A TOTAL of 23 children who live in the shadow of the Chernobyl nuclear disaster enjoyed a day of canoeing and climbing near Biggar last week.

The children, from Belarus, visited as part of a month-long trip to Scotland, where they are staying with local families.

A recent Sky TV dramatisation of the Chernobyl reactor explosion in Ukraine is a timely reminder of the devastation that was caused.

Decades on from the 1986 disaster it is estimated that 800,000 Belarus children and 380,000 in Ukraine are still at risk of contracting cancer or leukaemia.

Organised by Biggar-based charity Chernobyl’s Angels of Hope the visits to Scotland are for children aged between seven and 12.

Last week at Wiston Lodge, instructors led groups through a packed activity programme.

Jonny Sutherland, managing director of Wiston Lodge said: “It is always a pleasure to welcome new groups to the house and grounds and to be able to witness their obvious vocal enjoyment the activities laid on by our instructors.

"It is difficult for us to imagine the environment that these kids have come from.

"Our hope is to continue to support the programme organised and run by Chernobyl Angels in the years to come.”

Split into two age-groups, the children spent the morning adventuring on Wiston’s climbing wall and high-ropes.

They also enjoyed the outdoor education provider's Path of the Little People interactive trail, which features musical instruments, a story-telling theatre and a mud kitchen.

In the afternoon, all children took to the pond for canoeing and water cannon fun.

Instructors kept the children safe and ensured they enjoyed their activities with the help of interpreters who are travelling with the group.

Biggar High School pupils also helped as volunteers.

Alan Jones, co-ordinator of the Path of the Little People, was one of three certified instructors who worked with the children.

He said: “They left with massive smiles, giving us huge hugs and thank you cards.”