West Sussex Youth Justice Service and local charity help young people get back on track

A group of children working with West Sussex County Council’s Youth Justice Service have been praised for their recent work with Lodge Hill, an outdoor activities centre near Pulborough.

Twenty-five young people aged between 14 and 18 years old have transformed an area of woodland by developing a mountain biking track and nature trail, serving reparation hours to ‘pay back’ the local community after offending.

Those working on the mountain bike track had a say over the design and were assigned an area to dig and build, allowing them to be part of the entire process. As well as the mountain bike track, some children had an opportunity to develop woodworking and artistic skills, building birdboxes, signs and woodland characters to enhance a nature trail for younger visitors to Lodge Hill.

Lodge Hill is a non-profit outdoor centre providing inclusive activities and residential facilities in the heart of the South Downs. West Sussex Youth Justice Service have worked closely with Lodge Hill for several years.

The centre’s Activities Manager Darren Worsfold said: “The work carried out has been nothing short of brilliant.

“Not only have they provided a very clear and well-defined mountain bike track, but they were also able to build jumps and dips, as well as a number of other obstacles, and taken what was just a piece of woodland and turned it in to a fun and exciting activity for all of those who attend the centre.

“Our centre’s moto is ‘Changing Lives’ and the work completed directly fits with this ethos.”

A 17-year-old male who took part in the project said: “I have been working on this over a few months, digging and building the track. At times it has been hard, especially the digging. I have even been coming up here and have done about 20 hours on a voluntary basis as we have good conversations. The support has also helped me pass and get my Construction Skills Certification Scheme card and I am now starting a new job.”

Councillor Jacquie Russell, Cabinet Member for Children and Young People, Learning and Skills said:

“I’d like to congratulate all the young people involved in this project for their hard work and creativity. Projects like this demonstrate the value of our Youth Justice Service’s reparations programme, not just in reducing re-offending and protecting people from vulnerable situations, but also in reinforcing for the young people involved the importance of giving back to our communities as a form of repairing the harm their offending may have caused. They’ve created something at Lodge Hill they can be proud of and have, I’m sure, developed new skills, experiences and friendships that will help them fulfil their potential.”