Family Bushcraft Day at Dipton Woods

A clear mild winter’s day in the woods beckoned families to come and join in with bushcraft activities like fire making, shelter building, woodcraft and a story. It’s been a while since we had a full day of activity at Dipton Woods and it was good to be back.

Simon kept a roaring fire and kettles boiling all day, and we had fresh soup and pitta pizzas for lunch followed by fruit crumble – renamed ‘Forest Floor Crumble’ after a bit of an accident unwrapping it! Stainless Steel Stacey kept the domestics going for us.

Alan provided the usual brilliant activities including making robins from wood cookies and telling the story of how the Robin got it’s redbreast. As usual the group was fully engaged and really relished everything on offer.

It was good to have a visit from Dave Adams from Northern Bushcraft who dived in to help with carving pegs for shelters amongst other things. Dave and his students from Newcastle College have been helping to sort out the footpaths into the woods which will make a big difference to the access in the future.

A highlight of the day was Alan being taught the Woodland Gangnam Style dance. Say no more!

Once again some lovely outcomes from the day – one auntie telling me that her little nephew was entralled with the day and was calmer than he had ever been seen, as he suffers ADHD. Makes it all worthwhile!

Hexham Spooknight Lantern Making and Walk

Once again we were invited to provide a full day of willow lantern making at Hexham Community Centre for families attending Spooknight.

Over 40 families attended and we had a lot of great feedback.

The emerging theme of the day seemed to be ‘colour’ as the lanterns became more vibrant and textured as the day went on!

Several of the adults and children who attended last year helped new people to make their lanterns and it was a proper community effort! We were run off our feet all day – but the atmosphere was good and everyone happy!

The walk took place led by our Spooky Pirate Steven who sang Sea Shanties through the Sele Park and it was magical – we organised it a little later this year the darkness showed the lanterns off to their best effect. We were joined by the Stagefright Theatre Group who added their gothic spookiness to the parade.

Halfway round the park we met up with the Mayor of Hexham who stopped to say hello and allow people to take photographs with him.

Can’t wait for next Spooknight!! Thanks to all who helped!

Allenheads Play Day with Natural Ability

We were invited by Natural Ability(a charity which works with children and young people with learning needs) to run an outdoor play day for families in Allenheads which is a rural community in the North Pennines.
We expected to get about 6-10 young people, their friends and families/carers along but on the day more than doubled that! We had the bell tent up as a wet weather option but in the end it acted as a shade from the sun as it was a beautiful sunny day.
The young people made godseyes, hapa zome and played games throughout the day with a campfire lunch they made themselves, which was thrilling for many of them. After lunch they tried their hand at circus skills and had an impromptu singalong round the fire. It was a happy day with new skills learnt, space to play freely and a chance to make new friends.

Day Workshop National Citizenship Scheme @ Durham

The workshop ran as part of the residential for young people aged 15 – 18yrs from Hexham, Sunderland and Gateshead who are involved with the National Citizenship Scheme. We were invited along to support the young people with session ideas for them to take forward to work with younger children as part of their volunteering.

The afternoon included setting up the site, craft activities, campfire cooking and fire safety, presentations on their voluntary project proposals and packing up the site. The session was very relaxed and allowed a lot of time for discussion and conversation. Some of the young people had been away with us before in Newcastleton a couple of years before and it was great to see their progression to young adults who want to pass forward their skills and knowledge to other young people.

A brilliant day, lucky weather, happy vibe and good skills. 🙂

Cockshot Dene Woodland Art Project – Prudhoe

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.

St Georges Day Festival – Hexham


We were pleased to be asked to contribute to the children’s activities at the annual St Georges Day Celebration in Hexham. This year we offered making dragon babies, dragon eyes and dragon eggs with nests. It was a busy and fun day seeing lots of familiar faces as well as a lot of new families. As usual it was a great opportunity to share the idea of Forest Schools and promote OWL and Birch Forest Schools.
The bell tent was chocka block most of the day as the weather was changeable and bit cold, and it was a comfy retreat with fun activities.
As usual the fishing barrel and hoop-la unicorn were well used. Simple and effective.
The festival itself was vastly improved on last year having a lot of local craftspeople in attendance which made it much more interactive. One of the participants came over to us to tell us ‘i think you are the main attraction’ as we had so many children working away making items.
At one point we had several children peeling bark off some fresh willow sticks with potato peelers…. an activity they initiated themselves but which quickly took off! All good practice for future knife work. Some of the parents commented that they spent a fortune on games and toys when a stick would do!!

Dipton Woods Party


‘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…..!

Falstone Creative Crafts Week 13

Our sessions continue with the making of shavehorses. This week we are at the drilling of leg holes stage with mixed success but a lot of learning and teamwork!
The NCFE Level 1 portfolios are building and looking really good which is pleasing as Ofsted are inspecting the Adult Learning Service next week with a special emphasis on the Creative Arts section.
Several of the the women from Falstone are coming with me to the ‘Weekend in the Woods’ event in May at Staveley in the Lakes which will enhance their skills way past Level 1 so we are planning a Level 2 Course from Sept. We are also hoping to get a class visit to the CANW Working Woodlands – the Story of Coppice exhibition taking place at Sedbergh from the 30th March to 29th April which includes workshops.
The Falstone group are also applying for a grant for equipment to continue the group with a view to becoming a Creative Crafts co-operative.
It will soon be time to be working outside which will be great after the winter in the village hall and luckily we have a brilliant outdoor space close by! Spring is coming!

Otterburn Woodchips Training Day

While the parents took part in a Woodcraft Folk Training Day to update their knowledge of risk assessments, we organised a Forest Schools day based around the theme of ‘Home’ for 10 children aged 3 to 10 years. All the kids knew each other well and had previously met me on my rekkie visit so we were all happy to meet up again. The weather was cold and dry – perfect for being outdoors.

We made baby birds and nests, a den decorated with godseyes and mobiles made with collected materials, wool and pipecleaners. We also took a visit to the pigs on site and talked about their home making habits!
We had a game of hide and seek with a difference – rules made up by the children and got into some serious mudplay in the boggy woods with much squelching and several wellies getting stuck.

It was a treat to have a day of pure play, lots of it directed by the children. Bliss.

NCFE Level 1 Creative Crafts Weeks 8 and 9


The past three sessions at Falstone have been dedicated to making shavehorses. The women on the course have developed their skills quickly and felt able to tackle a bigger task which would enable them to have their own shavehorse to work on. As the construction of the shavehorse includes many of the skills learnt making the reindeer their confidence is high!
The sessions so far have included using a bowsaw to cut wood to length, a drawknife to peel bark and carve the legs and the axe to carve the body of the shavehorse. The women are also doing small projects to fill in time.. so far we have made a rounders bat, a bowl, a giant spoon and some carved shapes.
These sessions are also about the friendships and social interaction for women with young children living in an isolated rural area like Kielder and Falstone. The group has gelled well and plans for future projects are on the way.