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wassail ceremony in north wales

Wassail & Lantern Making

Celebrate This Ancient Apple Festival with your Family

Crackling fire, glowing lanterns, steaming hot mulled apple juice and merriment a-plenty for all the family! Celebrate a traditional Wassailing with us as we bless the fruit trees for a bountiful harvest. Let’s face it, January is a rubbish month when nothing much happens, but in villages up and down the country, around Old Twelfth Night, traditional Wassails are returning, so let’s bring some light and celebration to this time of year. Families with children of all ages are welcome to join us under our big parachute shelter at Park in the Past for an event which promises to be very special and magical with music, food and good company. “Wassail!”
Make a lantern with your family and join our procession to the orchard where you will learn about the tradition of wassailing and take part in the ceremony. We will be passing around the traditional wassail bowl filled to the brim with our secret winter-warming recipe, sharing slices of home-made apple cake and cooking up sticky toffee apple slices over the campfire. Come a-wassailing, as we sing-along to traditional songs of the season with live music provided by James’ mandolin.

Lea and James will be your guides to this traditional celebration as we gather under our huge parachute canopy and share the warmth of the winter fire.

  • Craft a willow lantern with your family
  • Enjoy hot mulled apple cider (non-alcoholic)
  • Traditional Wassailing ceremony – blessing of the trees
  • Cook up toffee apple slices on our blazing campfire
  • Join the lantern procession to the orchard
  • Share a sip from the wassail bowl & munch on apple cake
  • Sing-along with wassail songs; James will have his mandolin
  • Discover the ancient traditional of Wassailing & learn the history behind it

WHAT IS WASSAILING?

Wassailing refers to drinking (and singing) the health of trees in the hopes that they might better thrive. The purpose of wassailing is to awake the cider apple trees and to scare away evil spirits to ensure a good harvest of fruit in the autumn. The ceremonies of each Wassail vary from village to village but they generally all have the same core elements. A wassail King and Queen lead the song and procession to be played from one orchard to the next. This ancient British tradition is still very much thriving today.
Want to know what Wassailing is all about? Come along and find out what roles soggy toast, pots & pans and a child up a tree have to play in this ancient tradition. By wassailing the apple and pear trees we will be blessing them for a bountiful harvest next autumn. The old call will go out for “Hatfuls, capfuls, three bushel bagfuls and little heaps under the stairs!”

Event details

Date: Sat 13th Jan 2024

Time: 3:00 pm – 5:30 pm

Venue: Park in the Past

Cost: Family (up to 4) £35

wassail in north wales

Your Guides: James & Lea Kendall

James is the Head Bushcraft Instructor at Woodland Classroom, having worked in environmental education & conservation for over 10 years. James’ approach to teaching  steers his 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 how to make use of natural materials and live lightly with the land, whilst also connecting with our own ancient past by seeing the land through the eyes of our ancestors.”

Lea is a qualified Counsellor and Mindfulness in a Woodland Setting practitioner. She is a firm believer in the power of nature to be therapeutic for everyone. Lea is an active forager, passionate about how we can use common plants for both food and medicine. She enjoys making her own tinctures and medicinal remedies for treating common ailments.

james and lea kendall - outdoor education tutors
wassail in north wales

Skills you will learn

Over the course of the evening you will experience a range of activities, including…

null

Nature Connection

null

Campfire Treats

null

Family Bushcraft

null

Ancestral Skills

Book now

Tickets are £35 for a family of up to 4 people. Additional family members are £5 each Additional children aged under 3 come free. You can read our Event Terms & Conditions here.

wassailing event apples in north wales
woodland winter solstice in north wales

Woodland Winter Solstice

Celebrate a Magical Midwinter with your Family

Celebrate the Winter Solstice with us in the woods. Adults or families with children of all ages are welcome to join us at our sheltered fire circle hidden in the beautiful woodland of Park in the Past for an early evening session of solstice celebration around the campfire. We will start with a lantern-lit walk along the trail, across the river and into the woods where our crackling campfire will give us a warm and welcome light at the darkest time of the year. Our previous events have been amazing, and this year promises to be a very special and magical event with music, food and good company.

Be sure to wrap up well with appropriate clothing as old Jack Frost will be out and about.
“We can look back on our journey since Summer Solstice, to acknowledge what we have completed in this cycle, what we have experienced and what wisdom we have gained. It is also a moment to look forward, to name the new seeds and intentions we wish to take into the next cycle.” Glennie Kindred

Lea and James will be your guides as we gather under our huge parachute canopy and share the warmth of the midwinter fire.

We are hosting this session on 2 consecutive nights so if this date fills up, check out our event on the 21st Dec.

