AN ECO education charity’s new sustainable visitor centre has started to take shape and soon to have carbon capturing materials, a green roof and soil-stuffed walls.

The Earth Trust is an environmental learning charity and it is building an education space in Little Wittenham near Didcot. Despite Covid-19, the charity started building the new learning and skills building ‘Earth Lab’ in April as part of the charity’s Gateway project.

The new building brings together longstanding aspirations to improve the facilities for visitors and extend the environmental educational opportunities offered by the Earth Trust.

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Built by Oxfordshire construction firm Beard, the Earth Lab has been designed to engage people with sustainability.

The new ‘Earth Lab’ is being constructed using a host of eco-friendly materials, including natural building materials that lock up carbon.

The visitor centre has been designed to sit within the landscape, it will be made with a timber frame, straw insulation panels, a rammed earth wall using soil from the location and it will have a green roof with and use minimum concrete possible.

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Trust CEO Jayne Manley said: “We’re delighted that Earth Lab and the Innovation Hub are now becoming a reality. This pandemic has highlighted for us the immense physical and mental health benefits that spending time in nature provides.

“As we put in place much needed recovery initiatives, we need to update our facilities as well as our education programme to help us meet demand as well as creating more opportunities for people to benefit from the environment.”

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Also included in this first phase of building is the ‘Innovation Hub’, a renovation of a former barn at the centre. This space will welcome visitors and have office support for like-minded businesses.

Longer term plans for the Gateway project include a café, and ‘Earth Adventure’ - a playful outdoor area where everyone can discover more about the value of wildlife rich green spaces and the heritage of the surrounding ancient landscape.

Oxfordshire Local Enterprise Partnership (OxLEP) supported the building of the ‘Innovation Hub’ alongside the Patsy Wood Trust and individual donations. OxLEP helped Earth Trust get the government’s Local Growth Fund, which supports projects that benefit local businesses, and secured £1.49m of funding for the project.