Meet the Team

Lead Facilitator

Barney O’Kane

Barney brings a fun approach to his work at Down to Earth Project. With a background in primary teaching, forest school, play work and consultancy, Barney leads a wide range of programmes for young people and adults (in natural building, wilderness activities and circus skills…..) and he’s become especially interested in coracles!
Lead Facilitator

Ian Dewhurst

Ian is one of our Lead Facilitators and has a background in construction and outdoor education. He has been fortunate to bring both dynamics together and work with some of the hardest to reach groups within the local community. He enjoys facilitating meaningful and positive experiences to the people that benefit most, making a real difference to people’s futures. He hopes to keep providing these positive experiences and work with many interesting people for years to come!
Lead Facilitator

Ian Rendell

Ian is a Lead Facilitator for the Our Bright Future Project. He also has a background in Adventurous Activities and Youth Work, with experience in setting up Swansea Youth Service’s Venture Pursuits Team. Working overseas in the Middle East he combined Adventurous Activities, Youth Work, Leadership and Personal Development programmes. Additionally Ian has a keen interest in entrepreneurship and runs his own business.
Lead Facilitator

Jake Chadwick

Jake is a facilitator on Our Bright Future project. He’s a triple threat of Designer, Builder and facilitator. Having studies Architecture Technology and the Environment, he then worked in practice for over half a decade, before concluding that being desk based wasn’t for him. He turned his knowledge into practical applications, specializing in natural/sustainable building for the last 5 years. Alongside his other work, Jake has always had a sideline of youth work and snowboard instructing. Down to Earth fits in well with Jake’s passions for natural building, youth work and outdoor activities. When he’s not at work your probably find him on a beach, volunteering with Surfability, as a community Rep for Surfers Against Sewage or just walk his Dog.
Lead Facilitator

Adam Land

Adam is a Lead Facilitator, working with groups on and off the building site. With many years’ experience working with adults and young people, he believes passionately in using nature and sustainable building as a tool to bring out the best in people. Adam has travelled around, working with organisations in Guatemala, Romania and Greece and has now settled in Wales’ exotic clime to work with the Down to Earth team. He lives in Gower with his wife and Labrador, Skylar.
Lead Facilitator

Emma Richard

Emma is one of our Lead Facilitators with an experienced background working with groups in the outdoors. Having taught in Swansea primary schools for several years, she then focused her efforts into Forest School. When not working at Down to Earth, Emma can be found mainly off exploring on her bike and in her van. She is enjoying learning more about sustainable construction with the team.
Lead Facilitator

Sam Johnson

Sam is one of our Lead Facilitators and joined the team in 2021. Sam comes from an educational background and has worked in local primary schools as a Teaching assistant and as a Caretaker. Sam also has qualifications as an Architectural Technician and has a BA in interior design, a HNC in Building Studies and is a whizz on AutoCad! If you can’t find Sam on one of our beautiful sites showing our fantastic participants how to create something awesome then he’s probably surfing with his 2 little ‘dudettes’, drawing something super cool or being a dad taxi!
Timber Framer

Steve Hill

Steve is our fantastic timber framer, and has been with the team since early 2014.
Architect

Tasha Aitken

“After spending several years at Down to Earth with a split role in architectural design and construction-based support work, Tasha has now decided to focus on architecture and designs many of the sustainable building projects we are involved in. She likes bringing Down to Earth’s groups into the design process as well as including them in the construction activity.
A recently qualified Architect, she’s glad to be out of the world of study, and into the world of putting theory into practice.
Tasha is part of a community supported agriculture group, growing much of her own food and is in the middle of converting a Luton van (almost as old as she is) into a home.”
Community Gardener

Chris Day

Chris is our community gardener. He works with volunteers and community groups on the garden area at Murton which is in the process of developing as a forest garden - intended to be a place of great diversity where plants of many uses can find a home. Prior to joining Down to Earth, Chris worked in Glynneath, developing school gardens, community spaces and a walled garden. Chris’ interests include playing music and singing with friends, woodcraft, baking bread, and cooking. Chris is a Welsh learner and is keen to practice on any patient Welsh listener!
Carpenter

Chris Williams

Finance Manager
Office Manager

Lisa Thomas

Lisa is our amazing accounts & team administrator. With a background in accounts and event planning, Lisa brings together a variety of skills to help support the fantastically talented team at Down to Earth. Lisa lives in Mumbles with her husband, two little boys and their ancient dog. She enjoys running and was training for her first triathlon this year… She is also busy completing a degree in Education Studies in her spare time
Research Lead

Kate Denner

Kate is a great group worker, queen of the D2E organic garden, and Evaluation & Monitoring Administrator for the People & Places project. As well as ensuring we have a good supply of yummy fruit and vegetables, she also bakes fantastic cakes!
Office Administrator

Laura Adams

Laura is our Administrator for the Active Inclusion Fund project, “Build me Up”. Laura moved to Swansea to study Zoology at University and loved having the beaches and Brecon Beacons on the doorstep so never left… She really enjoys hiking and being outdoors and loves exploring new places with her rescue dog Billy, particularly climbing mountains!
Finance Manager

