Our Team

We'd like to introduce you to the people behind Birkheads Wild...

Our Trustees

Our Directors give up their time to help the organisation as volunteers, and bring a wealth of experience to the social enterprise.

Joanne O’Leary
Non-exec Director Joanne O’Leary
Gemma Messenger
Non-exec Director Gemma Messenger
Ellie Turner
Non-exec Director Ellie Turner
Ilona Banaszak
Non-exec Director Ilona Banaszak


Fiona O’Connor
Founding Director / Project Director Fiona O’Connor

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Meet The Team

We have a dedicated, professional team of freelance Forest School and Outdoor Leaders and volunteers who run and support our regular sessions with young people at Birkheads Wild. They share our values and work hard to bring memorable outdoor experiences to young people who visit.

If you are interested in joining our team please Get In Touch

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  • Merry Ashford, Outdoors Leader, DofE Leader, Designated Safeguarding Lead   merry@birkheadswild.org.uk
  • Sally Truswell, Forest School Leader, Lead Admin, Designated Safeguarding Lead   sally@birkheadswild.org.uk
  • Joelene Askew, Forest School Leader   joelene@birkheadswild.org.uk
  • Mick Flanders, Cycle Leader/Bike Mechanic  mick@birkheadswild.org.uk
  • Mark Phillips, Forest School Leader, DofE Leader
  • Jo Sullivan, Forest School Leader
  • Alice Holliday, Forest School Leader and Wild & Curious Lead
  • Alex Millican, Forest School Leader
  • Emma Bell, Forest School Leader
  • Thomas Welch, Forest School Assistant (Under 18)

Our Leaders are supported by a team of dedicated and enthusiastic volunteers of all ages who support the young people who visit or who work on our Community Garden.


Youth Board - Birkheads Wild Young Leaders

bird tracks nature gatesheadYoung people are at the heart of all we do at Birkheads Wild. In 2021 we launched our Youth Board, inviting applications from teenagers across Gateshead.

14 young people  with diverse backgrounds and life experiences were selected by the Non-exec Directors.

The young leaders attended our bespoke leadership development programme thanks to support from a Tyne and Wear High Sheriff Award with the Community Foundation for Tyne & Wear and Northumberland.

Our Young Leaders help set our future direction and activities, assist with fundraising and volunteer on causes they care about. They all love the outdoors and keep us real.


Age 14 Thomas
Kevin and Lucas
Age 14 and 12 Kevin and Lucas
Age 12 Catherine
Age 14 Oscar
Age 13 Flo
Age 12 Sam
Age 12 Mose
Age 12 Arlo
Age 10 Flynn
Age 15 Grace
Age 15 Kenzie
Age 14 Daphne

Funders and Supporters

A huge thankyou to our funders and supporters over the last 5 years

People we like and who like us

The support, advice, wisdom and guidance of some great people and organisations helped get us here. Thank you for believing in Birkheads Wild...


If you want to learn more please get in touch...