Social entrepreneur couple Karen, chief executive, and Nigel Lowthrop, founder/director, have turned an abandoned woodland into a place for young people to find new skills and opportunities.

Social Enterprise Ambassador Karen Lowthrop runs one of the UK’s most unique social enterprises – an initiative providing training and work for excluded and disadvantaged young people, within a sustainably-managed wood.

Fifteen years ago, Hill Holt Wood (HHW) on the Lincolnshire / Nottinghamshire border was unvisited and run down, with invasive rhododendron, a damaged drainage system and the majority of the quality timber removed by the previous owners.

Now, it’s a thriving community project with visitors from all over Europe . At any one time, the wood provides a base for more than 50 teenagers aged 14 plus. Each day, the young people arrive on site to take care of the land and make wood products such as picnic benches and children’s toys, to sell. The woods are off the national electricity grid and so the team also makes its own energy.

Understandably, local councils truly embrace the enterprise and the impressive benefits it brings to the environment and the community. They have put their money where their mouth is by contracting HHW for a number of services including litter collection, countryside management, gardening and providing alternative full-time education to excluded young people aged 14-16. This is on top of contracts with local businesses, the probation service and more.

“Winning contracts is about being able to prove ourselves and the sustainability of what we do,” says Social Enterprise Ambassador Karen.

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