Project Stories

Wild West Project

Using play to forge positive community connections in Reading’s Wild West.

In an urban area where 38% of children live in poverty, it could be easy to overlook the beautiful natural spaces, thinking there are bigger problems to solve. But what if nature was part of the solution? By creating a programme of intentional nature experiences themed around the Wild West, we shifted community perceptions, turning green spaces people were afraid of into areas families felt empowered and excited to explore with their children.

Spending time outdoors has the potential to improve wellbeing and bring communities together. However, like many towns and cities, the natural spaces of West Reading were not somewhere you wanted to go.

Alongside our team of enthusiastic and experienced Forest School Practitioners, and with the generous help of the People’s Health Trust, we created the Wild West Project, a precursor to our now popular Wild Days.

Realising our vision

We wanted to empower local families and children to access nature on their doorstep through wild play and conservation activities. And this meant investing time with residents and empowering them to lead their initiatives to bring about longer-term wellbeing and a more resilient community. We feel confident we achieved this.

75% of those families that took part say they’d forged positive connections with others in their community, expanding their social network. The same number felt more confident and empowered to take the lead in shaping the community.

Connecting to nature through fearless play

We ran monthly Wild Child Adventure Clubs, sending people off to explore their local woods with games, crafts and conservation activities, from pond dipping to building campfires to enjoying communal lunches. And our regular Family Wild Days created a continuity of contact for families.

“We feel our thoughts and ideas are taken on board. My girls now have new friends and are so proud of their involvement. They tell everyone about their conservation of the local woodland.” Peter, resident and father.