Stockport charity launches appeal to replace destroyed Forest School

What is left of the Seashell Trust Forest School
What is left of the Seashell Trust Forest School

Stockport charity Seashell Trust has launched an appeal after one of its buildings burned down after being struck by lightning during last week’s freak thunderstorm.

Fire spread through the roof of the wooden building, known as the forest hut at Seashell Trust, after being hit by a bolt of lightning.

The contents were destroyed along with large part of the building, which was used as a Forest School for the profoundly disabled students at the trust’s Royal College Manchester in Cheadle Hulme.

Mark Geraghty, CEO and principal of Seashell Trust, said: “It has been extensively damaged but thankfully nobody was hurt.

It’s hard to assess as the building has not yet been declared safe, but substantial parts have been greatly damaged. We are going to need a lot of help to clear up after the area is reopened.

The forest hut has been a site of many happy memories over the years, and we hope to repair or rebuild it so it can continue to offer our young people extra opportunities to enjoy getting outside.”

Forest Schools use hands-on learning outdoors to expand personal, social and technical skills in the fresh air. They promote self-esteem, independence and the importance of nature.

Seashell Trust Forest School
What’s left of the Seashell Trust Forest School

Fran Normansell, who runs the Forest School at the trust, said: “It has taken three years to build up the bank of resources, and a lot of the festival resources were only bought last July.

“The students’ work is irreplaceable and included the willow dragonflies made by school students and volunteers.

“The forest hut is used as a classroom base in which to create natural art work and explore nature.

“It was a haven away from routine for many of the students where they could experience activities otherwise not open to them, such as building dens, using a hammock, getting muddy and wet, clambering through undergrowth, collecting herbs, making bird feeders, creating art work and seeing creepy crawlies and nature firsthand and for some simply being able to relax.”

The forest hut was also used as a tropical chill out zone for the charity’s annual ShellStock Festival.

Festival equipment was stored in the building along with school resources. These included five gazebos, the main stage gazebo and flooring, extensive arts and crafts items, camping equipment, BBQ, picnic rugs, flags and flagpoles, cushions, rugs, a bubble machine, waterproof coats and trousers, tools, cooking equipment, tables and chairs.

All of the contents have been lost to the fire or smoke damage.

Nikola Giles, director of resources at the trust, added: “We would like to thank the fire crew from the King Street station in Stockport for their prompt action which without a doubt prevent further danger and distress.”