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Sweet Chestnut

Session 5

This week the children put their new found knot skills to the test and tried out some square lashing to create a variety of different ladders.

Picture 1 Making a prototype

A triangular ladder

A triangular ladder 1 Cutting rungs to size
A triangular ladder 2 Lashing the bottom rung in place
A triangular ladder 3 Working out how many rungs will be needed

Going up in the world!

Going up in the world! 1 Ladder used to secure horizontal beam for swing

Erecting the beam for the swing

Erecting the beam for the swing 1 Clove hitch (fishy on a dishy)
Erecting the beam for the swing 2 Square lashing beam to tree. Support needed!

Testing times

Testing times 1 One
Testing times 2 Two
Testing times 3 Three!

The swing seat

The swing seat 1 Making a square frame
The swing seat 2 Excellent square lashing!
The swing seat 3 Another new knot-netting
The swing seat 4 Beginning to take shape

Watch this space to see the completed swing. 

A ladder was also used this week to help secure a ridge line for a tarp.

Picture 1 A great timber hitch
Picture 2 Still room for improvement on the end result!

Fairy Fires and Kelly kettles

Fairy Fires and Kelly kettles 1
As well as practising their fire striking skills, children were given the opportunity to learn how to use a Kelly Kettle. This ingenious device is capable of boiling water up in a matter of minutes. I enjoyed my hot chocolate at the end of the morning. Thank you! 
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Session 4

Rain made conditions challenging in the woods today. However, everybody was suitably dressed for the weather and  I was very impressed with the children's resilience as they attempted to learn new knot skills with rain trickling down their necks and soggy string!



Square lashing - a useful knot for making structures

Square lashing - a useful knot for making structures 1
Square lashing - a useful knot for making structures 2
Once the children have mastered this knot, they will be able to use it to make the ladders and swings that they are hoping to complete over the coming weeks.
Another group of children attempted to make a natural shelter. Great team work was displayed as they worked together to problem solve and construct their shelter. They are now working out how to make their shelter water-tight using mud, leaves and twigs.

Constructing a natural shelter

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Constructing a natural shelter 3
Constructing a natural shelter 4
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Constructing a natural shelter 6
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Constructing a natural shelter 9
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Some children took advantage of the wet conditions to create a 'woodland spa' complete with a plunge pool (splash zone!).

Woodland spa construction

Woodland spa construction 1
Woodland spa construction 2 Planning the project
Woodland spa construction 3
Woodland spa construction 4
Woodland spa construction 5 Gathering materials
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Woodland spa construction 7
Woodland spa construction 8 Bridge construction
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Woodland spa construction 11 Testing the bridge
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A welcome brew!

A welcome brew! 1
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Session 3

Today was our last session before the  holiday so we were all in a festive mood and had a jolly time in the woods wearing our Christmas jumpers.


We decided that we would like to give a gift to the owner of Degg's Wood who permits us to use this wonderful site every week for our Forest School sessions. What could be better than a supply of chopped firewood for his log burner? The children all worked very hard and learnt how to use a billhook to split (cleave) the logs, that they had sawn to size the previous week.

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Cleaving logs

Cleaving logs 1
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Cleaving logs 5
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Cleaving logs 8
Cleaving logs 9
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Our Christmas gift to say 'Thank you for letting us use your woodland.'

Our Christmas gift to say 'Thank you for letting us use your woodland.' 1
After all that hard work we needed a tasty treat to keep us going. Each group took it in turns to make damper bread which was  toasted over the fire and then smothered in delightful toppings. It was delicious!

Damper bread preparation

Damper bread preparation 1
Damper bread preparation 2

Toasting the dampers

Toasting the dampers 1
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Tasty fillings

Tasty fillings 1
Tasty fillings 2
Tasty fillings 3
Tasty fillings 4
Tasty fillings 5
Tasty fillings 6
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Time to play

Time to play 1 Balancing games!

1,2,3... Where are you?

1,2,3... Where are you? 1
1,2,3... Where are you? 2
1,2,3... Where are you? 3
Picture 1 Is this a good hiding place?
Picture 2 Can you see me now?

Making camps and planning our swing project.

Making camps and planning our swing project. 1
Making camps and planning our swing project. 2
Making camps and planning our swing project. 3

Session 2

Another bright but chilly day so we quickly set to work to keep everybody warm. After a quick recap on the previous week's knot skills, the children were introduced to logging up sweet chestnut  using a bow saw and fire striking skills with the fire steels. 

