The great thing about a party in the woods is that people who might not normally get to take part in Babes in the Wood get to come along. L. Was very excited at having her 4th birthday party in the woods and had been quite specific as to on what was to be involved.
Children hunted in the woods for their fairy helper, designated by their names like back stage passes to the woods and hung them with their wood cookies around their necks.
We had the story of how the bee became, then made little bees with carrier bag wings (homage to carrier bag fairy pole) an activity seen on Lily Horsemans Kindling website.
We came equipped to make hapa zome butterflies but after everyone cooked their pita pizzas and mini fruit crumbles there was just enough time to sing happy birthday and cut a most stunning cake.
With blizzard conditions forecast it was a reduced but stalwart group who turned out for Babes on Friday. Thankfully there was still a significant covering of snow and we were able to carry out a group snowman build. An old piece of blue ribbon from the remains of the pirate ship made a scarf, sticks for eyes and an assortment of root vegetables were redirected from the soup pot for facial features.
We all took part in the soup stone story and for the first time we actually made soup as the story played out, something much more difficult to do with a larger group. The old lady in the cottage, whose accent seems to be getting closer to Mrs. Browns with each telling, was reluctant to part with her egg laying chicken so a bag of lentils was substituted.
With Handmade bakery bread to accompany we all appreciated a warm helping of soup to combat Winter chills. Apart from those who didn’t like onions and those who didn’t like soup and those who weren’t hungry…. well the adults enjoyed the soup anyway!
While looking along the banking for tracks and pondering over several foot prints which may or may not have been dog or fox or Gruffalo, the merits of sliding down the muddy bank (now frozen) were rediscovered and enjoyed with gusto.
It was a gloriously sunny day down in Dipton Woods for John aged 9 and his 12 friends to celebrate his birthday. We organised games, den-building, pizza making and marshmallows which were all undertaken with gusto and energy. Spontaneous activities included finding frogs and toads in the meadow and singing Happy Birthday in Spanish! The woods were in a brilliant condition considering the rain over the summer, with dappled light through the birch trees and enough ground cover to make hide and seek really good fun. Thanks to Simon and Christina for helping out!
Once again we were invited to provide some nature based children’s activities at the Hexham Eating Festival. It was great to be back there again and catch up with old friends who have visited us there each year and make some new ones too.
We provided freh food on the fire, crafts for all ages in and out of the bell tent. The sun shone all day and the atmosphere was lively. The festival has grown in size over the three years we have been part of it and it is a great opportunity for networking and promoting our autumn programme.
OWL/Birch Forest Schools were commissioned by the Prudhoe Volunteer Centre to work alongside the conceptual poet and artist Ira Lightman to engage local people in developing the concept for the new permanent, high quality art installation interacting with the woodland setting at Cockshot Dene, West Wylam, Prudhoe.
It was agreed that we would facilitate a number of day long workshops in the woods which would include the creation of temporary natural artworks and allow the involvement of local people in identifying the important themes to inform the construction of a permanent piece and give a sense of local ownership throughout the process.
The day workshops consisted of team building exercises including building seats and carving mallets, discussions around the campfire, a shared meal, walks through the area with mapping and the creation of temporary land art. Participants included young people aged 18-21, families with young children and older people who volunteer at the Dene.
‘Creative play is like a spring that bubbles up from deep within a child’ ~Joan Almon
The weather threatened April showers as we walked through Dipton Woods with the equipment ready for the 9th birthday party for twins Siobhan and Louis. The streams were running high and it was a matter of wading up to our knees to get across! The woods smelt damp and musky with the trees bursting fresh green with new growth, but the sun did it’s best to break through and throw shards of glistening light through the birch trees.
Once down on site we quickly set up the parachute and fire circle and prepared the games and activities.
The excited group of 13 8/9 yeaqr olds arrived singing all the way along the path and looking at the local flora and fauna.
After discussing the usual fire rules, we set our boundaries for playing on the site and kicked off with kazoo making which culminated in a rousing chorus of ‘Happy Birthday’.
It was really good to see the children organising this themselves, several of them being musical and working out which notes were which before conducting the piece. This led on to an energetic game of Mr Fox and exploration of the area.
Lunch was pitta pizza made by the children who picked wild garlic leaves to go in them, then cooked on the fire, with birthday cake for afters.
Free play time followed which developed into a wonderful big den making effort up the hill.
The day was good fun, not too showery and ended with drinks and s’mores with marshmallows toasted on the embers. Everyone was reluctant to leave having had a fun filled and purposeful day. Including the workers…..!
The December sessions of the Creative Crafts group at Falstone produced a herd of reindeer to grace the gardens and living rooms of Kielder over the Xmas period. For all the participants this was their first experience of using a drawknife and shave horse while the skills gained in mallet and spoon making from previous sessions were redeployed into making heads and legs. We gathered wood for antlers during the first snow of the season. The portfolios are starting to come together and looking impressive.
It was clear to see the emotional investment in the finished reindeer – everyone had decided on pet names by the end of the session!
Today was session 1 of 25 at Falstone near Kielder with the induction session and a refresher on dreamcatchers and godeyes. The energy and enthusiasm was high and ideas flowed easily for our next sessions which will be spoon making or carved coathooks followed by reindeers and Xmas wreaths leading on to our major project in the New Year.
One participant brought in a willow bowl and a spoon she had carved since we last met in June and announced that they had won 2nd prize in the Crafts section at the Village Show!
As part of the preparations for a short project running in the Cockshot Dene in Prudhoe, it was necessary to do a site visit. I walked over the site with Deni Riach, heading along the path to Prudhoe castle before deciding on an area just inside the Dene. We agreed that the local woodland officer should be brought in to carry out rudimentary clearance work in the chosen area. We then planned out the first two sessions to be run with local residents across a broad age spectrum around familiarising them with the area and providing them with the skills necessary to create natural signage throughout the immediate area.
No matter how long the sessions or which groups one works with, it can be quite challenging to remain fresh for two distinct groups in one day, especially in high Summer temperatures.
We had originally planned to do fire steels and Kelly kettles with this group of 15 year three children but it did not sit right for some reason. Probably because with those kind of numbers and an unfamiliar setting fire is inapropriate until that trust has built up.
We decided to run a small shelter building activity with a Native American theme. As well as the 15 children, we had about half a dozan of the school staff who came out to see what we were doing. Despite saying that they would only stay for a while, they took part fully for the whole session and seemed to have as much fun as the children.
The group had been selected as they had difficulties bonding as a group in the classroom. In the wooded area they worked alone, and in groups with good behaviour, engagement and enthusiasm throughout.
Despite expecting to be on auto pilot, the session felt fresh and was very rewarding. As per usual we managed to over run a little but the whole session seemed over in the blink of an eye. Next session we will move onto larger shelters and the shelter build challenge.