Express & Star

New library and nature centre unveiled

A new library and nature centre aimed at encouraging improved health and environmental activities has been unveiled in Walsall.

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Walsall deputy mayor Anthony Harris and Nick Dodds at The Greenway Centre at Ryecroft Community Centre, Blakenall. PIC: Joshua Neicho

The Greenway Centre has opened in the Ryecroft Community Hub in Blakenall with the purpose of promoting more active lifestyles, reading and climate action.

It is also aiming to bring together communities from six socio-economically diverse Walsall wards – Aldridge Central & South, Blakenall, Paddock, Pheasey Park Farm, Rushall Sheffield and St Matthew’s.

Funding for the initiative came from two government grants worth almost £6,000, topped up with £1,400 raised through crowdfunding.

Walsall’s deputy mayor Anthony Harris cut the ribbon to unveil the new facility at a ceremony attended by dozens of guests including Walsall South MP Valerie Vaz and ward councillors.

Activities will include walking and cycling, volunteering with charities Froglife or Bumblebee Conservation Trust, and caring for the two-mile adopted stretch of the canal.

Martin McCluney, chair of Paddock Active Climate Change Group, said: “We’re about physical activity, improved well-being, reading, learning, nature study and caring for both the natural and the built environment.

“We want to promote improvements in lifestyle in this area.”

Group member Nick Dodds added: “Then there’s doing things in a green way.

“We’re not very good at doing enough of that at the moment. We recycle things but we don’t know where it’s going. We’re not very good at re-purposing things.”

Volunteer Donna Wyton said: “Lockdown brought people out, enjoying the free natural world, and we want to guide the local community back to these treasures.

“This is especially important now, when the cost of living is high.”

The book project, devised by Trish White and her husband Tony, includes a reference library, a collection of new and second hand books for people to take away and a section for reading and telling stories.

Mrs White said: “Our project enables children and adults to choose up to three free books to keep each time they visit.

“The Aldridge Rotary Club has donated 100 children’s books from their Books at Home scheme and we are so grateful to them. We are happy to accept donations of books at any time.

“We are hoping that the environmental activities and our book project will complement each other and provide new and interesting opportunities at a time when the cost of living crisis is hitting everyone very hard.”

The Project closely links to the work Dave Taylor, Director of Ryecroft Community Hub is doing to promote energy efficiency and retrofitting in the local area.

He said: “The Greenway will help to educate young children and families to the impact of the environment.

“Ryecroft will then help people using energy saving and access to government grants to switch to renewables, and also education, coupled with energy awareness, will help reduce their carbon footprint.

“An example is our energy bike that we’re building at the moment – it demonstrates how much energy it takes to charge up a mobile phone, raising awareness that you shouldn’t really leave your chargers plugged in.

“Just simple things like that, all the way up to obtaining ECO grants to retrofit a home if people qualify.

“We’re also going to provide a service to provide free EPC checks on people’s homes, so we can see if they would qualify for these grants and then work with the council to help people apply”.

The Greenway Centre book project will open on Thursdays, starting this week from 1pm to 4pm with a half hour toddlers’ singing and story session from 2.15pm.