Remembering our knots

Remembering our knots 1
Remembering our knots 2

At Forest School, children initially work in pairs when sawing wood. Although this method looks very awkward, with the children crossing hands through the saw, this method prevents the blade jumping. Once a groove has been cut into the wood the children are able to carry on sawing alone.

Note that the children wear a glove on their 'helper hand'but NO glove on the hand holding the saw. This is to ensure a firm grip on the tool.

Getting into the groove with a partner!

Getting into the groove with a partner! 1
Getting into the groove with a partner! 2
Getting into the groove with a partner! 3
Getting into the groove with a partner! 4
Getting into the groove with a partner! 5
Getting into the groove with a partner! 6
Getting into the groove with a partner! 7
Getting into the groove with a partner! 8
Getting into the groove with a partner! 9

Going it alone

Going it alone 1
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Success! 1

Fire striking

Fire striking 1
Fire striking 2
Fire striking 3
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Using a fire steel takes patience and perseverance. These children all showed true resilience and were eventually rewarded when they were able to ignite their 'fairy fires'.
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This week's community project was ... tree bog maintenance! This involved emptying out the fire pit and tipping the  ash and charcoal down into the tree bog to help neutralise its contents.

Tree bog maintenance

Tree bog maintenance 1
Tree bog maintenance 2
In addition to this task, the children also worked hard spreading wood chips in the fire circle. 

Children at work ...

Children at work ... 1
Children at work ... 2
Children at work ... 3
Children at work ... 4
Children at work ... 5
Children at work ... 6

and play!

and play! 1
and play! 2
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Session 1

It was lovely to be back in the woods with this very special group of children: the first ever group to experience Forest School with me during my training period (or my guinea pigs as one child aptly put it!). We were also joined by our adult volunteers: Squirrel (Sarah Nesfield),Frosty (Donella Frost) and Dog Rose (Debbie Kemp).


The children impressed us  by their recall of the agreements we have in place in order to protect the woodland environment and keep us all safe at Forest School.

It was explained to the children that each week they would be taught a skill which they would then have to use during a challenge activity. In addition to this, they would  be expected to demonstrate our school core values during their freely chosen activities. 

Knot skills -timber hitches & quick release tension knots.

Knot skills -timber hitches & quick release tension knots. 1
Knot skills -timber hitches & quick release tension knots. 2
Knot skills -timber hitches & quick release tension knots. 3

Challenge - erect a shelter to keep us dry.

Challenge - erect a shelter to keep us dry. 1
Challenge - erect a shelter to keep us dry. 2
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and relax!

and relax! 1
and relax! 2
Many of the children showed true community spirit this week by helping out with activities to benefit all of the group. These included gathering firewood and working hard to move woodchips into our designated tool area. This is  to prevent the ground from becoming a slippery, dangerous surface during the winter months.

Core values in action -community

Core values in action -community 1
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The children also had time to have a go at making some Christmas decorations. Aspiration, resilience and creativity were all in evidence as they worked hard to drill holes into their tree cookies to create their master pieces.

Aspiration, resilience and creativity!

Aspiration, resilience and creativity! 1
Aspiration, resilience and creativity! 2
Aspiration, resilience and creativity! 3

Session 7

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This week the group:

  • turned the safety checklist into a game of Charades with some Oscar worthy performances!!!
  • hunted for hanging deadwood.
  • continued the work on their kit area wall
  • helped to demarcate the tool area
  • toasted HUMUNGOUS marshmallows (thank you Dog Rose)smiley
  • distributed the woodchip
  • finished their representations of what Forest School means to them

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Today, Chestnut group had asked to work on shelters. Some chose to continue the natural shelter they had begun the week before by adding a sitting room AND games room! Other groups wrestled with tarpaulins to create effective shelters - it was almost a shame it wasn't raining so we could test them out! A few were interested in learning how to make a tripod using a clove hitch, lashing and frapping and two girls became engrossed in some colour swatch cards and trying to match the colours with natural materials in the woods. Having talked about the procedures and safe conduct around the fire circle, the group had hoped to light a fire to make HOT chocolate as opposed to warm chocolate. However, the attempt to light a fire was thwarted by kindling and stick that were just too wet so we took the opportunity to discuss where to locate the best deadwood for fuel. Better luck next week Chestnut group! The group also learnt the responsibility of tidying away their resources - including some great evidence of resilience and teamwork.

