An outdoor education and welfare centre in rural Somerset will soon be able to provide more help to vulnerable people following a generous grant.

Acts of Random Kindness (ARK) at Egwood is a “land-based facility” located on 12 acres of land just outside the village of Merriott, near Crewkerne.

The facility – which is run by five paid members of staff and 45 volunteers – provides day services for young people and adults with learning disabilities, autism, mental health issues and social isolation, teaching them practical skills to improve their welfare.

A new hub to allow indoor teaching can now be constructed on site after South Somerset District Council voted to provide the remaining funds needed for the project.

Nathan Turnbull, the council’s locality officer, laid out the intentions of the project at a virtual meeting of the council’s area west committee on Wednesday evening (May 18).

Somerset County Gazette: Camping activities within the ARK at Egwood facility.Camping activities within the ARK at Egwood facility.

He said in his written report: “At present ARK has limited indoor dry, warm space, which can have an impact on the day-to-day running during the winter months and inclement weather.

“The demand for support services at ARK is increasing and they wish to be able to maintain a high level of service all year round.

“Consequently, they wish to purchase two converted 40-foot shipping containers, to be placed side by side, joined and used as a classroom/ activity space for the various groups attending ARK.

“ARK is becoming a community-based asset, and at present supports a weekly Baby Rhyme Time class, tai chi sessions and hosts partner organisations in having meetings and team days.”

The cost of installing the new containers, including the electricity supply and all legal fees, comes to £47,900.

ARK Egwood has already secured the majority of this funding, having secured contributions from the Barchester Charitable Foundation (£10,000), the National Lottery Awards for All scheme (£9,750), The Clarks Foundation (£4,000) and Merriott Parish Council (£100) on top of its own savings of £8,550 and a donation of £3,000 by an unnamed local family.

Councillor Paul Maxwell, whose Eggwood ward includes the site, praised the facility’s work and spoke in favour of providing the £12,500 needed to complete the project.

He said: “I’ve visited the site a couple of times and it really is a fantastic facility. It really does provide excellent services to adults and young people – often vulnerable members of the community – in varying ways.

“It’s very much an outdoor land-based centre, but it does need indoor space for teaching and cooking. They even grow their own vegetables there.

“It’s a really enterprising place. I went there in late February and I was really, really impressed with the progress that’s been made there.” 

The council’s committee voted unanimously after less than ten minutes to approve a grant for the outstanding amount, subject to planning permission for the new hub being granted.