The BIG news we’ve been sitting on for the past few months can finally be announced! Woodland Classroom are moving, to a new venue. It’s a home which is somewhere quite unlike anywhere else.
Just north of Wrexham lies an ambitious project like no other, Park In The Past. It’s a place where not only can you explore woodlands or try your hand at water-sports, but you could also stumble across a full-size Roman fortress! As we said, this place is special.
Set in the ancient Welsh landscape, the park comprises 120 acres of outstanding natural beauty offering woodlands, wetlands, meadows, footpaths a magnificent 35-acre lake and the gorgeous River Alyn winding through it. To find out more about the venue, visit their website here.
The aim of Park In The Past is to create a totally unique visitor attraction. There is the country park itself which local people are encouraged to explore and enjoy the nature trails. Then there is the historic aspect where the project seeks to recreate an ancient landscape, winding the clock back to the Roman invasion of Britain. This is where the Roman Fort Build comes in. Visitors can walk amongst the construction site of a full-size timber and earthwork fort recreated using traditional techniques wherever possible. It’s pretty impressive!
Above: It’s not uncommon to see a Roman soldier wandering the pathways. Visitors can explore the fort build and seek out the ‘neolithic’ stone chamber.
Our blend of bushcraft, woodland skills and outdoor education marries well with what the team on site are trying to achieve here, complimenting what is already on offer.
Phil Hirst, one of the Park Directors told us; “All of the team at Park in the Past are really delighted to welcome James and Lea Kendall from Woodland Classroom to our heritage and conservation attraction in January 2023. Our new partnership will extend the range and quality of inspiring experiences for visitors. James and Lea’s unique approach to engaging with Mother Nature and forgotten country crafts will greatly enhance our ability to improve the mental health and wellbeing of our communities. We can’t wait to get started!”
James Kendall, Head Bushcraft Instructor at Woodland Classroom shared his enthusiasm; “We are extremely excited to be working with Park in the Past and can’t wait to be able to offer our courses and events at this fantastic venue. We will be bringing our established programme of bushcraft, wild food foraging, forest school and nature-based wellbeing to this site as well as a whole host of new courses for people who want to develop their outdoor skills or deepen their connection with nature.”
If you want to check out our upcoming courses and events, you can do that right here.
“Park in the Past brings so many new opportunities for us with a huge space offering woodland, meadows and scrubland, not to mention the lake which could enable us to offer bushcraft combined with canoeing in the future – two things that go so well together. Where else can you be exploring woodland one minute and then stumble over a Roman fort? The ongoing experimental archaeology projects here are great opportunities to link in our traditional woodland skills and greenwood crafts also. We are also looking forward to lending our experience of sustainable woodland management and working toward improving biodiversity on site as part of our ongoing activities.”
Above: The site features a 35 acre which hosts a range of water sports. There is also opportunity for pond dipping and river studies with our groups.
Park in The Past is managed by a Community Interest Company which has been set up to restore and manage the former Fagl Lane Quarry. The project aims to establish a balance between the sustainable management of habitats reserved exclusively for wildlife, and the sensitive utilisation of the site for commercial, educational and interpretative purposes. Park In The Past aims to create a balanced mixture of safe wildlife havens as well as areas for people to safely enjoy the site.
Park In The Past is easily accessible from the A55 North Wales Expressway. Chester City Centre is only 20 minutes drive away. Central Wrexham is just 15 mins drive away. The site is also within walking distance of Hope railway station.
The venue has lots of exciting plans for the future including the construction of a Celtic village and farm, a state-of-the-art visitor centre and a growing educational programme for schools focusing on ancient British history. As time goes on this venue is going to get better and better.
Above: The park is haven for wildlife and the woodlands are being managed with a view to improving biodiversity for the future.
Some people have asked us what this all means for Woodland Classroom offering courses and hosting groups at both Erddig and Chirk Castle. We’ve had a strong relationship with the National Trust, having hosted our courses at these venues since 2016 and we will continue to offer Felin Puleston Outdoor Centre at Erddig as a venue for outdoor education. In addition, a number of our bushcraft and foraging courses will still be hosted at Chirk Castle as it is a site which offers a completely different set of flora and fungi to Park In The Past. This way we can demonstrate the diversity that different sites can offer to the bushcrafter or forager. However, Park In The Past will become our principle home going forward.
Look out for more announcements over the coming months for our new course programme, venue launch event and the development of our new Bushcraft Basecamp and Forest School activity areas at Park In The Past. Our sincerest thanks go out to Paul and the rest of the Park In the Past team for letting us come and play in their sandbox.
If you are interested in bringing your school class, group or family along to a session with us at Park In The Past for a session with us then do get in touch.
We’re excited for the future and can’t wait to share this new venue with you all.
Do you want to bring a little WILD to your Christmas table this year? Learn how to make our delicious Wild Woodland Stuffing which includes foraged ingredients; mixed woodland mushrooms, sweet chestnut, wild garlic bulbs and nettle.
Making this stuffing not only gives you a great excuse to get out in the woods in the run up to Christmas to gather some wild ingredients, but it tastes great and it will be the talk of the table.
This stuffing recipe was created by James and Lea Kendall. We are foragers and outdoor activity leaders based in North Wales. We found that using some of the wild foods that we’d been gathering all year in this stuffing was a satisfying way to celebrate our foraging journey over the past year.
The stuffing gives a strong, earthy flavour. This recipe serves 8 – 10 people, or if you’re a smaller group then there’s enough for turkey and stuffing sandwiches on Boxing Day 🙂
270g breadcrumbs (wholemeal works best)
30g dried wild mushrooms – we used penny buns (ceps), parasols and brown birch boletes
4 bulbs wild garlic, finely chopped, use fewer if you want a less strong garlic flavour
300g cooked and peeled sweet chestnuts, roughly chopped
2 leeks, finely chopped
25g butter, plus extra for greasing the tray
1 tbsp olive oil
15g of fresh nettle tops or dried nettle leaves, finely chopped
2 eggs, beaten
Salt and pepper to taste
Preheat oven to 180°C, gas mark 4.
