Newcastleton Wildlife Watch Group has been named as the best organisation of its kind in the country.
The group, an after-school club founded in 2013, landed that accolade after its members, mostly aged five to 12, impressed a panel of expert Wildlife Trusts judges with their enthusiasm for the natural world.
Activities it took part in last year during its Friday sessions including guddling for fish on Liddel Water, seeking out various species of local wildlife and maintaining a wildlife-friendly garden in the grounds of Newcastleton Primary School.
Leader Wendy Patterson said: “Our group gives youngsters an opportunity to re-connect with nature. Not only are they learning about their local wild places and how to conserve our native wildlife, but they are all learning life skills like cooking on an open fire, safe tool use, problem-solving and teamwork.
“The youngsters that come are really enthusiastic, and I’m hoping when they are older and have their own families, this knowledge of how to care and respect nature will be passed on to the next generation.”
Catherine Leatherland, people and wildlife officer at the Scottish Wildlife Trust, said: “The judges were blown away with the entry, and a number even asked if they could join the group.
“Newcastleton Wildlife Watch Group is a shining example of how to engage young people with the outdoors by giving them a say in planning sessions and involving them fully in their activities.”
Member Abigail Anderson, 14, said: “I’ve been a member of the group since I was eight and this year Wendy asked me to be an assistant.
“The wildlife watch group has helped me to appreciate wildlife and wild places much more.
“Helping out makes me feel good, and I hope those I help feel the same.
“It’s nice to be able to see the effects of things we have done in our wild places and those places where we have helped like the new raised beds in the park and tidying up the primary school grounds for everyone to enjoy.”
Trusts vice-president Nick Baker added: “Regular contact with nature and inspiring a love of wildlife is something very special and important, and the trusts’ network of wildlife watch groups is providing thousands of children with the opportunity to connect with nature.”
“Every child should be able to access groups like these, so please support your wildlife trust and help us to reach more children and make every child wild.”
The Wildlife Trusts run more than 200 regular nature clubs for children across the UK, with Newcastleton Wildlife Watch being one of 33 in Scotland.
For further details, go to scottishwildlifetrust.org.uk