Melony Nichols

Finance Manager
Project Manager

Chris Dow

Chris is the Project Manager for our Active Inclusion Fund project ‘Build Me Up’. He is also involved as a Development Officer and brings a wide range of experience in outdoor learning and well-being to help us develop new products, partnerships and plans. He brings his experience in training and education to provide our Internal Quality Assurance (Agored Cymru) role and helps to develop a great range of accredited courses for our participants. Chris is an enthusiastic musician playing guitar and bass in a local band.
Project Manager

Seb Haley

Seb is our Project Manager for our Fit for the Future, ENRAW Project (Enabling Natural Resource and Wellbeing.) Having completed his postgraduate certificate in Sustainable Construction, Seb also project manages our major construction contracts. He has a keen interest in adventurous activities and coordinates our Adventure Activities Licence while also being a fully qualified Youth Worker. Seb’s passion is being outdoors and on adventures, but is equally happy sat in one of our beautifully constructed offices planning the next build project!
Project and Site Manager

Steff Probert

Steff joined the team as Project Manager in 2021. Steff is a Geologist with over 25 years’ experience of delivering Engineering projects including landslide remediation and making safe abandoned coal mines. Outside work, Steff enjoys lots of outdoor sports, real ales and sheep farming.

Board of Directors

Down to Earth is a group of social enterprises: Down to Earth Project and Down to Earth Construction – both are companies limited by guarantee and are “not for profit”. We have joint company board meetings and bring the expertise of both boards together. Our boards have a majority of unpaid, non-executive directors who provide accountability and ensure good governance for both our participants and our funders.

Jen McKenna

Jen is a founding Director of Down to Earth Project and combines her passions for therapeutic development and natural building in her work at D2E. Jen is our main consultant in traditional and natural building projects and is fully trained as a Gestalt Psychotherapist (UKCP registered).

Mark McKenna MBE

Mark is a founding Director of Down to Earth Project and Down to Earth Construction as well as being the Managing Director for both social enterprises. Passionate about equality and bringing out the best in people, his background is in working with ‘hard to reach’ groups and practical approaches to sustainability education. Mark’s Masters (MA) thesis explored how tackling inequality and sustainability go hand in hand and this formed the basis of Down to Earth. In October 2020, Mark was awarded an MBE for Services to Young People and Environment. In September 2021, Mark was appointed onto the board of Natural Resources Wales as a Non-Executive Director. Mark has been happily living off-grid in a wooden house for over 16 years and has two lovely daughters.

NON EXECUTIVE DIRECTORS

Anna Cook

Anna is a Non-Executive Director of Down to Earth Project and Treasury Manager at Valleys to Coast Housing Ltd in Bridgend and fully qualified CCAB accountant. Her background is housing sector, where she has worked for the last 28 years and specialises in development scheme appraisal.
She lives near Swansea with her husband and 2 hairy ugly babies (dogs), Mollie & Winnie.

David Holland

David is a Non-Executive Director of Down to Earth and an Environmentalist specialising in the restoration of rivers and the creation of new wetland habitats throughout the UK. He has a passion for rivers, local food and real ale.

Maggie Northam

Maggie is a Leadership Development and Training specialist with over 40 years’ experience in both the UK and Africa. As well as working within and for many multi-national organisations, she was Programme Director at the Graduate Institute of Management and Technology at Henley College (in Africa, working on the design and delivery of leadership and management development programmes for mining, construction and banking firms throughout Africa.

Nick Tune

Nick is a Non-Executive Director of Down to Earth Construction with a vast experience of delivering innovative/sustainable buildings. In 2005 Nick established BRE Wales and went on to develop the first zero carbon Passivhauses in the UK. Nick instigated Wales’ largest ever housing energy efficiency programme; Arbed, and spent 3 years advising the Welsh Government on regenerating the Heads of the Valleys. Nick also established Woodknowledge Wales, a programme to develop new technologies to utilise Welsh timber in construction on behalf of the Welsh Government. Over the last 5 years Nick’s work has mostly been focused on improving the way we design, build and operate buildings via Building Information Modelling. In 2015 Nick set up coBuilder UK, a business that supports manufacturers to share data, clients and contractors to utilise the data to improve construction and operation decisions in buildings.

Rob Howells

Rob is a Non-executive Director of Down to Earth Construction. He studied Theology at Exeter university and later qualified as a lawyer specialising in commercial property. After training at Eversheds in Cardiff, Rob spent 10 years with DJM Solicitors and is now a partner with Hutchinson Thomas Solicitors.
Rob part-owns Crossfit Swansea and loves helping people to become fitter, stronger & happier. In his spare time you can find him on the beach in Mumbles with his family.

Simon McWhirter

Simon is a Non-Executive Director of Down to Earth Construction and the Head of Communications and Sales for HAB (Happiness Architecture Beauty) Housing. He’s been responsible for the strategy and implementation of the public-facing parts of HAB’s innovative business for over four years. Before this he had his own consultancy business– covering environmental campaigns and communication – with clients including the UK Green Building Council, WWF, BioRegional Development Group and the Stop Climate Chaos coalition. He is happily ensconced in his own low impact self-build with his wife Bec, two kids – Ned and Kitty and dog Fred.