Young Leaders Course

There’s never been a more important time for young people who care about birds and the environment to take positive action.

If you’re aged 18–24, this residential course – based at the fantastic Cameron’s Cottage in the New Forest – will help you develop your leadership skills and better equip you to make a difference.

Young Leaders Course 2023

Please note that applications for the Young Leaders Course have now closed. Read more about the attendees’ experiences in our blog, Learning to lead: stories from the Young Leaders Course 2023.

  • Applications for the 2024 course will open in late spring 2024 and will be promoted on the BTO Youth Hub.

About the course

The course will run from Monday 21 August to Thursday 24 August and is completely free of charge, with a limited number of travel bursaries available.

It will involve a wide range of interactive indoor and outdoor sessions covering a variety of skills from organisation to influencing, all designed to give you more confidence to play an active leadership role in the environmental sector.

Although there will be time for bird watching in the heart of the New Forest, please note this is not a birdwatching course and this will not be the main focus. 

Course objectives

  • Build confidence in communicating, both digitally and face-to-face
  • Develop organisational skills, essential for effective leadership
  • Learn how to reach and persuade key influencers to support your cause
  • Practise leading practical engagement activities
  • There will also be a chance to think about ways you can improve your CV, and learn about the various employment opportunities at BTO and elsewhere in the sector.

2023 Course Leaders and Speakers

We have an exciting group of leaders and speakers lined up for this year’s course. Browse their bios below! 

Dr Richard Benwell - Chief Executive at Wildlife and Countryside Link

Dr Richard Benwell

Richard Benwell is chief executive of Wildlife & Countryside Link, a coalition of 76 nature charities. He is also Chair of Oxfordshire Local Nature Partnership, and a Trustee of UK Youth for Nature.

Previously, he was Policy Advisor to the Secretary of State at DEFRA, and has worked for RSPB, WWT, the Home Affairs Select Committee and the Energy and Climate Change Select Committee, as well as being a board member for Westmill Solar Cooperative.

Dr Anjana Khatwa – Earth Scientist, presenter, advocate and author

Dr Anjana Khatwa

Dr Anjana Khatwa is an award-winning Earth Scientist, presenter and advocate for diversity in natural heritage spaces. For over 20 years, she has worked as a learning and engagement professional in the natural heritage sector helping people of all backgrounds understand how our planet evolved, changed, and survived over 4.5 billion years.

Anjana appears regularly on-screen engaging audiences with her insight and knowledge about geology, landscapes and fossils. She has published numerous academic papers on glacial geology, developed award-winning teaching resources and won the Royal Geographical Society Geographical Award for excellence in educating the public about the Jurassic Coast. Anjana has also been awarded the Halstead Medal from the Geologists' Association, the RH Worth Award by the Geological Society, a Silver Commendation from the Geographical Association and won a National Diversity Award in 2020 as a Positive Role Model for Race, Faith and Religion.

Born and bred in Slough, Anjana had a humble upbringing in an urban environment but grew to love the natural world through holidays to places such as Kenya, which is where her family originate from. Anjana has a BSc. in Earth Science and a Ph.D. in Geography where she specialised in glacial geology. Her diverse background and voice bring a unique perspective to her work. In 2021, she was longlisted for the prestigious Nan Shepherd Prize for her first ever book proposal exploring the secret stories of rocks. Her debut non-fiction book, The Whispers of Rock, will be published by the Little, Brown Publishing Group in September 2025.

Anjana lives in Dorset, close to the Jurassic Coast, in a house filled with rocks and fossils.

Helen Robinson – Lead Education and Youth Officer, and Fiona Wynne – Grants Officer, from New Forest National Park Authority

Helen Robinson

Helen Robinson and Fiona Wynne work for the New Forest National Park Authority, and will lead the course workshop Partnership working – a perspective from the New Forest National Park.

Fiona has a background in a bit of everything – arts, music, oceanography, environmental sociology and coastal management to name a few fields. She has a passion for finding a way to do things: “my job is quite creative; I love problem-solving and finding a way to draw ideas out of people, and putting them in a form of project that funders will support”.

Helen grew up in the New Forest and has worked as an outdoor educator, Forest School leader and teacher over the last 15 years. She has been inspired by the concept of Wildthink, Earth Education and Forest School to incorporate student-led learning and nature connection throughout her work. She is passionate about enabling young people to find their own path to a green career or lifestyle.

In the workshop, Fiona will share her experiences of co-ordinating recent multi partner projects in the New Forest, involving a range of organisations from local grassroots groups to national well know environmental NGOs. Helen will lead on understanding the huge range of roles and organisations that are part of the green jobs sector and how they interact.

Jack Baker – speaker, educator and creator of Pangolin: The Conservation Podcast

Jack Baker

Jack Baker is the creator of Pangolin: The Conservation Podcast, a show which celebrates the stories of underappreciated species and amplifies the voices of underrepresented groups.

He is also a passionate speaker and conservation educator, who works for both the Royal Zoological Society of Scotland and the Royal Botanic Garden Edinburgh.

Having previously completed an MSc in Conservation Studies at the University of St Andrews, he recently began a PhD at the University of Edinburgh where he is studying the impact of living collections of the Climate and Biodiversity Crises.

Faye Vogely – BTO’s Youth Engagement Manager

Faye Vogely

Faye is a primatologist by trade and has been in the conservation field for over 10 years. She has worked as a project manager in Indonesia, run communications for an Indonesian charity and BTO, and is now the programme manager for BTO Youth. She strongly believes that involving young people in all aspects of the organisation, including in management and decision-making processes, is key to future-proofing the BTO.

Faye will lead sessions on management styles, how to give presentations and lead meetings, and other practical skills that will help participants prepare for a leadership position.

Chris Marais – BTO’s Youth Engagement Coordinator

Chris Marais

Chris has nearly 10 years of experience working on different youth programmes and initiatives in England and Australia, setting up his own projects, as well as working for Mencap, Peace Child International and The Challenge Network. As part of the BTO Youth team, he focuses on mental health and well-being, both for our volunteers and young people beyond BTO.

He will lead on how to look after yourself as a leader, and what mental health means in a work setting more widely.

Key information

  • Monday 21 August to Thursday 24 August
  • For young people aged 18–24
  • Cameron’s Cottage, New Forest, Hampshire


The course is completely free of charge, and there are a limited number of travel bursaries available to support travel to the site.


We can pick up participants in Southampton, which is accessible via bus and train. There is parking available for participants who wish to drive.

Partners and support

The Young Leaders Course is supported by the following organisations: 

Cameron Bespolka Trust

The generous support of the Cameron Bespolka Trust made the course and its contents possible.

The Cameron Bespolka Trust is a charity that has been set up in Cameron’s memory to inspire young people to love and appreciate animals, in particular birds, nature, and our environment. By experiencing the outdoors first-hand, teenagers can connect with nature and make a difference to our planet.

Raptor Aid

Funding from Raptor Aid supported the provision of travel bursaries for young people travelling to the course.

Raptor Aid CIO aims to help educate, support and carry out bird of prey conservation in the UK and abroad. We hope to help more people understand birds of prey, including how they live and how we as the human race can live cooperatively with these incredible birds.

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