Date: 
Wednesday, June 7, 2017 - 17:00

Two Eden Project staff members taking part in The Great Big Walk have spoken of the inspirational communities they have met so far on their epic trek.

Jane Knight from Charlestown and Judy Thorn from St Columb Major are nearly halfway through their journey from Yorkshire to Eden, near St Austell, and have stopped off at a variety of projects and charities along the way.

They make up one of five teams from across the UK stepping out for The Great Big Walk which aims to connect people and celebrate communities while demonstrating the commonality we all share.

The walking teams set off from Batley, West Yorkshire, where the late Jo Cox was MP, on May 29 and are travelling back home to Cornwall, Scotland, Northern Ireland, Wales and London.

The volunteers will finish their treks simultaneously in time to join The Big Lunch as the highlight of The Great Get Together celebrations on June 16-18, inspired by Jo Cox.

Among the projects and initiatives the Cornwall team have visited so far include a charity feeding homeless people in Birmingham, a programme to help build the confidence of young mothers in Worcester and a children’s wilderness play area in Wolverhampton.

Judy, a visitor experience manager and Jane, a landscape architect, are keen walkers who are covering over 10 miles on foot each day.

Judy said: “We are doing well – tired but energised by the people we are meeting, the projects we are learning about and the places we are visiting.”

At Gatis Community Space in Wolverhampton Judy and Jane was impressed by the work of project manager Maria Billington and her team.

Judy said: “We explored the plant beds in the grounds, the playground, the water play area and the 'wilderness' – a little piece of redundant land which they managed to bargain with the council to give to them. We saw forest dens, bushcraft corners and my favourite – the mud kitchen.

“Maria and her team displayed this tenacious, selfless energy which keeps these centres going and we left once more feeling inspired and overwhelmed by what they achieve and what more they aspire to achieve.”

Jane was especially moved after meeting the Birmingham charity Homeless Heroes who feed people in need, bringing them together as a family to spread hope.

Jane said: “We have already seen so many fantastic projects and met so many amazing, humble people who are going the extra mile for their communities but this group deserve a particular special mention – a group of mainly Muslims feeding restaurant-quality food to the homeless and needy in central Birmingham.”

Jane also described how a Worcester Community Trust project to boost young mothers’ confidence was helping to transform lives.

Jane said: “We were particularly interested to hear about the JOY project which was set up in response to a particular need within the local neighbourhood. It became apparent that a lot of young mothers in the community were lacking in confidence and didn’t recognise their potential and that this vulnerability filtered into their personal lives.  

“The JOY project tailored support to enable women to gain skills, enhance their confidence and empower them to make informed decisions for the future. Many of the women have built new lives for themselves and their young families.”

The Great Big Walk is an idea from the Eden Project made possible with funding from the National Lottery and other supporters.

Peter Stewart, Eden Project Executive Director, said: “The walkers are nearly halfway through their journey and the depth of welcome they are receiving from the communities is really heart-warming.

“The message that we are hearing from all the people is the same. We all have differences. It is that diversity that enriches our lives but the commonality we all share and a coming together of communities is what will keep us strong and happy.

“We wish the walkers safe travel as they head home for The Big Lunch and The Great Get Together on June 18.”

For more information on the Eden Project go to www.edenproject.com and to find out how to join the biggest community celebration the UK has ever seen, visit thebiglunch.com

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