The Woodland Trust is the UK’s largest woodland conservation charity. They acquired the Smithills Estate in Bolton in 2015. At 1,700 acres, Smithills is the largest English site ever secured by the Woodland Trust.
The Smithills Estate has great potential to support enterprises, providing a perfect venue for outdoor education, woodland enterprise, community workshops and team days in a safe and inspiring natural location. At this unique urban fringe location, Woodland Trust wanted to test a range of different ways that businesses could use the natural and cultural heritage of the estate and commissioned Turn Up the Value to explore and develop these opportunities.
I worked with the Woodland Trust to create a vision for Social Enterprise and a prospectus to help market the opportunities provided by the estate. The thriving enterprise community at Smithills is now built around a core group of social businesses who are licensed to use the estate on a regular basis. The Estate is also proving popular with an ever-increasing number of organisations, including local schools, sports clubs, and photographers, who pay a one-off contribution every time they use the site. Every penny is reinvested in the upkeep and maintenance of the site, contributing to the sustainability of the estate.
Turn Up the Value has nurtured these collaborations to achieve maximum social value, bringing in additional funding to ensure activities at the site are made available to as many people as possible.
In addition to helping The Woodland Trust maximise their social value, each one of these partnerships provides an opportunity to deliver social value outcomes for small businesses, working within the context of The Trust’s supportive, nurturing social business environment.
This has resulted in the creation of a new collaborative Community Interest Company, The Smithills Collective, who utilised capacity building funding from the Woodland Trust to deliver a pilot, ‘Wild Rest’ project, providing much needed wellbeing support through nature connection to participants during the Covid 19 lockdown of Winter 2021.
Building social value across an entire network of businesses on a long-term project has been great. Through the businesses, we have been able to reach out to different communities and introduce people to the unique beauty of the estate for the first time. Our legacy is a sustainable community of enterprises that will remain at Smithills for years to come. That’s been the real reward!