Soak dried mushrooms in 350ml boiling water for 10 minutes so they soften. Drain, keeping the liquid for later, and chop them into small pieces.
Add a few tablespoons of the mushroom liquid to the breadcrumbs, gently mix and leave to soak for 5 minutes until flavoured.
If using fresh nettle tops, pour boiling water over the leaves to kill the stings and leave for 5 mins before draining then chopping finely.
Heat the butter and oil in a pan, add the leeks and garlic and cook until softened. Tip into a bowl and leave to cool slightly.
Stir in the remaining ingredients to the bowl until well mixed up. Season with salt and pepper then form into balls and place onto a buttered tray or dish.
Cook in the oven for 20 minutes until golden and crispy on the outside.
For the ultimate wild Christmas dinner, you could serve this stuffing with roast wild pheasant or partridge.
DISCOVER MORE FORAGING
If you want to get outdoors and learn foraging for yourself then you could come on one of our popular wild food courses.
We host our courses both in the woods in North East Wales and also regularly online through zoom sessions.
Check out our upcoming events to see what wild food courses we’re hosting soon:
James & Lea host wild food and foraging course in North-East Wales. Get in touch to find out more.
A DEEPER LOOK AT THE FORAGED INGREDIENTS
In our recipe we used the following species of wild mushroom; parasol mushroom(Macrolepiota procera), penny bun(Boletus edulis) & brown birch bolete(Leccinum scabrum). These were selected because it’s what we had available dried already. There’s no doubt that the parasols and penny buns have great flavour, however the birch bolete is more bland and not an essential ingredient for your own recipe.
If you don’t have a supply of dried wild mushrooms that you’d foraged back in autumn then you could always buy a pack from the local deli.
When gathering nettles(Urtica dioca) at this time of year, it’s all about beating the frosts so you don’t get withered leaves. Only pick the top four leaves of the nettle and go for the plants which are in good condition and still young. They can be found in December, especially if you look where land has been grazed or cut, so you get nettle regrowth.
Unless you have had the mystic foresight to roast and then freeze some foraged sweet chestnuts back in the autumn, you’re probably going to have to head to the shops again.
Notice the shape of the bulb; tapering at either end and bulbous in the middle. Length is around 5-6cm.
DIGGING UP WILD GARLIC BULBS – GOOD PRACTISE
If you’re thinking of digging up wild garlic(Allium ursinum) bulbs then bear in mind that you’re are actually removing the wild plant from it’s habitats, not just harvesting the leaves which renew each year. So there’s a coupe of things we need to think about here so we’re exercising good practise as foragers:
It is the law in the UK that you need the landowner’s permission to uproot any wild plant.
You should only dig up bulbs from a spot where you know there to be an abundance of wild garlic in the spring, that way we’re only taking a very small amount of what’s in the ground.
If you dig up any other bulbs that are not wild garlic then they must go back where and as you found them.
You can see here that bluebell bulbs are a different shape to wild garlic bulbs too.
Lastly, it’s worth mentioning english bluebell(Hyacinthoides non-scripta) which also grow from bulbs and can often by found in amongst wild garlic at ancient woodland sites. We don’t want to be digging these up and eating them, they are poisonous.
If the bulbs you’re digging up don’t smell strongly of garlic then they’re not what you’re looking for. So, give the bulb a sniff before putting it in your basket. Bear in mind that when handling a lot of garlic your fingers will start smelling of it too so make sure you’re smelling the bulbs and not your fingers 😉
Ever get frustrated that you don’t know what tree it is you’re looking at? Don’t sweat it, I’m going to share with you my top 3 techniques for identifying any tree out in the countryside.
I call these techniques, my 3 Key Principles of Tree Identification. Have a look at the video below and I’ll explain what they are and how you can use them yourself.
When practising tree identification (and this goes for wildflowers too) I like to play a game of elimination, whittling down what the tree isn’t to help me work out what it is. Using these techniques helps me do that. So, let’s elaborate some more on these 3 Key Principles…
TECHNIQUE 1: TUNE IN
Think about your surroundings. Ask yourself, “where am I?” Are you in farmland, a town park, an old country estate or a retail centre car park?
This is important because the setting of where you’re looking at a tree can tell you a lot about which species you might expect or not expect to see.
For instance, if we’re out in farmland or a natural woodland then it’s most likely we shall see a range of our common native tree species; oak, hawthorn, ash, willow and so on. The trees that make up the majority of our countryside.
However, if we’re somewhere like a National Trust property, an old country estate, the likelihood of exotic tree species having been planted here becomes much greater. You could be seeing rhododendron, eucalyptus or even giant sequoia.
The same goes for looking at trees in somebody’s garden – they could have planted anything! There are hundreds of Acers (from the maple family) and a whole host of ornamental birches for a start, many of which are common place in gardens up and down the country.
This principle also applies to the wider environment. For instance you’re going to see a different variety of species down in Devon than you will up in the Highlands of Scotland. Certain tree species prefer certain soil types, or micro-climates, and some species will tolerate more extreme conditions, such as a mountain-side, more than others will.
So, a good habit to get into when you start practising tree identification, is when you arrive at a location to start tree hunting, take a moment to stop and ask yourself:
“Where am I?”
“What is the history of this environment?”
“Which species do I expect to see here?”
The more you practise tree identification, the more experience you will build up and the better you’ll be able to predict the range of species you could see when visiting a new place.
TECHNIQUE 2: BEGIN WITH THE BRANCH
Study a young, healthy branch first.
With most tree species, you can find everything you need to know to identify it in any season simply by looking at a healthy, young branch from the tree.
