Conservation inspiration: hands-on nature

Parkdean goes all out for discovery and adventure

Taking a closer look: a youngster at Ruda Holiday Park discovers natural wonders with the help of a ranger

Ruda Holiday Park in Devon is a David Bellamy Conservation Award winning park that has long been a leader in environmental education, thanks, in part, to the drive and expertise of its ranger, Rose Roberts. Recently, Rose took things up a notch with the “Outdoor ‘n’ Explore programme.

“This is an expansion of the outdoor activity sessions which we have undertaken for a number of years,” says Rose. “The new programme gives a central focus to all our outdoor activities, which are now housed in a purpose-built shelter, rather than in venues or showbars as was previously the case. The programme is designed to drive interest in nature, beach cleaning and the outdoors in the hope that children want to develop this interest when they get home from holiday.”

Ruda is just one of four Parkdean Resorts’ holiday parks that have taken part in the first year of Outdoor ‘n’ Explore. The group prepared team training sessions to make sure the activities would be delivered at the same high standard across all of the parks involved, and to ensure each park could make the most of their local landscape and wildlife. Capital funding was allocated so that each park could have an Outdoor ‘n’ Explore base camp and these were constructed over the winter of 2017.

By the end of February 2018 the four parks had hired or selected ‘lead explorers’ who went to Wales for bush craft training, followed by a few days at Ruda where Rose brought all of the other lead explorers up to speed with what Outdoor ‘n’ Explore was all about and how to run the activity sessions. By Easter 2018 each park was ready to go.

“Lots of the kids and parents got really involved in the activities, particularly shelter building sessions but also rock pooling and tracking/spotting wildlife,’ says Rose. “The feedback from guests has been overwhelmingly positive. Many who were returning holidaymakers to Ruda came to explore parts of the park they had never known existed. Those who were new to the park said they would book again for next year so that they could do more Outdoor ‘n’ Explore sessions. We have already planned to include Outdoor ‘n’ Explore in several of the start of season team training sessions next year.”

Rose explains that, from a park point of view, one of the key challenges was the little details like talking through all the risk assessments and making sure that we were sensible about the maximum number of bookings per session. From an operational perspective, challenges included recruiting the right people, sourcing the right products and choosing the right area to locate the base camp – the space had to be suitable to accommodate the types of activities planned as well as large enough to build a shelter.

For any park interested in a similar scheme, Rose says that the first thing to do is to look at the unique and beautiful wildlife habitats in your local area, find what is most exciting about them and then plan how to share this with guests and the whole park team.

Seeking inspiration for new ways in which your park can help protect the natural world? In these articles, Rufus Bellamy, head of the David Bellamy Conservation Award Scheme, highlights some of the latest initiatives being taken. For more ideas, visit http://stayuknews.co.uk/conservation/