Outdoor courses span the generations

LEARNING TOGETHER ... Dexter Carr with mum Carly and elderlyresident Herbie Sidgwick at Henley House
LEARNING TOGETHER ... Dexter Carr with mum Carly and elderlyresident Herbie Sidgwick at Henley House

THEY’RE surely the oldest and youngest workmates in the country.

Great-grandfather Herbie Sidgwick and toddler Dexter Carr have proved you’re never too old – or too young – to learn something new.

Herbie, 94, and 13-month-old Dexter have gone into the great outdoors on courses by environmental charity Groundwork’s South Tyneside and Newcastle (Stan) – becoming its oldest and youngest participants.

Second World War Royal Navy veteran Herbie helped hoe, rake and plant a small communal garden at Henley House residential home in Leander Drive, Boldon Colliery.

The former torpedo and depth charge operator – a post-war electrician in shipyards and with South Tyneside Council – joined seven fellow residents on the five-week Adult Community Learning course, gaining a qualification.

Dexter was enlisted on Groundwork’s popular free pre-school Little Explorers group, at its 23-hectare West Boldon Lodge wildlife site. The programme saw him muck in and learn educational play activities – with mum Carly, a senior engineer with Nissan.

Whitburn-born Herbie, a widowed father-of-four, who has 24 grandchildren and great-grandchildren, said: “I’ve always enjoyed gardening – taking part in this project was very good.

“The area we have created at Henley House is very bright and nice – it’s lovely coming outside and seeing it when the sun is shining.”

Dexter, who was born in June last year, has thrived on the educational experience he has shared with other youngsters, which included playing in woods, bug hunts and learning about plants and flowers.

Mum Carly, 30, of Harton House Road, South Shields, said: “Dexter started Little Explorers when he was just 11 months old and I carried him around in a back pack, and put him down at the play places.

“The course has been great because he has been out in the fresh air and interacting with other children, but there were also indoor activities – he had a great time.”

Tony Cutter, a green exercise activity supervisor with Groundwork, helped Herbie and the residents transform an overgrown rockery and flower boxes.

He said: “Herbie is a touch unsteady on his feet, but he helped with the planning of the garden, which included measuring it as part of the maths element of the course, and picking the flowers and planting it. He helped with every aspect of the project.”

Danielle Pollard, a project officer with Groundwork’s Community Engagement Team and who runs Little Explorers, added: “Dexter has been one of 11 youngsters on a course which aims to build confidence and give ideas about what can be done in the outdoors.”

More information on Little Explorers is available from Danielle on 536 4873 or by e-mailing danielle.pollard@groundwork.org.uk.

More information on Groundwork’s adult learning courses is available by calling 428 1144, visiting www.groundwork.org.uk/sites/stan, or by e-mailing enquiries@groundwork-stan.org.uk

Twitter: @shieldsgazpaul