Depending on the season, a young healthy twig is going to include one or more of the following distinctive features:
Buds, leaves, flowers, fruit, nuts and of course the young bark itself.
Think of a young healthy branch as the tree in microcosm. Often, everything you need to know is right here.
Everything you need to know to identify the tree can usually be found at the tip of a branch.
One word of warning, make sure that the branch you’re looking at is actually attached to the trunk of the tree you’re investigating. When you’re in a woodland or looking at a hedgerow branches tend to cross over from other trees in their race to reach sunlight and it can be easy to grab hold of a branch from the neighbouring tree.
This may sound obvious but I’ve seen it plenty of times on courses and even done it myself and it can cause a lot of confusion.
So, once you’ve selected your branch to study. Just take a moment to follow it back with your eye and check it’s attached to the right tree.
TECHNIQUE 3: IS IT ALTERNATE OR OPPOSITE?
Study the bud or leaf arrangement.
Depending on the time of year, the twig is either going to include buds or leaves. These features are going to be laid out in one of two forms:
1. Alternately along the branch.
2. Growing in opposite pairs.
This is absolutely key to nailing the species of tree as once you’ve answered that question it allows you to eliminate a whole bunch of species from your enquiry.
So I like to ask the tree this question when I first approach it. “Are your buds arranged alternately or in opposite pairs?”
The majority of native tree species in Britain have their buds or leaves arranged alternately along the branch.
One last thing to remember; it’s important to select a young healthy twig to answer this question because as a branch matures it will often self-select the healthiest of the twigs to grow on and will drop it’s near partner. So, you can be looking at an older branch and thinking that they definitely don’t grow in opposite pairs, but then on closer inspection you might well notice the old scar left over from where it’s opposite equivalent was self-selected to be dropped by the tree in favour of it’s partner.
When you become practised at this you will begin to start noticing the bud arrangement from a distance, as you look at the form of tree. This is when tree identification can become very satisfying and you can really start showing off.
In conclusion, keep these three principles in mind when you’re out and about looking at trees. They will give you a solid grounding from which to build your skills up from.
If you found this interesting and want to know more, you can start building your tree ID skills right now by signing up to my FREE introductory course Kickstart Your Tree ID Skills.
OUR COVID-19 METHOD STATEMENT by WOODLAND CLASSROOM LTD.
Statement updated 22rd Sept 2020
After a break from outdoor activities during lockdown we are now beginning to return to the woods with our exciting range of courses for adults and families, and looking further ahead, for children.
Below we have set out how we are going to do this so that our clients have confidence that we have considered the current situation and are acting responsibly. We will continue to monitor the Welsh Government guidance as and when it changes.
We would like to take this opportunity to thank our good friends at Woodland Ways Ltd. for their support in helping us prepare this method statement.
Here’s the essentials of what our customers need to know about how we are currently operating within the government guidance:
All organised children’s outdoor activity days including holiday clubs, birthday parties and outdoor education are currently on hold. We hope to be back with holiday clubs in the new year.
Adult outdoor courses are going ahead with restricted group sizes and social distancing & increased hygiene in place. An additional risk assessment has been written to make us more COVID-19 secure.
We will not be hosting events at National Trust properties until at least 1st September in accordance with the Trust’s own risk assessment. In the meantime, alternative venues are being arranged as appropriate.
We are continuing to expand our offering of online learning covering wild food, tree identification, bushcraft and nature connection.
Our monthly Home Education group, Pathfinders, is planned to start up again from October, but with certain restrictions in place. Contact us to find out more.
We are taking bookings from schools, event organisers and groups for the future, please get in touch to discuss what we can offer you.
All the precautions and measures put in place that we have listed below are subject to change according to the government guidance. If you have a question, please get in touch. Detailed below is what you can expect from us when undertaking courses and events in Wales.
The safety of our customers and our staff is a primary concern for us.
If you have made a booking for an upcoming course or event and you cannot attend as you are ill or shielding, then we will issue you with a 2 year voucher to use on any Woodland Classroom course, event or product to the equal value of your booking.
We have taken on the Welsh Government’s guidance given: “Sport, Recreation and Leisure; guidance for a phased return” and we have also consulted with our piers in the industry and the Institute for Outdoor Learning, for best practise, of which we are an active member.
As of 23rd July all our adults and family courses will operate with a maximum of 16 participants, using a ratio of 1 instructor to 8 students.
All courses and events will operate with government approved numbers.Note: The current advice in Wales is that groups of no more than 30 can meet for an organised outdoor activity.
Courses Specific COVID-19 Methodology Statement
Activity: Running of all education course activities and events at our established outdoor venues with adherence to Welsh Government specific advice.
Erddig estate, Wrexham
Chirk Castle estate, Wrexham
Aberduna Nature Reserve, Flintshire
Hawarden Estate Farm Shop, Flintshire
Attendance on the course
It is important for all clients that should you, or a member of your household, become or are already unwell with symptoms of coronavirus you should inform Woodland Classroom Ltd. immediately and should not travel to or attend your course. If you are at our venue already then you should cease activity immediately and alert a member of staff whilst taking steps to isolate and remove yourself.
If you are self-isolating as a result of Covid 19, Woodland Classroom Ltd. will forfeit its rights under our terms and conditions to deeming this a cancelation by the client and instead will provide you with a 2 year voucher to undertake that course, or a similar course, within that time frame from your original booking. We recognise these are unusual times, and we want you to book with the assurance that you will not lose your money.
What we expect of you, and what you can expect of us
Prior to the course
Please ensure you have read the kit list and have all items with you. FAILURE TO BRING ANTI BAC HAND GEL AND A PERSONAL FIRST AID KIT WILL RESULT IN YOU NOT BE ABLE TO ATTEND THE COURSE. Clients will be informed of what makes up a Personal First Aid Kit in advance of attending.
