Get Out More: Bradford community interest company helps people connect with nature

Annie Berrington’s childhood just outside Skipton sounds idyllic. “It was climbing trees and building dens and even having campfires and things like that,” she says. “It was all picking blackberries and putting frogspawn in your Welly boots and all that sort of stuff. It was a very free range childhood, really.”

It is an upbringing she feels people growing up now sorely lack, but at a time when our connection to nature ought to be as strong as ever.

In comes Get Out More, the Bradford-based community interest company she set up in 2012 to get people across the district active in the open air.

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The company has just been awarded funding from the National Lottery – about £300,000 over three years - under its Reaching Communities strand and members planning to move into new space at Gate House at Cliffe Castle. It will help the company – its six employees, 14 freelance practitioners and numerous volunteers – expand their offering across the district.

Annie Berrington, managing director of Get Out More.Annie Berrington, managing director of Get Out More.
Annie Berrington, managing director of Get Out More.

Mother-of-two Annie, 52, says: “I grew up near to the Yorkshire Dales as a child that loved being outdoors and playing outside. That was part of my chilhood as it was with most children at that time in the 1970s. I think as I grew older, I continued that connection with nature and became more concerned about the loss of nature in our daily lives. And that was particularly noticeable in different communities, particularly in more deprived areas, more urban areas. I do see this connection between our loss of connection with nature and the destruction of nature around us and even our approach to climate change.

"So it's all led me to want to do more to connect people with nature, particularly people who are furthest from that nature connection.”

Before she set up Get Out More, Annie was working in community arts in Bradford, with the an Artworks organisation, and had the opportunity to take part in forest school training for free.

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Get Out More staff members Annie Berrington, Sam Colman, Ryan Passmore and Susan Eardley planting trees.Get Out More staff members Annie Berrington, Sam Colman, Ryan Passmore and Susan Eardley planting trees.
Get Out More staff members Annie Berrington, Sam Colman, Ryan Passmore and Susan Eardley planting trees.

“I remember sitting in the woods on the final day of that course going, I know what I want to do with the rest of my life,” she says.

“So I went back to work and handed in my notice and I started off as a freelancer, doing outdoor projects before I qualified as a forest school practitioner, and it sort of evolved from there really.

"I went from being a one woman band to deciding actually there's a great need in the Bradford district - if we set up a social enterprise, we'd have the opportunity to reach a lot more children and families across the district.”

Forest school – which allows youngsters to take part in activities with “managed risk” – is about “giving children confidence by increasing abilities through small achievable tasks”. It could be learning how to light a campfire or shelter, or forage and cook.

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However, Get Out More works with people of all ages, running wellbeing and training programmes for adults. They also hope in future to offer sessions with care home residents.

Its mission is to get people engaging with nature to “feel better in mind and body”, so as well as helping people to enjoy and protect the environment, they want to promote the health benefits, mental and physical, of being outdoors.

Annie, who is based in Keighley, says that Get Out More works right across the district, hosting sessions at the St Ives Estate in Bingley and at sites such as Judy Woods, Middleton Woods Northcliffe Woods and Hirst Woods.

She knows that for people to care about the environment, they need to love it.

For inspiration, she looks to Sir David Attenborough

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“I’ve got (his) quote on the side of my desk that says: 'No one will protect what they don't care about and no one will care about what they have never experienced’.”

She adds: “That's probably the driving force behind all of this for me, is that nature was so important to me growing up. It wasn’t just an interest, it was everything. It was where we lived, it was how family members made a living, and to see a decline in the number of species, to see habitats reducing and to see people having less connection to it, in particular children, it's heartbreaking.

"It’s, for me, really important that we do help people to access nature and to connect with it, because that's the only way that we're going to be able to protect it for the future.”

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