Education hub brings the countryside to Plymouth

Careers in countryside skills, animal husbandry and horticulture will open up to Plymouth’s young people, thanks to exciting plans to bring Duchy College to the city.

Duchy College, part of The Cornwall College Group (TCCG) and Plymouth City Council plan to create a ‘Derriford Environmental Education Hub’ in the 140-hectare community park planned for the north of the city.

Council leader Tudor Evans said: “This is an amazing project, not only does it mean our young people can learn about these valuable skills without leaving the city; it will also open up many more opportunities for them.

“Plymouth is one of the greenest cities in the country – not just its landscape and parks, but in actively tackling environmental problems we all face. Working with the college that is as committed to the environment as we are is brilliant.”

Today a memorandum of agreement has been signed between Duchy College and Plymouth City Council which will see these proposals developed further. The signing of this agreement paves the way for more detailed development of the ideas ahead of submitting bids for funding.

It’s hoped the site could see up to 200 full and part time students studying a range of courses including horticulture, countryside management, animal care as well as Royal Horticultural Society programmes in practical horticulture, plant growth, propagation and garden design.

Deputy CEO of The Cornwall College Group, Raoul Humphreys, said: “This is a really innovative and exciting initiative for the people of Plymouth increasing understanding of the links between the environment and the food we eat as well enhancing employability skills for young people.”

“Independent studies have shown an impending skills gap within the agriculture, horticulture and food sectors; so this new Educational Hub will open up a world of new opportunities for the people of Plymouth.”

Duchy College, who has two main campuses in Stoke Climsland and Rosewarne, is also keen to run leisure and community courses such as hedge laying, butter making, bee-keeping, pet care and dog grooming.

Councillor Brian Vincent, Cabinet member for the Environment said: “We have protected the last working farm in Plymouth and it’s now got an incredible future as a key feature in an exciting new learning venture. Derriford Country Park will also be an incredible backdrop for our city schools looking to build countryside and environmental studies into their students’ curriculum.”

The Council’s plans for Derriford Community Park have been in the pipeline since 2008 when local people were asked what they would like to see within the proposed park.

As well as a fantastic landscape within the beautiful Forder, Seaton and Bircham Valley, the park aims to educate and inspire a wide range of users and visitors.

Traditional farm management practices will meet the 21st century culture of health and fitness, leisure, play, cultivation, education and wildlife. Initial plans include over 15 kilometres of new footpaths and cycle routes for walkers, joggers and cyclists; new habitats to compliment the two existing Local Nature Reserves, community garden and orchard for growing food for the farm shop and café.

The education hub will also have a dedicated animal care unit and much of the parkland will be managed through grazing.