Your instructors will have changed into their uniform at the venue to minimise any risk of cross contamination, you may wish to consider doing the same if you are visiting shops/public spaces before the course
Clients must complete a premedical questionnaire and registration form prior to arriving at the course and have this printed out to bring with them.
Meet and greet
Effective from 23rd July until further notice all courses will have no more than 8 clients per 1 instructor, with a maximum of 16 customers in attendance. Ratios will be reviewed increase at the time the government guidance allows.
From the moment of stepping out of the car, we would request that all employees, sub-contractors, apprentices and clients at all times remain 2 metres apart (unless you are from the same household) there should be no hand shaking or other contact with people from outside your household.
Clients will place their signed copy of their registration forms and premedical questionnaire into the plastic wallet provided at the meeting point, confirming to the instructor that you have answered no to all medical questions and understand your responsibilities. Employees will not handle this paperwork for at least 72 hours and therefore we are asking you to be open to the fact that you have read it and have signed the document.
You will be welcomed by the instructor and will be expected to have read the following safety brief:
The weekend is designed to be fun and no one will be forced to do anything they do not wish to do.
Please respect everyone’s wish to practise social distancing, beyond the recommended 2m guidance, and their choice to wear a mask if they wish to.
Any rubbish that can be burnt should be burnt. If the rubbish cannot be burnt, e.g. metal or glass and plastics, this will need to be taken home with you.
For small cuts you should have a simple first aid kit with you; containing at least plasters and antiseptic wipes. For more serious injuries we have a first aid kit in basecamp and an accident book to record injuries in. All Instructors are first aid qualified. Please note due to COVID-19 our instructors have been told NOT to provide mouth to mouth resuscitation in case of collapse, but to undertake chest compressions only unless directed otherwise by the emergency services, further first aid treatments will be at the discretion of the instructor but may involve them telling you and guiding you how to treat the wound yourself.
If any medical information has changed since making your booking could you please advise an Instructor, all information will be kept confidential and we are interested in where your medication may be.
If lifting heavy items tat require 2 people, please follow good manual handling practise and share your lifting only with some from your own household. If this is not an option, the item(s) cannot be moved.
Due to COVID-19 no activity should take place that involves exertion within a 5-metre space of anyone else (e.g. fire bow)
A pegged out display of 2 metres and 5 metres will be demonstrated
Once it has been agreed everyone is aware of the safety brief, you will then be directed to basecamp with the instructor.
On arrival in camp & for the remainder of your course
You will be provided with a demonstration on handwashing with no running/piped water, everyone will be requested to wash their hands.
For everyone there is a compulsory handwash every 2 hours (using your own anti-bac gel) during the teaching day, water is available for those who wish to handwash more. Handwashing must comply with our handwashing instructions which comply with UNICEF guidelines, a jug should be used to pour the water over the hands of the client into a collecting bowl underneath and then disposed of in a dedicated hole at the edge of camp.
Please note we have provided face guards for any member of staff who wishes to use them, please respect this if an instructor puts one on. This is in no detriment to how we view you; it is the instructor’s personal choice. We are however of the understanding that the outdoors is very low risk.
Each client will be issued with their own equipment (as appropriate) as well as a water supply for the duration of the course – these should not be handled by anyone else outside of your household. This equipment will have been left fallow for 72 hours prior to your course commencing, or if a course has been held within this time frame the equipment will have been disinfected thoroughly.
Any further tools and or equipment that are used through the course (e.g. fire bow kit) should be picked up from the unused pile and placed in the used pile when you have finished with them. These will then either be left fallow for 72 hours or cleaned thoroughly before the next use. Hands should also be washed after each session.
In camps where there is a rustic table, we would request that clients do not use this area. The area will be disinfected after each use by an instructor.
All shared handheld equipment will be disinfected every two hours with the dedicated disinfectant spray, e.g. storage boxes and kettle
All staff & clients should avoid touching their face and if there is a cough or sneeze this should be done into a tissue and disposed of in the fire. If no tissue is available, it should be done into your arm
It is not practical to put up signage within the woodlands however the key messages of social distancing and cleaning will be enforced by the team if necessary. If there is a failure to adhere to social distancing measures, then we will have no choice but to remove you from the course.
In the toilet there is a blue roll and some spray disinfectant, before and after each use we would ask you to wipe down any contactable surface and burn the blue paper with the lighter provided, and then request that you wash your hands.
In times of inclement weather paper towels/blue roll should be used for drying hands when weather does not allow for drying, and then disposed of, ideally in the fire.
You may notice that if there is a rare event where an item has to be passed to you, it may be placed on the ground for you to pick up, this is to ensure social distancing. All instructors are washing their hands within a 2-hour time frame also.
If you are within the clinically vulnerable, or extremely clinically vulnerable category, or if you live with anyone who is in either of these two groups, please consider whether you wish to take advantage of our 2 year postponement offer, we will of course welcome you to this course, or one in the future.
Our risk assessment is relating to COVID-19 is available to view upon request.
In case of emergency evacuation people do not have to stay 2 metres apart if it is unsafe to do so.
Any personal litter should be burnt or removed at the end of the day and taken home.
The evidence suggests that wearing a face covering does not protect you, but it may protect others if you are infected but have not developed symptoms- however the risk is deemed to be extremely low when operating in an outdoor environment. We will leave it at your discretion should you decide to wear a facemask. If you decide that you would like to wear a face covering, we would ask you to follow the below recommendations:
wash your hands thoroughly with soap and water for 20 seconds or use hand sanitiser before putting a face covering on, and after removing it
when wearing a face covering, avoid touching your face or face covering, as you could contaminate them with germs from your hands
change your face covering if it becomes damp or if you’ve touched it
continue to wash your hands regularly
change and wash your face covering daily
if the material is washable, wash in line with manufacturer’s instructions. If it’s not washable, dispose of it carefully in your usual waste
practise social distancing wherever possible
The above is about protecting our team, as well as yourself and your other course participants
Where numbers of participants and activities dictate the need, then a number of fireplaces will be established to maintain social distancing.
