An unusual classroom is being built on the banks of the River Wear in woodland below Durham Cathedral. 

Natural materials – especially willow – are being used so that the classroom fits in with the surrounding environment.

Staff from Durham Cathedral and volunteers from Northumbrian Water and Stockton Borough Council have been working together to construct the classroom.  

The classroom is designed to be accessible to young people with mobility problems, enabling them to enjoy an outdoor education.

A willow screen has already been created, which will form one of the classroom’s boundaries. 

The willow being used was gathered from Cowpen Bewley Woodland Park, near Stockton, and was given to the project by Stockton Borough Council. 

Cowpen Bewley Woodland Park, which is located on the site of an old clay pit, is home to over 300,000 trees and over 80 types of birds.

The learning (outdoors) officer at Durham Cathedral, Pam Stewart, said, “We are very grateful of this opportunity, thanks to the generous donation from Stockton Borough Council.” 

“The new outdoor classroom will be a new and exciting resource, enabling us to engage with young people who have mobility problems and ensure that they have access to an outdoor education.” 

“The invaluable support of volunteers from Stockton Borough Council and Northumbrian Water has made this project possible and we are looking forward to using the outdoor classroom once it is complete.”

This is not the first time Northumbrian Water has helped Durham Cathedral with its outdoor educational activities.

In October 2015, seven members of staff from Northumbrian Water’s supply chain management team spent a day clearing brambles and ivy from Durham Cathedral’s outdoor education area on the riverbanks.

The Northumbrian Water volunteers in 2015 (image courtesy of Durham Cathedral)

Pam Stewart said, “Our outdoor learning area is a lovely space with felled logs for the children to sit on in a circle and we take them there to teach them about various things like plants, animals and habitats.”

“We also deliver environmental art, history and geography on the riverbanks.”

(Featured image, showing the volunteers building the classroom, courtesy of Durham Cathedral)

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