A £24,000 project to encourage youngsters to appreciate the wildlife on their doorstep has been launched.

Tees Valley Wildlife Trust (TVWT) was granted the money from the Heritage Lottery Fund to try and engage children in the Hardwick area of Stockton into understanding wildlife.

The project will involve the youngsters finding out about Hardwick Dene, which lies close to where they live.

Amy Carrick, 25, a TVWT project worker, explained that about 14 youngsters aged 12 to 13 from Bishopsgarth School and a similar group from Northshore Academy will take part. A third group of older teenagers aged over 16 from Abbey Hill School will also be involved.

The youngsters, who will be allowed to leave school for one or two hours hour every week and will then be involved during the school holidays, will first simply ‘discover’ the dene by walking around.

Then the hard work begins and they will take part in surveys, conservation and other improvements, including disabled access and create interpretation materials for future use. The children who complete the work will be given a John Muir Award qualification.

Steve Ashton, people and wildlife manager at the TVWT, said: “The positive work the pupils do in the dene will help to improve the image of young people and be of benefit to the whole community.”