9th February 2024

In partnership with SEGROGroundwork South has recently completed another Green Skills Team Project in Slough. The Green Skills Team Project is a six-week programme in which unemployed individuals from the Slough area spend two days a week learning practical conservation skills and also attend sessions to improve their employability. The aim of this programme is to give individuals the skills necessary to go on and gain employment in the green sector.

This is the second of two Green Skills Teams in the current Green Skills Team programme and has been based on Deerwood Park in Cippenham, Slough, an area of green space with a culvert running through it that forms part of Chalvey Ditch. This area is owned and managed by Slough Borough Council. Participants who attended the Green Skills Team were taught how to use hand tools as well as petrol driven tools such as strimmers and brushcutters. Work carried out by the team in Deerwood Park has included clearing bramble from around the culvert to improve visibility of the waterway, removal of litter and silt from the culvert to improve the flow rate, and construction of a dead hedge and habitat pile to provide improved habitat for insects, birds and small mammals. At the end of the Green Skills Team programme participants had the opportunity to gain a fully funded City & Guilds NPTC Level 2 Award in the Safe Use of Brushcutters qualification. Participants have also been given a guaranteed interview at Groundwork South for a Green Skills Operative Trainee role.

The Green Skills Team has been a massive success with all participants stating that they had a greater appreciation for the environment and an improvement on their mental health. We would like to thank SEGRO for funding these projects, as part of its ongoing Community Investment in Slough as without its support we would not be able to facilitate these teams.

The Groundwork South Colne Valley Green Team are Steve Finn, Jessica Bampton and Simon Phillips. They were able to build on the experience gained from the last green skills team in Summer 2023 on Crown Meadow, to deliver an improved experience this time.

If you are interested in joining the programme, please email Jess at [email protected].

Day 4: Building Planters and laying slabs

Day 1

Day 5

Day 8

Day 12

Participant Testimonial

Michael enjoyed his time on the Green Skills Course and would recommend it to others. He expressed that he met nice people, and learnt a lot. He now feels more confident working outside and feels the course was good
experience for getting a job. He also liked that staff members went out of their way to help him get to the course,
this included picking him up and dropping him off from pre-determined locations.

Employability: Brushcutter Qualification

All participants who took part in the majority of the Green Skills Team programme had the opportunity to attend a fully funded City & Guilds NPTC Level 2 Award in the Safe Use of Brushcutters qualification. This two day course was hosted at Denham Country Park by a registered City & Guilds assessor.

Topics covered  included the health and safety regulations that relate to safe brushcutter use, correct PPE to wear when using a brushcutter, and the correct care and maintenance for brushcutters and strimmers. There was also a practical element to this training which involved being able to take apart a brushcutter and check for any faults. Just a few of the skills covered included replacing the cord in a strimmer, checking the filter for debris, balancing the blade on a brushcutter, and replacing a damaged pull cord. The final part of the course involved going out into the field and putting these skills into practice by learning the safest and most effective techniques to strim grass and cut back thicker vegetation using a brushcutter.

Everybody on the course really enjoyed the experience and passed the qualification. This qualification will be extremely beneficial when applying for jobs in the future as many environmental organisations require their staff to use brushcutters and strimmers regularly.

SEGRO Corporate Volunteers Working at Deerwood Park

Employees from SEGRO supported this project by attending a corporate volunteer day at Deerwood Park to start removing some of the brambles from around the culvert. This work took place in November 2023 before the Green Skills Team started. They were the first to get a view of the culvert which had been obscured by brambles for many years. Participants on the Green Skills Team were also encouraged, to see that some work had already been started at Deerwood Park on their first day. Thank you to the employees of SEGRO for kickstarting the work on this site.

Green Skills Team Progress Record

All participants worked hard in all weathers, as can be seen from this list of tasks achieved on their onsite visits:

Day 1: Participants were given a tour of the Deerwood Park site; they then started to remove brambles from around the culvert using hand tools.

Day 2: Bramble clearance continued using hand tools; a view-point along Earls Lane was opened so people walking along the road could see the culvert.

Day 3: Participants were taught how to use a brushcutter, which they then used to continue cutting back brambles around the culvert.

Day 4: The Team was temporarily moved to St Dunstan’s Church in Acton so they could gain some hard landscaping experience; their first task was to put together planters.

Day 5: Participants continued to build planters and laid slabs around the planters.

Day 6: The planters were lined and filled with soil ready for planting. The team also spread woodchip around the planters to improve the area.

Day 7: The Team returned to Deerwood Park and were taught how to construct dead hedges. The dead hedge was assembled in front of the culvert to prevent members of the public from slipping into the waterbody now that this area had been opened up.

Day 8: Construction of the dead hedge continued, mainly comprising willow branches and brambles. An advantage of using willow is that it can take root, particularly when close to waterbodies, improving stability of the hedge and also providing a living element.

Day 9: Participants continued to work on their brushcutter skills and cut back more bramble. The team were also taught more about brushcutter care and maintenance.

Day 10: The Green Skills Team entered the culvert in waders to cut back brambles, as well as remove silt and litter from the waterway. This noticeably increased the flow rate in this part of the culvert.

Day 11: Participants continued to improve their knowledge of brushcutter use, and recapped what they previously learnt about the care and maintenance of brushcutters and strimmers.

Day 12: On the final day at Deerwood Park the Green Skills Team constructed a habitat pile using deadwood on site. This feature will provide shelter for a wide variety of wildlife. They also removed litter and branches from a section of the culvert upstream from where they had previously been working which helped to improve the flow rate in this area.

Day 13 & 14: Participants from the Green Skills Team came to Denham Country Park where they took part in a two-day City & Guilds NPTC Level 2 Award in the Safe Use of Brushcutters course. Topics covered included health and safety in relation to brushcutter use, the correct care and maintenance for brushcutters and strimmers, and the safe use of brushcutters and strimmers. Everybody on the course had a fantastic time and passed.

The team also learned how to approach and structure conducting a risk assessment in the workplace so they could apply it to future tasks. As is plain to see, they have made a huge difference to the state of these sites.