Thanet Community Forest School is to be taken over by Bright Start Nurseries from next month as founder and chairman Luke Evans announces he is stepping down due to a change in circumstances.
The forest school, which has charitable status but will be changing to a CIC, was created by St Anthony’s teacher Luke and is based on a former landfill area in Dane Valley. The site has been turned into a young woodland with nearly 6000 trees planted in the last decade.
The school taught under-privileged youngsters about sustainability, ecology, conservation and the environment. It also offered family events in the holidays and works with people with learning needs.
Luke, who is due to take on a leadership role at the new Aspire School in Sittingbourne, will stand down from September 1.
In a statement Luke said: “This has been a very difficult decision as I have put so much time into the Forest School over the past five years and it is something I feel very passionate about. But my personal circumstances have changed so stepping aside was the only real option.
“Since making the decision my main aim was to ensure the Forest School would be left in a good position to develop further in the future so our community can continue to access our full range of services.
“I am happy (to say) all our staff will continue to work for the Forest School under its new leadership team and our ethos to support everyone in the community will continue.”
Luke has been overseeing some big site development projects to ensure are covid-secure and ready to start again in September. These include new shelters.
There is also a new compost toilet and another 380 trees have been planted.
Luke added: “I would like to thank everyone who helped me realise my dream of setting up a community Forest School with special thanks to our trustees, staff, funders and the community.”
Luke, who with his wife is also looking forward to a new baby, says he will create a new forest school at Aspire.
The Dane Valley site will be rebranded as Bright Start Community Forest School CIC.
Bright Start owner Marc Rhattigan said: “It’s a pleasure to be taking over such a great project and bringing it under the wings of the Bright Start Nursery family.
“It’s a great opportunity to be able to help develop the forest school site in Dane Valley and to be putting something back into the local community. Unfortunately we live in times where so many families are not fortunate enough to have their own gardens. But this project provides a great community hub for individuals and families to be able to enjoy a wide open area where you can explore nature, get stuck into some gardening, sit around a fire pit and even help grow fruit and vegetables.
“Whilst the Bright Start nursery children will make full use of the site’s facilities, as well as the other local schools that currently use and will continue to use the site, it will continue to operate with its same strong ethos to provide services to all the community to benefit everyone.
“The site team has been busy over the summer building new shelters and a compost toilet, we will continue over the winter to develop the site so please keep watching the Forest School’s facebook page for more information.”