Clients will be refused entry on the instructor’s discretion based on appearance of potential symptoms.
Social distancing should take place during ALL sessions. Each session has been re-designed to ensure you have the safest possible experience. If you are at all unsure about how something will operate please contact us prior to the course, or ask the question directly to the instructor during the course.
Last reviewed on 23rd September 2020, using the Welsh Government guidelines updated 20th July 2020.
Calling all tree lovers. Do you ever get overwhelmed by the amount of tree species out there and can’t tell one from the other? Would you love to expand your tree knowledge further and deepen your connection to the natural world? Well, I’m really excited to finally reveal what I’ve been working on for the past year…
THE COMPLETE TREE ID COURSE: An exclusive online course to take you from Tree Beginner to Tree Expert. All led by James Kendall from Woodland Classroom.
I’ve released a sneak preview of the full online course which you can watch here…
As I said, I’ve been filming videos for this course for over two years now, visiting trees in all four seasons, and taking hundreds of photographs. With coronavirus having cancelled or postponed all our outdoor activity work I now have the time to put the whole thing together for you.
I’d love to have your feedback, comments and constructive criticism on the video, as it will really help me highlight what works well and what could be improved for you. Simply drop me an email at firstname.lastname@example.org
Here’s what I hope to include in the full online course:
Approx 50 species of trees, both native and common to Britain and Ireland.
Videos of each tree species in winter, spring, summer and autumn – so you can see how the tree changes throughout the year and what to look out for.
Downloadable identification guide ‘cheat sheets’ which you can take out into the woods with you.
Hundreds of photographs, both on location and in-studio, which highlight the distinctive features in each tree.
Regular live webinars/chats with course students so you can get direct contact with me and other learners to help you on your progression from tree novice to expert.
An exclusive facebook group with all students so you can share questions, pictures and experiences.
You will get a certification of completion.
Excuse the pun but… I’ll help you see the wood for the trees 😉
There will be lots more information coming soon but if you’re interested in being one of the first to know when more details are released, drop us an email at email@example.com and I’ll sign you up to our Tree I.D. Course Mailing List.
MORE ABOUT YOUR TUTOR
I thought I’d include some more information myself and my professional background so those of you interested in knowing more about your Tree I.D Tutor…
I am the Head Bushcraft Instructor and Forest School Leader at Woodland Classroom. I have been working in environmental education & conservation for over 10 years now. I received the Bushcraft Competency Certificate awarded through the Institute for Outdoor Learning after 2 years of teaching experience and practical study. Before setting up Woodland Classroom Ltd I was the Project Manager for Long Wood Community Woodland, the largest community-owned woodland in Wales, overseeing the management of 300 acres of broadleaf and conifer forest. I am also a former Director of Llais y Goedwig, the voice of community woodlands in Wales.
My approach to teaching has always been with an emphasis on steering my students toward fostering a deeper connection with nature through understanding the landscape around us. Bushcraft skills are an effective way to do this as we learn about using natural materials and how we can live with the land, whilst also connecting with our own ancient past by seeing the land through the eyes of our ancestors.
I have always had an affinity with woods, being at home amongst the trees, and I’ve made it my mission to study under some of the UK leaders in bushcraft, greenwood crafts and sustainable woodland management including; Dave Watson (Woodland Survival Crafts), Ben Law (woodsman, author, and eco-builder) Patrick Whitefield (permaculture teacher and author) and Mike Abbott (author and greenwood craftsman).
Woodland Classroom would like to issue the following statement to provide our customers with an update on our precautions and preparations in light of the Coronavirus (CORVID-19) pandemic.
In-line with the escalating situation and Government guidelines, we have taken the hard decision that we will be postponing ALL our courses and events, for both kids and adults, throughout March, April and May. We will continue to review the situation and advice on a weekly basis looking to June and onwards.
This is an incredibly tough time for us as a small business but it’s important to do the right thing for everyone’s safety. Over the last week, we tried to roll with the punches and keep some of our events going but things have changed so fast in just a few days and it would be irresponsible for us to now host our sessions in the current climate.
Our policy is to re-schedule all courses and events to a point where it is more appropriate. Every client who is booked on to our courses/events in March, April & May will be contacted personally over the next few days outlining our schedule, please be patient with us and respect the fact we are fighting for our livelihoods.
If you have booked onto an event or course that has been affected and you cannot attend the rescheduled date then we will issue you with an 18-month voucher to use on any Woodland Classroom course, event or product.
Stay safe, stay active and remember that self-isolation doesn’t mean you have to stay indoors, but remember that the current advice is to keep 2 metres apart from others. So it’s best to avoid travelling to access nature. Use your garden, local park or green space and please avoid “honeypot” nature spots such as popular tourist destinations. Nature is a healer and strengthener of the immune system and you don’t have to go far to find it.
Lastly, we’d like to say thank you to everyone who has already reached out to us with messages of support, we really appreciate it.
Planning your Summer Camp program for 2019? Struggling to come up with new and engaging ideas? Don’t worry, it can be a tricky process, especially when you want to incorporate original concepts to avoid doing the same old thing.
Between managing staff, organising logistics and marketing your camp, coming up with new program ideas can be challenging. We’re here to help, with our list of 5 activities to make summer camp memorable in 2019.
1. A Minecraft™ Inspired Outdoor Adventure
It’s the video game with over 91 million monthly players and a loyal cult following. Kids love it, so why not encourage them outdoors with a Minecraft™ themed adventure? Designed to get today’s digital generation off their screens and back outdoors, Wildcraft Adventure™ takes the best bits from the video game and transforms them into an outdoor experience they’ll never forget.
