The students taking the Landscape Innovation Studio module this year visited another wonderful example of landscape innovation in relation to how humans relate to, learn from and develop with the natural environment. Ruskin Mill College in Nailsworth, Gloucestershire is an independent specialist further education college that provides Practical Skills Therapeutic Education for young people aged 16 to 25 who have a range of learning difficulties. Much of the learning takes place outside through various activities that link the students with nature – woodland management, green woodworking, pottery, running the trout fishery, working on the farms and market gardens, etc.
One aspect of the Ruskin Mill that is particularly evident (and different to the majority of landscapes that are created in our society) is the way that all the different natural and cultural systems are linked – the woodland is managed (management process and habitat creation) by the students (learning a profession) and the timber removed (learning skills) is used to heat the buildings (sustainable energy) and to create tools (learning skills) to use in other aspects of the college (closed system thinking).
We were very kindly shown around by the Woodland Manager Rich Turley who was an excellent and very knowledgable guide – many thanks to Rich and the staff and students of Ruskin Mill for sharing their time and knowledge. Info below about the college from their website:
Situated in Nailsworth, Gloucestershire, with over 100 acres of beautiful wooded valley, fishery and farmland, Ruskin Mill College has a biodynamic/organic farm, two market gardens, an organically run trout farm, and a large area of sustainable woodland, which provide opportunities for learning activities in a wide range of practical skills, land-based and traditional crafts.
Ruskin Mill College is also a centre for cultural development; the Ruskin Mill Arts and Craft Centre hosts exhibitions and public workshops as well as having its own organic coffee shop, which is open to the public.
Through engagement with a rich and varied curriculum involving practical land-based and traditional craft activities such as felting, leatherwork, basket weaving, pottery, green woodwork, iron age forging, animal husbandry, fish farming, woodland management, gardening, catering, hospitality, and art and drama – students have the opportunity to increase their self esteem and to develop skills in communication, numeracy, literacy, ICT, team-building, work competence, employability, and independent living.