  • Lantern walk down the trails to the fire circle
  • Hot spiced apple cider (non-alcoholic)
  • Festive fireside storytelling
  • Wishing Tree
  • Gentle games for the kids; night-line, glow worm trail & more
  • Roasted chestnuts
  • Sing-along with seasonal songs; James will bring his mandolin
  • Light a candle of your own and make a wish for the coming year

Event details

Date: Dec 22, 2023

Time: 4:30 am – 6:30 pm

Venue: Park in the Past

Cost: Adult £14, Child £11, Under 2’s Free

Want a sneak preview of this event? Watch this short video of a previous Woodland Winter Solstice gathering we hosted.

Your Guides: James & Lea Kendall

James is the Head Bushcraft Instructor at Woodland Classroom, having worked in environmental education & conservation for over 10 years. James’ approach to teaching  steers his 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 how to make use of natural materials and live lightly with the land, whilst also connecting with our own ancient past by seeing the land through the eyes of our ancestors.”

Lea is a qualified Counsellor and Mindfulness in a Woodland Setting practitioner. She is a firm believer in the power of nature to be therapeutic for everyone. Lea is an active forager, passionate about how we can use common plants for both food and medicine. She enjoys making her own tinctures and medicinal remedies for treating common ailments.

james and lea kendall - outdoor education tutors
winter solstice in the woods event

Skills you will learn

Over the course of the evening you will experience a range of activities, including…

null

Nature Connection

null

Campfire Treats

null

Family Bushcraft

null

Ancestral Skills

null

Campfire

null

Stargazing

null

Tree & Plant identification

null

Wellbeing in Nature

Book now

Adults tickets £14 each, Child tickets £11 each. Under two’s come for FREE. Children of all ages are welcome. You can read our Event Terms & Conditions here.

woodland solstice celebration

Midwinter’s Day Celebration

Celebrate Winter Solstice Immersed In Nature

Give yourself the gift of quality time in nature as you join us around the midwinter campfire, for a celebration of the Winter Solstice. You will be guided through a range of activities aimed at deepening your nature connection whilst we mark this special moment in the calendar year together.

Experiencing nature with all our senses is a powerful doorway to practising mindfulness which is proven to improve your health & well-being. Practising bushcraft brings us closer to our ancestors and a very old way of understanding the natural world around us. It also fosters a stronger connection to nature. Fire has a hypnotic quality which can really aid getting into a mindful head space. Lighting fires at the darkest time of the year is also an ancient custom and symbolises creating our positive intentions for the new year.

“Winter Solstice, like Summer Solstice, is a moment of pause between two cycles, a moment of transition that can be held and savoured, a doorway, an opening, a place on the edge, when we can stop our busy lives and take a moment to experience this edge between these two great cycles of the year.” Glennie Kindred

Lea and James will guide you through a range of seasonal activities aimed at giving you real techniques which you can use to foster a deeper nature connection in your own time.

You will join us around the campfire amoungst the beautiful woodland of Park in the Past in North East Wales for a relaxing session of learning and celebrating in amongst the trees.

  • Enjoy a winter warmer; hot spiced apple cider (non-alcoholic) from our campfire
  • Awaken your ‘five animal senses’
  • Use traditional tools; knife, axe and froe
  • Identify native tree species in winter
  • Craft your own wild weaving to take home
  • Unwind with a tree meditation
  • Roast chestnuts on an open fire
  • Use traditional firelighting tools; flint & steel
  • Build your own Midwinter campfire; bring light to the dark
  • Set your intentions for the new year ahead
  • Make herbal teas from wild plants
  • Discover what your Celtic Birth Tree is and what it says about you

Event details

Date: Dec 22, 2023

Time: 10:00 am – 2:00 pm

Venue: Park in the Past

Cost: £35

midwinter solstice event in the woods

Your Tutors: James & Lea Kendall

James is the Head Bushcraft Instructor at Woodland Classroom, having worked in environmental education & conservation for over 10 years. James’ approach to teaching  steers his 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 how to make use of natural materials and live lightly with the land, whilst also connecting with our own ancient past by seeing the land through the eyes of our ancestors.”

Lea is a qualified Counsellor and Mindfulness in a Woodland Setting practitioner. She is a firm believer in the power of nature to be therapeutic for everyone. Lea is an active forager, passionate about how we can use common plants for both food and medicine. She enjoys making her own tinctures and medicinal remedies for treating common ailments.

james and lea kendall - outdoor education tutors
midwinter solstice gathering in the woods

Skills you will learn

Over the course of the programme you will learn a range of skills, including…

null

Nature Connection

null

Hedgerow Medicine

null

Mindfulness

null

Greenwood crafts

null

Firelighting Skills

null

Ancestral Skills

null

Tree & Plant identification

null

Meditation techniques

Book now

This session costs £35 per person and is open to adult learners aged 16 years and over. You can read our Event Terms & Conditions here.

woodland winter solstice in north wales

Woodland Winter Solstice

Celebrate a Magical Midwinter with your Family

Celebrate the Winter Solstice with us in the woods. Adults or families with children of all ages are welcome to join us at our sheltered fire circle hidden in the beautiful woodland of Park in the Past for an early evening session of solstice celebration around the campfire. We will start with a lantern-lit walk along the trail, across the river and into the woods where our crackling campfire will give us a warm and welcome light at the darkest time of the year. Our previous events have been amazing, and this year promises to be a very special and magical event with music, food and good company.

