A multi-million pound community education hub is to be created at a Maple Cross nature-friendly farm.

The Black Barn Project, located at Woodoaks Farm, soft launched in time for the school half-term break this week.

In the coming months the educational hub project will refurbish and repurpose old farm buildings for education and events, with the historic 16th-century, Grade II listed Black Barn as the centrepiece.

Focussed on connecting locals and educational institutions with food and farming, the scheme has garnered support from two significant contributors.

The National Lottery Heritage Fund contributed £200,000, in preparation for a full grant application of £1.6million to be submitted later this year.

Additional money will come from the HS2 Environment and Community Fund and a further £600,000 through fundraising.

Throughout 2024 the farm will be raising a further £600,000 to complete the project, with trusts and foundations being urged to get involved now, and fundraising events for locals to be announced later this year.

The farm was gifted to the Soil Association Land Trust in 2020 and has since transformed to organic farming thanks to community support.

Even though the hub's construction is yet to start, farm visitors are invited to participate in learning events, intended to trial the experiences the hub would offer upon completion.

Commencing with a bird box building workshop on Monday, February 19, the farm will also host birdwatching, butterfly spotting, and bat listening sessions throughout the rest of the year.

Woodoaks manager Rose Lewis said: "Farming is often invisible to the public – they walk past huge fields of single crops and do not necessarily understand the negative impacts this has on nature.

"This funding will totally change that."

"We get so much joy from people experiencing things for the first time – children and adults love digging in the soil to find worms, observing red kites in the sky, or seeing Saturn through a telescope."

The Black Barn Project seeks to provide an unrivalled outdoor educational environment, a comprehensive programme for local schools, and empowering teachers and students to make pro-environment choices.

Maple Cross JMI and Nursery School headteacher Hannah Trickett said: "We’re so lucky to have Woodoaks nearby.

"The children have loved the hands-on experience – if they meet their funding we can send larger groups, so more young learners get to enjoy these benefits."

To join next week’s session, register with Eventbrite and keep yourself updated on future learning events at woodoaksfarm.com.