It’s a brand new way to engage the digital generation in the kind of outdoor adventures that us adults loved when we were kids. This game includes outdoor classics like den building, fire-lighting and scavenger hunts and combines them with video game elements like scoring points, beating monsters and gathering magical items – it’s like living in a real video game. Plus, players will have to use bushcraft, survival skills, teamwork and problem solving throughout.
Kids love mystery and surprise so, creating original and interesting scientific experiments can be a real winner. You don’t need a physics degree make this happen either, just some common ingredients, clear instructions and the necessary safety precautions. Here’s a few cool ideas to get you started:
Make a Solar Oven Believe it or not, it all starts with a pizza box. Kids will love it!
3. If You Can’t Beat ‘Em, Join ‘Em: Host Themed Days
Yes, you may have done this a hundred times over – but, add a twist and the kids will love it. Get together with your camp counselors and have a think about recent kids movies and trends. From Deadpool and Marvel to Disney and Lego – there’s always a new craze you can get on board with.
Whether you decide to hold a fancy dress day or create activities based on a theme – the options are endless. You can also easily add educational elements in like languages, geography and performing arts.
4. Incorporate Mindfulness
Mindfulness and wellbeing are hot topics for adults at the moment, so why shouldn’t it be for kids too? With the modern pressures of social media and the internet, children need to learn the power of mindfulness just as much as adults. Schools across the US are increasingly incorporating it into the curriculum through a range of activities, so here’s how you can do it at summer camp too:
Combine Mindfulness with Bushcraft
This practice combines nature and ‘rewilding’ to help kids reconnect with the outdoors. By assisting with nature conservation and learning bushcraft survival skills, there are proven benefits that kids’ mental health can improve from the experience.
Practising bushcraft requires children to adopt a mindful approach to their actions as patience, awareness and concentration are all key to mastering activities like knife craft and ancient fire-lighting.
Pair Up Mindfulness and Yoga
Not only does yoga enhance stability and focus, it also aids relaxation and mental wellbeing. Plus, it’s a great way to take a break between daily activities and inject some calm into your program.
Mindfulness and Meditation
Whether you decide to do a seated, walking or guided meditation, it can have a surprising impact on behaviour and mental wellbeing for kids. Here’s a handy article from the ACA (American Camp Association) on how to get started.
“Kids are accustomed to using their senses to experience life. They look, touch, smell, and even taste their way through the world. This natural inclination toward mindfulness makes teaching kids to meditate easier than we thought. In fact, it’s a no-brainer.”Laurie Palagyi
Mindfulness and Roleplay
Get the kids to become the animals that live in the woods! Why not use roleplay to introduce kids to mindfulness through engaging them with nature? Check out our handy video on how to use animals as a starting point for practising mindfulness in nature. It’s proven to work with kids and adults.
“Animal Form Games invite participants to empathize with animals, to imitate their attitudes, and, to the best of their human-bodied ability in the throes of a game, practice animals ways of moving.”Coyote’s Guide to Connecting with Nature
5. Get Creative with Campfire Cooking
New flavours and foods can be a real treat for kids. Explore world foods, host a mini street food festival and at the same time enhance outdoor cooking skills with new and original recipes. No need to go gourmet with this one, simple yet tasty will be a winner every time.
Here’s a few delicious ideas to add you to your Summer Camp program for 2019:
Hopefully, these activities will give you food for thought when putting that all-important program together. If you’re still stuck for ideas though, head to Pinterest which offers a goldmine of tips, tricks and activities, perfect for camp.
If you’re interested in the Wildcraft Adventure™ but aren’t 100% sure about how to implement it, contact us here and we’ll be more than happy to give you all the details you need.
James & Lea Kendall are the creators of Woodland Classroom. “Through our passion, enthusiasm and experience we help people connect with nature, feel healthier and have meaningful experiences through positive activity and creative play.”
“We are experienced outdoor educators with a background in bushcraft, forest school and nature therapy, who love what we do.”
Are you looking for a simple but tasty treat that could go head-to-head with marshmallows as the number one campfire snack with kids? Well look no further…
We cook A LOT of marshmallows over the campfire with kids when we host our Forest School sessions and Woodland Birthday Parties. We know children love them, but they are not exactly a nutritionists best friend. They also contain gelatine made from pork or beef and we’re getting a lot more requests from parents who want vegetarian or vegan friendly campfire snacks for their kids when they come out to the woods with us. Last but not least, they’re sticky residue is a nightmare to get out of your clothes. Luckily, we have the solution.
Toffee Apple Slices are our alternative to marshmallows and kids love them! Granted they’re still coated in sugar but kids are getting some fruit down them and this recipe is vegan too. Our favourite sugar to use is coconut blossom sugar, as it less refined and less processed than regular sugar but any soft brown sugar will do the trick. They make a great hot campfire snack anytime of the year, especially in the autumn when you can walk out to an apple tree and pick the fruit straight from the branch.
Light or Dark Brown Soft Sugar
Cinnamon and Nutmeg – add to taste
To get a fire that really makes the most mouth-watering toffee apple slices it’s best to let your flames die down and roast your apples over the hot coals – just like you would with a bbq. This will save them from burning.
First gently roast your apple slice over the fire until it begins to go soft and the pulp starts to bubble up.
Next, dip your hot apple slice in a tray of soft brown sugar until it is well coated. Be careful it doesn’t fall off the stick.
Roast your coated apple slice over the fire again until the sugar starts to melt.
Now for the final touch… let your apple slice cool for a minute and the sugar will harden up and give your apple a crispy toffee coating – simply delicious.
Eat and repeat!
For a slightly spiced variant on this snack then try sprinkling some cinnamon and/or nutmeg into the sugar. Ginger would work well too.
Which Wood Should You Use?
For your roasting stick we would recommend using either a hazel, willow or sycamore stick. At Forest School this can be a whole activity in itself, identifying the tree in the woods, cutting a suitable branch responsibly and reducing the damage to the tree, then practising some basic whittling skills by slicing away the bark near the tip and making a sharp point.
