GROW-Wellbeing People

Duane Chong
Programme Director

Duane has extensive experience of lecturing and managing in early childhood education and care. Duane was Sure Start Programme Manager at one of the first programmes in the UK, and co-ordinated the Children First Forum in Liverpool, providing creative opportunities for children and young people. Duane wrote the early years programme for Merseyside's Find Your Talent initiative in 2006.

For ten years he lectured in education and childhood studies across Merseyside and North Wales, during which he collaborated with Natural Resources Wales to provide Forest School training for undergraduate student teachers in North Wales.


Duane saw how the natural environment not only provides opportunities to engage in all aspects of the curriculum but enhances social and emotional wellbeing. 

Duane is a Forest School Level 3 practitioner and The Therapeutic Forest CIC Approved Practitioner.

Angela Samata

Angela has worked in the Arts and Mental health for 15 years, speaking publicly nationally and internationally. With a Masters in Art History and Curating, Angela is a member of Tate Liverpool’s Advisory Board and based at the Walker Art Gallery, led the John Moores Painting Prize until 2015.


She has worked with several NHS Trusts including Mersey Care and the Surrey and Borders Partnership as well as helping to create additional Mental Health services such as James’ Place.


An advocate for early intervention in health and wellbeing practice, Angela believes that by creating curiosity during a child's early years and the opportunity to explore the natural environment, we can instil good practice for their long-term mental health. 

Tony Mathewson

Tony has vast experience of play, youth work and adventure playground management in some of the most disadvantaged communities on Merseyside and Chester.


Tony has led a number of community art initiatives, fundraising, co-ordinating and delivering projects for and with young people. 


Tony has designed and built adventure playgrounds and is ever keen to incorporate storytelling and community art into his engagement with young people.

Diane Burns

Diane is a registered social worker and team manager in a Fostering team. She gained a BA Hons in Social Studies at Liverpool Polytechnic and a CQSW combined with a Diploma in Applied Social Science at Swansea University.

Diane has a background in youth and community work having worked in a variety of settings. Her main focus however has been work with foster families in a Local Authority setting. This has required a sound knowledge of safeguarding, child development and attachment theory. Diane has also undertaken extensive work as a Practice Educator - having supervised and supported a large number of students over many years.


Diane has been a lifetime believer in the benefits to personal wellbeing of spending time in the great outdoors, and supports GROW's aims to develop opportunities for children and young people to connect with nature-based outdoor activities.

Ruth Davies
Early Years and Primary Lecturer - Forest School Leader 

Ruth is a qualified Primary School teacher, and was a Senior Lecturer in Education and Childhood studies at Glyndwr University until recently. 


As co-leader, Ruth helped develop an innovative initiative with Natural Resources Wales to provide undergraduate students with experience of Forest School to support their pedagogy. Research undertaken has indicated the additional social and emotional benefits of participants engagement in Forest school.

A firm believer in the benefits of the outdoor environment for children's learning, Ruth focused on assessment in the natural environment for her Masters dissertation.

Jenny Holmes
Forest and Coastal School Leader

Jenny is an experienced environmental learning officer and forest school leader. With significant experience of working in a number of UK environmental conservation organisations, and has brought her significant knowledge and experience to her role as Forest School leader with GROW-Wellbeing since August 2019.

Jenny has led FS sessions for children of all ages,  in Kinder Garden and Woodland Explorer programmes and in school and early years settings. additionally Jenny has led beach school sessions and workshops for women well-being and marginalised children and young people connecting with nature.

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