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In this session Chestnut group tried a game with ribbons - the seemingly simple challenge was more tricky than the group had thought. We discovered that teamwork requires: sharing ideas, holding back, taking turns, trial and improvement, mutual respect. We thought about how we could adapt the game to make it easier and not get tied up in knots!

The group spent time reacquainting themselves with their favourite places and discovering new ones - who knew the holly tree hid such an amazing network of climbing branches!

A group of children were keen to improve the den that Bracken, my daughter & I had started in the holidays and another group were keen to make the dragon's nest, formed by Holly Group, even more cosy.

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Week 6

The final week of Forest School for Sweet Chestnut group - but only until the next academic year!


A party atmosphere was created in the wood by the beautiful bunting that the children had made and everybody  busily prepared for the arrival of their parents and teachers.


Fuel was gathered, a fire was lit, elder pendants were made and wonderful creations were sculpted from clay. There was great excitement when our visitors suddenly appeared, making their way towards us along Chestnut Lane. They were given a guided tour of the woods before being treated to toasted marsh mallows around the fire (after they had been tested by our expert taster!).


I would like to say what a pleasure it has been to work with Sweet Chestnut group. You have been a fantastic group to have as my very first ever Forest School group and it has been great fun learning along with you! A huge thank you must also go to Brown Bat together with our wonderful parent helpers, Sarah Squirrel, Baljit Badger and Jenny Jackal. Thank you everyone.

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A sling shot was made and eventually the sun returned-just as it was time to go!
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Strange creatures appeared in the woodland!
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Lengths of elder were cut to size and then fashioned into pendants and necklaces by hollowing out the pithy centres with palm drills to create beads.
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Week 5

A very soggy session in the woods this week but the rain did not dampen our spirits!The children tried out some new shelter designs and Brown Bat managed to keep a smile on her face!

Picture 1 Toasting marshmallows around the fire.
Picture 2 S'mores- we all want some more!

At the end of the afternoon we all toasted marshmallows and sandwiched them inside chocolate biscuits to make s'mores. They were delicious!

Picture 1 Artist in residence.
Picture 2 Deep concentration.
Picture 3 Waiting for inspiration!
Picture 4 Artists at work.

The Little Friends had left the children some sketch books and some of the children chose to sit and draw in the tranquility of the woods.

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Week 4

The children enjoyed playing a new game in the woods this week called, 'Hunter, mammoth, mouse', before choosing how they would like to spend the afternoon.

Many were keen to refine their shelter building skills whilst others perfected their fire lighting techniques.  

Picture 1 Our new home!
Picture 2 Enjoying snack time under cover!
Picture 1 A tent peg.
Picture 2 A mallet.
Picture 3 Making sure those tent pegs are well hammered in.
Picture 4 Cloakroom!
Picture 5 Dry and cosy inside.
Picture 6 Team work with a little help from a Knot book!

This group of children were excellent at improvising tent pegs and mallets from sticks they found in the woodland. They also created a special 'wardrobe area' for their coats and bags in the adjacent coppice stool. If only they could be so neat with their coats in the school cloakroom!

Picture 1 Spreading out the tarp.
Picture 2 Will the ropes reach the trees?
Picture 3 Finding quality seating for our new residence.
Picture 4 All safely under cover.

Week 3

With a hail storm predicted, the group hastily learn how to put up shelters this week!

Picture 1 Toasting time. Watch out for the smoke!
Picture 2 That was good!
Picture 3 Well toasted-or burnt?
Picture 4 Yummy!

After successfully lighting our first fire, we toasted marshmallows. Some of us got very sticky!

Picture 1 Pass the rope circle without letting go of hands!
Picture 2 Learning to use a fire steel.
Picture 3 Slowly adding kindling to the fire.

Week 2

 Sweet Chestnut group enjoyed some team building games before working together to collect tinder and kindling for our first fire. They were delighted to see that the 'Little Friends' had left them a reward of some toasting forks for their marshmallows.

Sweet Chestnut Group (Year 4)

Week 1

During our first week at Forest School we had fun exploring this beautiful woodland and enjoyed playing '1, 2, 3, where are you?' We discovered a letter left by our 'Little Friends' and helped them learn our names by playing an alliterative animal name game!


Whilst munching on biscuits around the fire circle we came up with some rules about how to keep safe around the camp fire. We can't wait until next week when we are going to have a fire!

Picture 1 Putting out our 'boundary bows'.
Picture 2 Fun with friends.
Picture 3 Forest School gets a thumbs up from me!