We would recommend using green (fresh) sticks from a tree as they are more resistant to the fire than dead twigs, so will last longer.
Sycamore – the winter twig and full leaf.
FUN FACT:Sycamore (Acerpseudoplatanus) actually contains it’s own natural antibacterial and antiviral properties, which is one reason why it is very sought after for use in kitchenware. This makes it a really safe wood to use for roasting sticks when out in the woods with kids.
Full disclosure, I personally can’t stand marshmallows, even though I cook so many, so I was very glad to discover this tasty alternative. Thanks to the Forest School Leader who shared this cooking idea with us at a skill share training day in Derbyshire last year, I can’t remember your name but we’re forever grateful 🙂
Happy cooking everyone.
James & Lea Kendall are the creators of Woodland Classroom. “Through our passion, enthusiasm and experience we help people connect with nature, feel healthier and have meaningful experiences through positive activity and creative play.”
“We are experienced outdoor educators with a background in bushcraft, forest school and nature therapy, who love what we do.”
We have some VERY exciting news! We are finally able to announce that we’ve gone into partnership with the National Trust at Erddig Hall & Gardens and Chirk Castle, both in the county of Wrexham. What this means is that James and Lea are moving Woodland Classroom up to Wrexham and from September we will be able to bring all our existing popular outdoor clubs, as well as some new ones, to children in the area and offer our outdoor education services to audiences in North Wales, Cheshire, Shropshire, Merseyside and beyond.
James explained his connection with the area; “I’m originally from this neck of the woods where I worked a lot with environmental organisations in Cheshire and North East Wales, so this feels like coming home and I’m really excited about this opportunity we have with the National Trust who have made us very welcome and have been totally onboard with all the ideas we have to offer our activities in the area.”
Our new base of operations will be Felin Puleston Outdoor Centre, which lies on the edge of the Erddig estate on the doorstep of Wrexham town. It’s a great location for locals to be able to access it easily and is currently also the home of the National Trust’s GAP (Green Academies Project) funded by the Lottery which has seen lots of new energy and restoration work go into Felin Puleston with a host of improvements to the venue which makes it perfect for visiting groups who want to learn more about nature.
Our new home at Felin Puleston, Wrexham. Kids building dens with us. The vegetable garden where kids can learn how to grow their own.
We feel incredibly lucky to have full access to this tailor-made venue. The Outdoor Centre includes an allotment for growing vegetables, a wildlife garden, orchard, den building area, indoor function room and kitchen for craft workshops and classroom sessions, and of course the beautiful 1,200 acre Erddig estate which lies on the other side of the gate for the children and groups to explore.
Our Little rangers parent & toddler group. The entrance to Forest Wood at Erddig. Boys learning fire-lighting skills at our sessions.
We also have the River Clywedog on our doorstep along with a wildlife pond both home to a wealth of water life which means that activities like pond and river dipping are going to be very much on the menu.
Susan Jones is the Volunteer & Community Involvement Manager at Erddig;
“We are delighted to be working in partnership with Woodland Classroom. Providing enjoyable and meaningful experiences in the outdoors helps us to connect with nature, improve our mental and physical wellbeing and value the world around us so we can continue to care for special places like Chirk Castle and Erddig, forever for everyone.”
Erddig Hall & Gardens. This stunning National Trust property sits at the doorstep of Wrexham town.
In addition to making the most of the Outdoor Centre, we’re going to be able to welcome groups of all ages to Forest Wood, a beautiful forest school site based in the heart of Erddig’s ancient woodland. Think tall trees, wild garlic and woodland wildflowers. It’s a fantastic spot for woodland learning.
About Woodland Classroom
So, who are we? Well… James and Lea have been running Woodland Classroom in Lampeter, Ceredigion since 2014 where they have hosted schools, organisations, adult learners, after-school clubs and kids birthday parties with a range of outdoor activities including; bushcraft, forest school, traditional woodland crafts, mindfulness and CPD training. All of this and more will now be offered at our new home.
They are also the creative minds behind the hugely popular Wildcraft Adventure™ which takes kids’ favourite video games like Minecraft and transforms them into outdoor adventures that engage children in a host of physical challenges and bushcraft skills which score them point along the way, just like a real video game. There’s even a monster to run away from! It’s been so popular that outdoor activity leaders across the world are nor running the game; from California to Scotland, from New Zealand to Canada. James and lea are planning many more Wildcraft Adventures at their new Wrexham home for the near future.
James is a qualified Forest School Leader, Social Forester and experienced Woodland Skills Tutor. He has worked widely with children, young people and adults, leading on a variety of outdoor education and environmental projects. He has worked for several well-known environmental organisations and was also Project Manager for Long Wood Community Woodland, the largest community owned woodland in Wales, overseeing management of 300 acres of forest. He enjoys working with schools and communities to raise awareness of the environment, where his enthusiasm for spreading the message of learning through nature comes through. Lastly, but not least, he is currently undertaking a 2 year long course to become a bushcraft skills activity leader with the Bushcraft Competency Certificate scheme run through the Institute for Outdoor Learning.
“As a child, my Mum would bring me and my sister to Erddig and Chirk Castle where our imaginations could run wild with all sorts of play. I never thought I’d get the opportunity to actually work here and it seems fitting that I’ll now be able to offer outdoor adventures and learning for kids coming to these National Trust properties.”
Lea has years of experience working with children and young people, including 4 years working in a primary school as a Learning Mentor focusing on the social and emotional aspects of learning and working one to one with vulnerable children and challenging behaviour. She shares her time leading activities for Woodland Classroom with my work as a qualified integrative Counsellor. Lea is also a qualified practitioner of Mindfulness in woodland settings.
