PUPILS swapped the coast for the countryside when they gave up a Saturday to do voluntary work.
The group from Bede Academy have all begun the Duke of Edinburgh Award scheme – the first from the academy – and threw themselves into it during a day at Wallington Hall.
The 14 and 15-year-olds headed into the woods of the National Trust property to help clear brash following a programme of tree thinning.
Twenty-eight students accompanied by teachers spent around five hours sawing branches and dragging them to bonfires under the guidance of National Trust ranger Matt Watson, with the aim of clearing a large area of the woods to make it more appealing to visitors.
Matt said: “This area was quite dense woodland and a bit dark and off-putting.
“We have been able to sell the unwanted timber but we needed help to clear the brash.
“Without regular volunteers and groups like Bede Academy we just couldn’t do it.
“You can’t put a price on the value of their help.
“It’s fantastic so many young people have been willing to give up their own time to help.
“Having more daylight coming through makes the woods more appealing, as well as being good for ground plants, insects and invertebrates.
“It will also encourage visitors to stray off the beaten track and hopefully inspire children to build dens and climb trees.”
The working day was also educational for the students as Matt explained to them the ecological and environmental reasons for thinning the woodland and about the floral and fauna.
Thirty-nine students at Bede have embarked on their bronze Duke of Edinburgh award under the leadership of teachers Dr Craig Sams, Paul Birdsall, Tom Whitworth, Emma Johnston, Kara Cordner, Charlotte Webster and Jenny Bell.
As well as three months of volunteering they must complete three months activity in the physical and skills sections, and plan, train for and complete a two-day expedition.