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Our Vision:

“ART (Abberton Rural Training) deliver a programme of practical and skills training to residents of Essex and surrounding areas with a particular focus on supporting those living in rural locations who need help to access jobs, or further education and training, in the rural sector”

ART was formed as Abberton Rural Training in 2014. The initial funding was a regulatory obligation that Essex and Suffolk Water Company had as part of the establishment of the Abberton Reservoir, hence the name.  Known as a Section 106 requirement, it imposed an obligation for the provision of an Education Centre, as part of their commitment to social responsibility.

The water company partnered with Essex County Council, Colchester Borough Council, Rural Community Council of Essex, Essex Wildlife Trust, Writtle College and Essex and Suffolk Water to initially identify how the project would be created. It was agreed that there was a real gap addressing the number of people isolated in rural areas of Essex, while at the same time helping address a shortage of rural skills within the available workforce. Rural Essex is estimated to have lost 400,000 young people over the last 20 years.  It is much more rural than most people think, being 72% rural for the whole of Essex, with Mid and North Essex being in the region of 85-92% rural depending on the District.  

It soon became apparent that the need was very real and long standing, beyond the timespan of the Section 106 requirements on the water company. Therefore ART was created as an independent Charity (Charitable Incorporated Organisation) and also needed to be sited independently of the water company.

So what do we do?

ART is an educational charity providing practical and skills training alongside therapeutic support and mentoring to the residents of Essex and surrounding areas. The courses have a particular focus on rural skills, including countryside & environment, horticulture, woodlands & land management. The courses provide life skills and employability skills alongside accredited learning, to help our participants to access jobs, help them become self-employed, move into further education and training, or become involved in the local community by volunteering. Our primary focus has been on residents of North Essex, with our locations in Wormingford (nr Colchester), Stow Maries Great War Aerodrome in Purleigh (Nr Maldon) and Stone Lakes in Halstead (Braintree District) providing excellent coverage of the area.

Essex may seem a wealthy county but there is a lot of poverty and deprivation. While this is most apparent in the larger towns and cities, there are pockets of deprivation throughout, particularly in small and isolated communities.  Indeed we are finding that rural areas have extra challenges due to inadequate or costly public transport; isolation and lack of infrastructure.  It is widely believed that the elderly population are the most isolated, however, a recent national survey conducted by Wellcome in association with the BBC, turned that on its head showing that 16-24’s felt the most isolated, with 35-44 year olds narrowly behind.  In fact all the groups for those aged under 65 scored higher than those over 65, with over 75’s the least lonely group.  We see this at ART all the time, particularly if someone is also suffering from discrimination of some sort including disabilities, physical and mental, sexuality or other issues, who increasingly have felt disconnected from society.

The benefits of the courses are great with participants gaining confidence, self-esteem, finding friends and having positive social interactions and support.  This can lead directly to employment, many move on to volunteering and/or further education although for many this will be a long journey. We also help signpost if appropriate, for example for alcohol or drug support, or suicide prevention assistance.  We have saved at least six lives directly that we know of during the last year.  We really are making a difference to peoples lives.  

However, this coming year, more than ever we are struggling for adequate funding to keep doing the essential work that we do.  We save money for government, local and national, due to a reduction in dependency, improved health and increased taxbase. We step in for our participants in times of crisis, to help them cope when they cannot get mental health appointments or assessment.  We help them gain real qualifications and help them move  into fulfilling lives – whether that is getting a job directly, starting their own business or volunteering in the community – three currently helping maintain Maldon cemetery!

Very often a life of dependency flows down the generations; if we can stop this then the gain for us all is very long term.  Breaking the cycle is key.  

We however need your continued support and help.  If you are able to assist us with funding, or support an application with a letter, or give time as a volunteer, please do let us know.  I am extremely grateful for the support we do have, and particularly for our trustees, who are passionate about what we do, our staff who work tirelessly to get the work done and be there when participants need them, and to the participants themselves for being such a great part of what we are – a family of sorts for many, and an essential part of their coping mechanisms in many cases.  

Keep up to date with all our latest developments through our Facebook and Twitter pages.  

Best wishes, Jacqui Stone, CEO

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