“I am a firm believer in the power of nature to be therapeutic for everyone. I believe that play for all ages should be a large part of our lives. My training as a Counsellor worked toward my long-term goal to incorporate nature and play therapy into our future services. I am passionate about finding ways to increase the self-esteem of people and encouraging motivation through positive experience, shared enthusiasm and a nurturing environment.”
Lea is now offering the first of her planned nature therapy courses with two Mindfulness events for adult learners scheduled for this autumn. See our events page to find out more.
We Can Also Travel To You
Not every group who wants our services has been able to travel to us though, and for some schools such travel can be a costly or complicated business, so we’ve always offered the option for us to come to your school or venue and we have hosted many Forest School and bushcraft sessiosn on school grounds, at events, or anywhere that wants us really. Want to know more? Just get in touch.
About our Outdoor Kids Clubs
Little Rangers is a weekly woodland parent and toddler group for children aged up to 5 years which follows the Forest School approach of child-led play and outdoor activities in a welcoming natural space. Activities are based around our central campfire and tots can get stuck into the mud kitchen, build a den, explore the wood or do some campfire cooking. Sessions are also a chance for like-minded parents to meet and share time together whilst their children are at play.
Young Rangers is our weekly after-school club for primary school aged children from 6 – 11 years. Parents drop their kids off with James and Lea where children will get the chance to play off steam after a day in school and take part in guided activities including bushcraft, outdoor games, crafts and campfire cooking.
Pathfinders is brand new to Woodland Classroom, a regular group for Home Educated children and their families. It’s something we’ve been wanting to offer for a long time, and we’ve been asked my Home Ed parents time and again if we could do this. Our move to Wrexham has offered the perfect opportunity for it to start. Sessions will be fortnightly and children from 0-16 will be able to join either our Forest School group where they can engage in child-led play and outdoor activities, or they can join our structured learning sessions where they will get quality tuition from James or Lea in environmental education, bushcraft and traditional woodland craft skills.
We’re hosting a taster session for Pathfinders on Tuesday 22nd August which is half-price for children and adults to come and see for themselves how this new club will work. If you’d like to find out more about the taster session, just CLICK HERE.
To find out more about our new kids clubs based at Erddig, and to take advantage of ‘early bird’ booking discounts just follow THIS LINK.
Even More Opportunities at Chirk Castle
The ‘woodland classroom’ amongst the ancient trees of the Chirk Castle estate.
Wrexham county is quite unique in that it hosts two major National Trust venues just within 15 minutes drive of each other. Not only will be offering our services to groups at Erddig but just down the road is the equally amazing Chirk Castle with it’s 480 acres of gardens and estate including deer parkland and ancient woodland. It’s a perfect venue for outdoor learning and we’re looking forward to getting stuck in and welcoming groups to our sessions.
Jon Hignett is the Visitor Experience Manager at Chirk Castle for the National Trust;
“We first started working with Woodland Classroom in April 2015 when our estate was used as the venue for their very popular Wildcraft Adventure sessions, using the clever template of explorer/builder type video games to engage with children in the outdoors. We could see from the first meeting that it would be a popular activity, and it has been a very effective partnership allowing experienced professionals to use Chirk Castle’s estate to help to move, teach and inspire young visitors and connect them with the outdoors at a young age. We’ve collaborated on a few projects since then, and throughout James and Lea have been wonderful to work with, positive, engaging, and committed. We’re eagerly looking forward to what future collaborations might bring!”
Chirk Castle & Gardens, hosts over 480 acres of parkland estate within which we will be running our outdoor events.
What the Future Holds
Not only will we be offering our tried and tested activities for children, our the plan is to expand our work with adult learners also, making Felin Puleston Outdoor Centre a real hub for environmental education for all ages. We plan to offer training to adult learners in the following subjects:
Bushcraft, Tree Identification, Greenwood Crafts, Woodland Management, Mindfulness, Eco Therapy, Nature Awareness, Foraging and Leathercraft.
So, it’s exciting times for Woodland Classroom and we can’t wait to meet all the new people we will be working with.
Right, that’s enough typing for now… we’ve got a whole house full of stuff to move.
If you’d like to find out what we could offer you or your group at Woodland Classroom, then please get in touch. You can email us at firstname.lastname@example.org or phone James and Lea on 07876 794098.
We’re giving you our Nature Scavenger Hunt that we’ve had loads of success with at our outdoor kids sessions. It’s a FREE download which works great whether you’re a teacher or activity leader running an outdoor education session, or you’re a parent who wants to spice up a walk in the woods with their kids.
With some children, a walk in nature can be a hard sell if they prefer to stay indoors, watch videos or play video games. Many children might think twice before grabbing their coat and hat to head out into the woods for a day’s exploring. But could they resist the lure of a treasure hunt?
At Woodland Classroom we run lots of Forest School and outdoor education activities and one thing we’ve discovered is that kids love treasure hunts. So, we came up with a hunt of our own, which we use regularly at our sessions. Now you can use it to entice your kids outdoors during the colder months as they go looking for treasures from nature. You could even come up with a prize if the kids find everything on the list.
A couple of reasons why this particular Nature Scavenger Hunt works so well is that it is not season specific, so all the treasures can be found year round. Also many of the items are open to the child’s own interpretation, so it makes their experience a personal one. This activity also stimulates children’s natural curiosity. It’s the unexpected things that kids discover whilst looking for the items on their list that make each walk special.
You will notice one of the items to find involves a bit of litter-picking. This is our way of having an opportunity to talk with the kids we work with about litter and it’s impact on the land. We would, of course, advise that you check that the chosen litter is safe to be handled before adding it to the basket.
And for any parents thinking twice about heading out on a windy day, remember this; you can’t change the weather but you can change your attitude to it. An old saying goes, “There’s no such thing as the wrong weather, just the wrong clothing.” So, download your Nature Scavenger Hunt, get yourself and the kids wrapped up, grab a basket, a flask of hot chocolate and get exploring.