In this week’s feature, we share how being outdoors is profoundly important to us. It improves physical health, boosts wellness, and enhances self-esteem. This was certainly the case for the children of Mill Water School.

Mill Water School educates 120 children with complex disabilities, and they find their pupils learn best when surrounded by nature. As a result, the Friends of Mill Water School approached East Devon District Council in March last year to request a Small Community Grant to purchase items for their horticultural project. These included waterproof outdoor storage containers, a small greenhouse, seeds, manure, tools, waterproof clothing, polytunnels and a solar-power pack to provide lighting for their outdoor learning shed.

We’ve contacted the school to ask how things are a year later. We are pleased to report that Mill Water's garden enterprise scheme continues to be a great success with pupils gaining the multiple social, physical, emotional and educational benefits from their engagement. The £500 they received from our Small Community Grant has supported their sustainable rural enterprise project by enabling the children to learn about the environment, grow produce and take pride in planting and develop skills for independent learning.

Outdoor learning project.

A wonderful outcome of the funding is that pupils get to sell the produce they harvest and flowers they grow to school staff and in their local East Budleigh Community shop, bringing the school and village communities closer together. In their recent annual Apple Week celebrations, cartons of apple juice were produced by apples grown by the pupils! The money raised from the sale of their garden produce is reinvested back into the project to buy more seeds or gardening tools.

This is a great example of why our Small Community Grants are integral to our local community. In this instance, the funding has enabled Mill Water School to be a safe space where their pupils can learn new skills, pursue their hobbies, and prepare for their best futures.