East Devon countryside is teacher Kate’s new classroom
Teacher Kate Ponting has recently taken-up the new role and will be delivering countryside learning activities to primary and secondary school pupils, as well engaging with community groups and the wider public to stimulate broad debate on how the local landscape should be managed.
The Countryside Learning Officer post was developed by Clinton Devon Estates to help improve general awareness and appreciation of the countryside and to help the Estates team have a greater understanding of the concerns and interests of those living in and around rural East Devon.
Kate, a primary school teacher of 13 years with St Joseph’s in Exmouth and, more recently, an education leader with Exmouth Forest School and the Exeter-based Fun Kitchen said: “Although most people have a pair of wellies, not everyone has the opportunity to put them on to really explore and get to know the countryside. Using our own management practices as case studies we can show where food and timber comes from and broaden discussion on the many demands placed on our countryside, whether it be for agriculture, nature conservation, affordable homes or the production of renewable energy.
“Teachers often find it a challenge to organise educational trips into the countryside and this is one important area where we can support them: through providing outdoor learning opportunities supporting the curriculum.”
As well as her work with young people, an important part of Kate’s job will be engaging with local community groups to help explain the work of Clinton Devon Estates. Through being out and about the role will also greatly improve opportunities for the Estate to learn about the countryside priorities of local communities.
Kate explained: “I think people understand that the countryside doesn’t just exist as a beautiful backdrop for leisure time, but is a living landscape, needing to balance many agendas. Its management is complex and involves many people working incredibly hard to ensure it’s productive, hopefully delivering those things that society values. Reconciling the many different demands can be difficult, and the more there is a two way dialogue between those who manage land and those who rely on its management, the better the ability for organisations like Clinton Devon Estates to pass on something of greater value for our future generations.”
John Varley, Estates Director for Clinton Devon Estates said: “Our outreach work with local schools and communities over many years has focused mainly on wildlife and the work of the Pebblebed Heaths Conservation Trust, our conservation charity that oversees all management work on the Pebblebed Heaths and the Otter Estuary. This new post will allow us to expand on this important work and inform people on other areas of countryside management. However, the learning will work both ways and this new post provides an opportunity for those impacted by the Estate’s activities to engage with us and for us to learn too.”