Disadvantaged young people from the Welsh Valleys are taking part in a unique charity project to transform a run-down cottage on the Gower into a £500,000 residential eco-centre.
For more than a decade, Little Bryn Gwyn, which is owned and run by Valleys Kids, has given many young people their first chance to visit the seaside. The house at Cilibion, nr Llanrhidian Gower, has been a place where the charity’s youth workers have taken groups to spend time outdoors, camping, orienteering, walking along the coast, cycling, and learning about bush craft and the local ecology.
But with work due to start in October to transform the house and six-acre site into a cutting-edge 25-bedroom residential eco-centre for outdoor learning and environmental education, future field trips will take on a new emphasis.
Groups of 16-24 year-olds from Valleys Kids, which runs youth and family projects across Rhondda Cynon Taf, will work on the Building Our Dreams project under the supervision of eco-builders from partner organisation Down to Earth. As they build the centre with sheep’s wool, reed boards and lime render, they will also learn about traditional timber-framed building techniques.
The project has been made possible with £583,000 from players of People's Postcode Lottery through the Dream Fund, which will fund the first phase.
The new centre will have 25 ensuite rooms – a far cry from the present bunkhouse and shared bathroom of the cottage. The volunteers will also work with the Amphibian and Reptile Trust to build a pond for endangered species such as great crested newts and common toads, and a place where children can go pond-dipping to learn about wildlife.
Margaret Jervis, Operational Director at the Valleys Kids charity, said, "Little Bryn Gwyn has always given many of the young people we work with life-changing experiences. For some it is the first time they have seen the sea or been away from their homes.
"It has always been our dream to transform it into a landmark residential centre. With funding from players of People's Postcode Lottery through the Dream Fund and our partnership with Down to Earth, we can fulfill that dream."
"I am delighted that our young people will play an important role in building our dreams and creating something exceptional where future generations of Valleys Kids can go to have fun and learn."
In the last couple of years, Swansea's Down To Earth not-for-profit environmental organisation has been working with disadvantaged people from the Swansea area to build a timber-framed workshop and training centre on the six-acre Gower site in preparation for the Building Our Dreams project.