New classrooms in ancient woodland received an official royal opening yesterday, as Her Royal Highness the Countess of Wessex GCVO studied woodlice, centipedes and spiders with schoolchildren.

Surrey Wildlife Trust’s new £1.1million education facilities in 81-acre Nower Wood near Headley was officially opened on April 20, after diggers destroyed the charity’s old classrooms dating back 45 years last summer to make way for a single-storey centre.

From June 2016: Surrey Wildlife Trust demolish Leatherhead classrooms despite funding shortfall for replacement centre

Education chiefs hope the centre will inspire future generations to protect the natural world.

Her Royal Highness joined students from Busbridge Infants School in Godalming to hunt through leaf habitat and make a bluebell fairy picture out of natural materials, before meeting disabled adults discovering the wonder of the woodland.

Epsom Guardian:

She also met volunteers, donors and Trust staff, as she toured the new facilities.

Her Royal Highness said: “Some of us had the opportunity growing up to access woodland and wild areas in our childhoods - for that opportunity to be given to children is so important, both for education but also as part of growing up and allowing children to be children – that is something of true value.

“Thank you to all of you for inviting me and for making this all happen and a special thank-you to the volunteers, without whom this place could not function – well done and please keep up the good work.”

Epsom Guardian:

The new building houses three spacious heated classrooms, allowing the Trust to expand its programme of educational activities so that 90 students can now be accommodated at any time of the year.

The centre, funded with a grant from Heritage Lottery Fund, and donations from local businesses and individual supporters, now also has provision for those with special educational needs and disabilities.

Epsom Guardian:

Aimee Clarke, the trust’s director of education, said: “We were honoured to welcome Her Royal Highness as our very first official visitor. It was fantastic to see her so engaged with the children and she showed a great interest in our outdoor learning activities.

“We hope our fantastic new facilities in the heart of Nower Wood will encourage people of all ages, backgrounds and abilities to come and get closer to nature in such a beautiful woodland setting.”

Epsom Guardian:

Nigel Davenport, the trust’s chief executive, added: “We are so very grateful to everyone who has helped us reach our fund raising target – members, volunteers, corporate supporters and the Heritage Lottery Fund have all come together to turn our dream into a reality.

“Education is at the very heart of the trust and this new centre will help us continue our work encouraging a love and understanding of nature, so that future generations will be inspired to protect it and that is so very important.”

The Trust is still raising funds to buy wildlife cameras, computers, tools and office furniture for Nower Wood. To donate contact Tania Ord-Smith on 01483 795469 or email tania.ord-smith@surreywt.org.uk

Got a story? Get in touch at craig.richard@london.newsquest.co.uk