Clow Beck Eco Centre and the Clervaux Trust

PUBLISHED: 00:00 10 March 2014

Its apple day down on the farm

Its apple day down on the farm

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How mastering traditional skills is giving disconnected young people a brighter future

The Clervaux family has had a deep connection with the fields, woods and becks around Croft-on-Tees since the 13th century.

As Richmondshire landowners, members of this forward-thinking clan spearheaded a medieval movement for reform and renewal with deep Yorkshire roots.

In 1999, Bill Chaytor, a Clervaux descendent, continued his family’s tradition of good green deeds by donating 33 acres along Clow Beck for the establishment of Clow Beck Eco Centre.

Its aim was to reconnect young people with nature and the sort of low-impact technologies that met human needs before the fossil fuel era. The centre was set up to bring together people, ideas, organisations and businesses that share a similar vision, and also to pioneer new and sustainable technologies for the 21st century, inspiring young people to respect themselves, their communities and the natural world.

According to fundraising director Janine Christley, these aims are still very much embedded in The Clervaux Trust, which was set up in 2009 to oversee the continuing development of the good works started by Bill Chaytor.

He’s still very much part of the team as chairman of the trustees, who also include property developer Reg Milne, architect Aubrey King, art therapist Jenny Blayney, syndicated astrologer Jonathan Cainer and Helen Kippax, principal of Freeman College in Sheffield, which has acted as a ‘big educational sister’ to Clervaux as it’s built up its infrastructure.

Janine works with young people who have experienced neglect, social and economic deprivation, and often have behavioural difficulties, learning disabilities and mental health issues on a day-to-day basis.

‘We use a practical skills programme, including woodworking, blacksmithing, pottery, felting, weaving, horticulture and construction, to re-engage them through environmental land work and developing craftwork and building skills,’ she said. ‘Along the way, we also help them develop their self-esteem and improve their health.’

The trust works with teenage mothers and their babies, building up confidence and parenting skills, and has a small residential provision for young adults with learning difficulties, improving their independence and vocational skills.

The trust has a 100-acre site in North Yorkshire and an artisan bakery and café in Darlington. The relationship between them is integral to the project, giving young people the opportunity to understand the process of growing food for the urban market and transforming it into delicious products that have a monetary value.

It’s offering enterprise education in a real life setting, something that obviously appealed to the Prince’s Countryside Fund, which has committed £45,000, a grant that will enable the trust to continue developing its land project.

‘We are buying some sheep and employing a new land worker so we can offer more placements for young people,’ said Janine. ‘We’ve also bought a vehicle for distributing the produce from the café through a small box scheme.’

The Clervaux Trust has steadily developed a good reputation in Yorkshire and the North East since its launch in January 2009 for high quality provision for young people who are struggling in the educational system.

There’s also huge potential within the organisation to develop further positive programmes that genuinely make a difference.

‘With the number of NEET young people (Not in Education, Employment or Training) rising rapidly, this grant will help us create more opportunities for young people to learn new skills and re-engage in education,’ said Janine.

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