait to bring everything I’ve learned to these sessions and am looking forward to meeting everyone that attends.