Six-figure funding secured for outdoor learning specialist


An outdoor learning specialist is aiming to improve the mental health and physical wellbeing of the Black Country after securing more than £310,000 in National Lottery funding.

Challenge Academy, which offers land activities, high ropes, nets, obstacle courses and bouldering at its Baggeridge Country Park site, will use support from ‘Reaching Communities’ to deliver around 50 funded courses each year – all aimed at helping hard-to-reach individuals and groups learn to become stronger.

Mel Ellis and Greg Brookes-Clayton founders of Challenge Academy

The one-, three-, and six-day courses have been designed to help people better cope with everyday stress, learn employability skills, and maintain healthy relationships. The social enterprise, which employs 15 people, is now looking to engage with all types of organisations, including local churches, community groups and charities.

Scheduled to be delivered over three years, it is expected that the “Branching Out” courses will help over 1000 people

“We’ve developed a way of connecting with people and whether it’s through our aerial adventure courses, our ground trails or just the specialized coaching at our training center, we know we’re making a huge difference in lives,” explained Mel Ellis, who founded Challenge Academy in 2016 alongside business partner Greg Brookes-Clayton.

“It’s great news that the National Lottery’s Reaching Communities Fund is on board, and the financial support of £310,000 will allow us to roll it out to even more people and hopefully create a black country. stronger and more resilient.”

“The classes have been designed to be flexible and should appeal to people young and old and with different levels of physical ability. We will hold most of them in our outdoor learning center, but we also have the option of offering them in organizations. »

Becky Pickin, Development Manager at the Dudley Council for Voluntary Service, said: “Mel and the team have built a spectacular facility designed to educate, challenge and get the most out of people, from high ropes to climbing walls and outdoor classrooms.

“They also have a highly skilled and committed team, making them the perfect organization to help the Black Country become stronger and more resilient through their exciting ‘Branching Out’ courses.”


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