VISIT TO… Pennine Oaks

In this blog series, we discuss a recent visit to a Green Community Hub. This time, our Project Manager Sam visited Pennine Oaks in Lancashire

“It was a Friday early in March when I was lucky enough to visit Saba and Frank at Pennine Oaks in Pendle, Lancashire. We had first met at a networking session designed to help bring together green organisations across East Lancashire a few weeks previously. I turned off the A66 and headed up the winding roads into the Forest of Bowland, in the shadow of Pendle Hill. It was a wet and wild day, winter still gripping the season. A couple of wrong turns later (getting lost is one of my favourite past times, and I have become quite good at it), I had arrived.

“Meeting Saba, after a warm welcome, we were soon off on a tour of the site. We walked up a steep forest track in silence, taking in the sounds of the forest. Suddenly, Saba stopped and announced to us, and the rest of the woodland, “Now turn around. I like to keep quiet until this moment”. We did, and we were greeted with an amazing view of the valley, the hills, the whole Pennine Oaks site. It was one of those views that humbles you and puts everything into perspective, siting yourself as just one small piece of a much bigger puzzle. Saba said that she uses that view, and the woods, as part of her therapeutic practice with clients, and we could see why. It was truly breathtaking.

“From that point onwards, however, there was no more silence to be had. Saba gave us a wonderful tour of the woodland she looks after, filling us in with stories of the Pendle Witches, the historical context of the woods, and the fact it is currently being used by the GB Archery Team as a training venue (watch out…!). She showed us the archery/axe throwing area; the community growing space; the meditation and reflection circle; the quiet and peaceful yoga and movement space; and the all-important forest school mud kitchen, built by the local police superintendent himself.

“It’s a large site, used by school groups, families, and Saba’s clients who come to her for eco-therapy. Often these clients stay and become volunteers and friends, creating a true sense of community. Saba’s immediate family is also very much involved; her nieces and nephews are regular visitors, although Saba said that initially, she did have to cajole them into coming along!

“One of Saba’s key mantras for the site is ‘breaking down barriers, wherever they may exist’; showing the local South Asian community that the outdoors is for them, and showing the local white community that it is okay for this space to be shared with everyone. Over a hot brew by a welcoming stove, Saba explained how she had initially had to fight to be taken seriously with her work, but her perseverance and passion for the site have meant she is now respected by the whole community.

“The other half of this project is Frank, who owns the site. Without him, there would be no Pennine Oaks, and the passion he has for inclusion and sharing his space with everyone and anyone who should visit is clear. It is apparent that the partnership they have created is key to the site’s success and it was really interesting to hear his stories of its development, and how it had helped him to break down barriers he had seen within the local community, and to build friendships between groups of people that had not previously been possible.

“Despite the success of Pennine Oaks across Pendle, Saba has said that there is always more that can be done. We are hoping to work with Saba and other partners across the North to support them to speak about their sites and to attract more funding for their important work.

Find out more about Pennine Oaks below…

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