Prudhoe woman, 20, breaks down barriers for people with autism in the outdoors

A young woman from Prudhoe is helping to break down barriers for women and people with disabilities working in the outdoors.

Eve Sample, 20, is a forest school co-ordinator at the Stomping Grounds forest school on the outskirts of the Northumberland town. Eve, who is autistic, has spoken of how working in the forest makes her feel at home – and how she loves working in her new role.

Stomping Grounds is a social enterprise working to bring communities together and help them reconnect with nature. Part of this involves tackling the barriers that – research has shown – mean that access to green space is often the preserve of privileged groups. Run by Sophie Watkinson, the organisation offers a range of activities, while young people can take part in a youth leadership programme.

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Eve did that, before funding from the Rank Foundations through the Time to Shine programme meant she was able to be hired for the 12-month-long co-ordinator role in January. Speaking to ChronicleLive, she said: “I am support for Stomping Grounds, for the lead, and I also do woodland management things – that is looking at the maintenance of the forest – as well as helping during sessions.

“During the sessions I usually help with the fire. Help with putting up hammocks, taking down hammocks, sorting the games that the kids want to play, and just overall keeping an eye on everything and making sure everyone’s happy.

Eve Sample, 20 is autistic and an award-winning forest co-ordinator helping others at Stomping Grounds Forest School in Prudhoe.
Eve Sample, 20 is autistic and an award-winning forest co-ordinator helping others at Stomping Grounds Forest School in Prudhoe.

“I love seeing like kids like me, for example with disabilities or autism. I love seeing how they grow whilst being a part of Stomping Grounds. And I love helping children and making them feel comfortable especially if they can’t go to school. So I like to see them grow in this environment – that’s really important to me.”

Eve, who is completing her forest school training, added that she loved helping children to experience “the freedom of the forest” and that Stomping Grounds had “taken me under their wing” and helped her to grow as a person. She added: “It’s great to work with such a nice team where I feel supported and valued.

“I hope to inspire other young autistic people that they, too, can find employment, and contribute to society. I am hoping to enjoy a long career in the forest.”

Eve’s parents, Kirsty and Mark said at Stomping Grounds, their daughter had “instantly felt at home”. They added: “To see her develop in confidence has been wonderful. The support and guidance she receives from everyone at Stomping Grounds is outstanding and with that Eve is now an independent young woman who is a passionate advocate for neurodivergence, with a strong desire to protect our forests.”

Sophie Watkinson said Eve was a prime example of the “cyclical journey” Stomping Grounds wants to create. She said: “We want to offer opportunities to be a participant, that if loved can turn into paid, fully supported employment when young people take their first steps into adulthood. And we have taken our first steps with Eve. We are so happy to have her own board, she can teach us so much.”

Stomping Grounds has also now been nominated for a National Diversity Award in honour of its work to increase diversity and improve access to the outdoors and to woodland.


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