The Holly lodge Centre has always aimed to make learning a joyful, hands-on experience.
So it seemed only natural to celebrate the charity’s 25 anniversary in the same way, by creating a showcase event, allowing sponsors and supporters to sample some popular activities for themselves.
They could also learn more about the centre, which was specially created to teach people of all ages and abilities about the rich diversity of wildlife in Richmond park and about it’s Victorian heritage.
On event day, jazz musicians Tyger Tyger started everything going with a swing as guests enjoyed drinks and canapes in the picnic garden.
After a presentation, guests toured the facilities, which included an award- winning nature trail, kitchen garden and Victorian schoolroom and pharmacy, where activities were being demonstrated.
Along the way, they were invited to try pond dipping, blowing bubble ‘frogspawn, making paper pea planters or hand-rolling pills and beeswax candles in authentic Victorian style.
Such activities were created to stimulate the curiosity of children and vulnerable adults and to give maximum sensory feedback, which is especially important for those with disabilities.
They are just part of a busy programme delivered throughout the year by a small but very hard-working management team – and an army of over 80 volunteers.
Manager Anna King was full of praise for her unpaid workers, describing them as ‘inspirational and vastly experienced’. Last year they worked 6000 hours, welcoming over 8000 visitors from mainstream and specialist schools , community centres and care homes.
She also thanked trustees, funders, the Royal Parks and other supporters who help keep the centre running.
By the end of the day, no one was left in any doubt about the important role The Holly Lodge Centre plays in educating young and old alike about Richmond park, encouraging them to enjoy and protect a wonderful natural resource, possibly even to follow in the steps of Sir David Attenborough, who is a patron of the centre.
For many the event was an object lesson in how a small charity can achieve big things - with the combined support of the community behind it.