Campfire cooking with the Countryside education ranger

Housing and Countryside Combine Forces for Exciting Activities Across the District

The East Devon District Council Countryside team and SWITCH have been working together to provide exciting activities for young people in East Devon.

SWITCH provides weekly activities, opportunities, and safe places for young people in East Devon with regular groups meeting in Exmouth, Honiton and Axminster.

Once a term the groups are joined by Penny Evans, from the East Devon District Council Countryside team. Penny runs a number of activities including campfire cooking, crafts made from natural materials and, following requests from some of the young people, practical skills such as using tools and fire lighting. Penny also attends regular sessions with the Exmouth and Axe Valley Children’s Centres to work with younger children and their parents.

The groups enjoy Penny’s fun activities, which teach practical skills and allow potentially risky activities to be explored in a safe environment, allowing young people to learn to assess and manage risk for themselves. Weekly SWITCH sessions, with regular visits from Penny also allow the young people to develop positive relationships with the adults running the groups.

Community development worker, Mark Gerry said:

The young people who attend SWITCH love it when Penny comes and they really look forward to her visits. Penny brings an enormous amount of energy and through the various countryside activities she runs, the young people learn new skills in a relaxed and informal setting.

Penny’s work creates a setting where conversation can flow, as well as practical tasks to keep everyone busy, eye-contact does not need to be maintained and the relaxed atmosphere allows informal conversation to flourish. Through practical activities Penny has been able to support young people who have worries and responsibilities beyond their years.  One girl, whose parents struggle with drug addiction and is therefore a carer for her siblings, opened up about her worries during time spent around campfire.

Education ranger, Penny Evans said:

Working with the young people at SWITCH is a huge privilege. Through running outdoor activities I am able to see young people’s confidence soar and create a space to breakaway from whatever is going on at school or home and to be a child or teenager for a few hours.

Community Development worker, Victoria Robinson said:

It’s so rewarding to seeing the impact SWITCH sessions have on the young people in Exmouth, Honiton and Axminster. Penny’s sessions have encouraged our young people to spend time outdoors with their friends and family. One boy has started going camping with his family and using his new skills and confidence to set up a campfire. We’re all looking forward to more sessions with Penny, and the upcoming Easter camp, which we are planning to run at Seaton Wetlands over the Easter holidays.

You can find out more about the work of the East Devon District Council Countryside Education rangers, and SWITCH. The Countryside team can be contacted directly via email: countryside@eastdevon.gov.uk or by calling: 01395 517557.