St Nicholas primary School in Marston borders a cycle path and the Marston Ferry Road on one side and the newly built Swan School to the rear and side of the playground. A tree line mainly of Common Lime, Horse Chestnut, Sycamore and Beech runs along the road border and was filled with brambles, saplings and rubbish thrown over from the cycle path. This made it unusable for the children to use for Forest school activities. Our brief was to create new zones along the boundary so that the natural woodland could be accessible for imaginative nature play and forest school particularly to be used by the early years and the children from the Base with special educational needs and disabilities.
We asked the children to describe, write or draw what they would like the space to be. Their thoughts included ‘flowers’ and ‘lots of trees to nest in’, ‘den making spaces’, ‘ropes’ and maybe a ‘zip wire’ and a ‘fire with logs for marshmallows’.
We listened and built a beautiful dead hedge for small mammals to nest in and created a new boundary with the football pitch and main grassy playground. A natural wood gate leads through to a mini existing orchard, with a new shed for storage of forest school equipment and a large fire pit area for whole class activities and communal gatherings with logs seats.
Several family days of volunteers and teachers allowed us to clear the brambles, litter and debris to create pathways into the woodland. With plenty of branches and wood, den making materials were gathered and put to instant use. Woven hazel panels provided the much needed screening of the mesh fencing and cycle path. This gave the whole area a sense of privacy allowing the children to be immersed in a natural space without manmade materials. The growing natural waste mounds became habitat piles for invertebrates, hedgehogs and other small mammals or was added to the dead hedge.
The grassy mound around the fire pit area was allowed to grow long and for wild flower species to take root.
We didn’t manage the zip wire but we did make areas for exploring and adventure making with plenty of scope for platforms and a tree house in the future.