A Treherbert-based social enterprise dedicated to managing local woodland sustainably has received a £90,000 funding boost from The Co-op Foundation.

Welcome to Our Woods Ltd is the first group to “bag” a share of a new £1 million fund from Co-op’s charity, generated through the 5p single-use carrier bag charge in Welsh Co-op stores.

The fund has been set up to enable groups in Wales with a community and environmental focus to safeguard spaces and become more sustainable.

The projects being explored by Welcome to Our Woods – which received a £50,000 interest-free loan and £40,000 grant – are designed to better manage the area’s natural resources while creating employment, volunteering and training opportunities for local people.

Welcome to our Woods in partnership with Natural Resources Wales (NRW) identified up to 30,000 hectares of broadleaved woodland and conifer plantations in the Rhondda Valley that could be managed more efficiently. Funding will support them to expand their woodland sustainability work into this area, transform a former library in Bute Street, Treherbert, into a centre for wood-working and explore the creation of a ‘green gym’ in the community woodland space.

Ian Thomas of Welcome to Our Woods, said: “The natural landscape presents a huge opportunity and this funding boost from The Co-op Foundation will be instrumental in unlocking the resources and possibilities - it is a unique opportunity to explore projects which can improve the management of our environment while creating value for the local community. The schemes we are looking at also confront social issues such as skill shortages and fuel poverty, while presenting opportunities to bring families and communities together in this beautiful setting. We are delighted and excited at the news that The Co-op Foundation is supporting this project for the benefit of the environment and wider community.

“The funding puts us in a much stronger position to develop these resources, providing the unique opportunity to regenerate the area, create community income streams, local jobs and education opportunities. While making sustainable improvements to the local environment now and into the future through renewables, thanks to the support of the Co-op.”

Jim Cooke, Head of the Co-op Foundation, said: “We are delighted to support Welcome to Our Woods and, are keen to see how its innovative projects come to life and make a difference locally.  Spaces like parks and woodlands need regular funds so they can meet the needs of the people who use them, love them and rely on them. This builds stronger communities for today, and a better environment for the future. We look forward to hearing from even more organisations with enterprising ideas that will boost their trading activities, support local people and help create a better natural environment for us all.”

Get ready to grow – funding available to boost enterprising ideas that improve community spaces

Groups can “bag” grants of up to £10,000 to explore enterprising ideas that could contribute to a more sustainable future for their community space. Funding could support feasibility costs, technical/legal fees or pilots to test new ideas. Applications close at noon on Friday, 21 June.

In addition, interest-free loans of up to £50,000 are available to organisations to grow more established business ideas. Loans should be repaid within five years and with no need to make repayments in the first year. Some organisations could be eligible for a further grant dependent upon circumstances.

Eligible organisations must engage local people and support the environment. For more information, and details of how to apply, visit www.coopfoundation.org.uk

For more details on the new Welsh fund visit - https://blog.coopfoundation.org.uk/index.php/2019/05/01/get-ready-to-grow/ 

To find out more about UK wide loans and support for community spaces visit - https://blog.coopfoundation.org.uk/index.php/2018/05/17/community-is-everybodys-business/