Young people are helping the community and bettering their mental health through North Ayrshire’s junior ranger initiative.

The 10 young people in the Scottish Countryside Rangers Association programme are aged up to 18 and work in Eglinton Country Park every month to tidy the park, learn practical skills, and learn about the area’s history.

Through their monthly meetups, the kids involved have not just learned new skills but have improved their wellbeing and made friends.

North Ayrshire Ranger Service Helen McDowall, who helps run the programme, said: “The young people really just enjoy being outdoors.

“It is great for general health benefits, their mental health and wellbeing are improved, and it keeps them active which is good for their physical wellbeing.

“It gets them away from phone and tablet screens and there is a social aspect to it – they have become good friends. They are in a safe space with like-minded people.

“Some really like doing the practical sessions and others like doing activities like the wildlife surveys.

“They like it when they can see a result… when they do a job and put something back into the community.”

Last year, the Junior Rangers worked with Archaeology Scotland to remove sensitive vegetation from a 5,660-year-old Stone Age tomb in Largs.

In the future, the group will have opportunities to explore North Ayrshire’s nature with a trip to Kilbirnie to clear vegetation, a bee survey and pond dip, and rock-pooling in Saltcoats all organised.

There are also plans for the group to learn First Aid and take part in the Great British Beach Clean.

Those involved in the programme will be able to work towards a Junior Ranger Award.

Councillor Alan Hill, Cabinet Member for Communities and Islands, said: “Groups like the Junior Rangers contribute a lot to their communities and help ensure our young people are enjoying all of the rights they are entitled to.

“It is really pleasing to see them volunteering, enjoying the outdoors, making friends and learning about their local environment and wildlife.”

Now in its seventh year, the programme is part of North Ayrshire Council’s focus on Article 31 of the United Nations Convention on the Rights of the Child which lays out on the right to play and take part in cultural activities.

Anyone interested in joining should email