A donation from Prudhoe-based tissue maker Essity is helping youngsters from disadvantaged backgrounds in the North East to connect with nature and learn new skills.

Through its charity fund, Essity has partnered with Stomping Grounds Forest School, a local organisation dedicated to offering children and families an opportunity to safely explore the outdoors, engage with nature and to experience the physical and mental wellbeing benefits of connecting with our green spaces and wildlife habitats.

The lockdown restrictions during the Covid-19 pandemic led to many families and young people in urban areas spending much more time indoors, away from friends, with little or no access to outdoor activities.

With a helping hand from Essity, Stomping Grounds – that operates in woodland around Prudhoe, including Dukes Hagg Wood – has been able to provide holiday club sessions including taxi transport for two children.

One is a teenager whose family has relocated to Newcastle from Iran. Limited income, the cost of travel and having younger siblings with additional needs are some of the barriers he’s faced when it comes to enjoying time outside.

The donation has also enabled Stomping Grounds to provide space for a family with children that have additional needs. The sessions have given their nine-year-old daughter an opportunity to mix with others and get involved with different activities.

Sophie Watkinson, executive director of Stomping Grounds Forest School, explains: “With Essity generously providing the additional funds we needed to pay for transport from an urban area to the outskirts of Prudhoe, and paying for a space in the club, we have given these young people an opportunity to socialise and communicate with others their own age.

“In just a short time they have grown in confidence, enjoyed learning new skills and we have given them a break from responsibilities at home. The money has gone far and it’s amazing what we can achieve and the difference we can make through the support of local companies like Essity.

“Now that we have started working with these two young people, we are looking for new ways to continue to raise money so they can stay with us long term.”

Cath Frost, assistant at Essity Prudhoe Mill coordinated the donation. She said: “The Coronavirus pandemic has made the work of Stomping Grounds Forest School even more essential to young people and their families in our region.

“They provide an important opportunity for children and teenagers from all backgrounds to have the time and space to connect with nature, build relationships, and to grow in confidence as they have fun making new friends and developing new skills.

“As a local business, we are pleased to be able to give our support to these much-loved community initiatives in trying times.”