Be sure to wrap up well with appropriate clothing as old Jack Frost will be out and about.
“We can look back on our journey since Summer Solstice, to acknowledge what we have completed in this cycle, what we have experienced and what wisdom we have gained. It is also a moment to look forward, to name the new seeds and intentions we wish to take into the next cycle.” Glennie Kindred

Lea and James will be your guides as we gather under our huge parachute canopy and share the warmth of the midwinter fire.

We are hosting this session on 2 consecutive nights so if this date fills up, check out our event on the 22nd Dec.

  • Lantern walk down the trails to the fire circle
  • Hot spiced apple cider (non-alcoholic)
  • Festive fireside storytelling
  • Wishing Tree
  • Gentle games for the kids; night-line, glow worm trail & more
  • Roasted chestnuts
  • Sing-along with seasonal songs; James will bring his mandolin
  • Light a candle of your own and make a wish for the coming year

Event details

Date: Dec 21, 2023

Time: 4:30 am – 6:30 pm

Venue: Park in the Past

Cost: Adult £14, Child £11, Under 2’s Free

Want a sneak preview of this event? Watch this short video of a previous Woodland Winter Solstice gathering we hosted.

Your Guides: James & Lea Kendall

James is the Head Bushcraft Instructor at Woodland Classroom, having worked in environmental education & conservation for over 10 years. James’ approach to teaching  steers his 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 how to make use of natural materials and live lightly with the land, whilst also connecting with our own ancient past by seeing the land through the eyes of our ancestors.”

Lea is a qualified Counsellor and Mindfulness in a Woodland Setting practitioner. She is a firm believer in the power of nature to be therapeutic for everyone. Lea is an active forager, passionate about how we can use common plants for both food and medicine. She enjoys making her own tinctures and medicinal remedies for treating common ailments.

james and lea kendall - outdoor education tutors
winter solstice in the woods event

Skills you will learn

Over the course of the evening you will experience a range of activities, including…

null

Nature Connection

null

Campfire Treats

null

Family Bushcraft

null

Ancestral Skills

null

Campfire

null

Stargazing

null

Tree & Plant identification

null

Wellbeing in Nature

Book now

Adults tickets £14 each, Child tickets £11 each. Under two’s come for FREE. Children of all ages are welcome. You can read our Event Terms & Conditions here.

woodland solstice celebration

Woodland Solstice Celebration

Celebrate Midwinter Immersed In Nature

Give yourself the gift of quality time in nature as you join us around the midwinter campfire, for a celebration of the Winter Solstice. You will be guided through a range of activities aimed at deepening your nature connection whilst we mark this special moment in the calendar year together.

Experiencing nature with all our senses is a powerful doorway to practising mindfulness which is proven to improve your health & well-being. Practising bushcraft brings us closer to our ancestors and a very old way of understanding the natural world around us. It also fosters a stronger connection to nature. Fire has a hypnotic quality which can really aid getting into a mindful head space. Lighting fires at the darkest time of the year is also an ancient custom and symbolises creating our positive intentions for the new year.

“Winter Solstice, like Summer Solstice, is a moment of pause between two cycles, a moment of transition that can be held and savoured, a doorway, an opening, a place on the edge, when we can stop our busy lives and take a moment to experience this edge between these two great cycles of the year.” Glennie Kindred

James and Kay will guide you through a range of seasonal activities aimed at giving you real techniques which you can use to foster a deeper nature connection in your own time.

You will join us around the campfire amoungst the beautiful ancient woodland of the National Trust’s Erddig estate in North East Wales for a relaxing session of learning and celebrating in amongst the trees.

  • Enjoy a winter warmer; hot spiced apple cider (non-alcoholic) from our campfire
  • Awaken your ‘five animal senses’
  • Use traditional tools; knife, axe and froe
  • Identify native tree species in winter
  • Craft your own wild weaving to take home
  • Unwind with a tree meditation
  • Roast chestnuts on an open fire
  • Build your own Midwinter campfire; bring light to the dark
  • Set your intentions for the new year ahead
  • Make herbal teas from wild plants
  • Discover what your Celtic Birth Tree is and what it says about you

Event details

Date: Dec 21, 2022

Time: 10:00 am – 2:00 pm

Venue: Erddig

Cost: £30

midwinter solstice event in the woods

Your Tutor: James Kendall

James is the Head Bushcraft Instructor at Woodland Classroom, having worked in environmental education & conservation for over 10 years. James’ approach to teaching  steers his 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 how to make use of natural materials and live lightly with the land, whilst also connecting with our own ancient past by seeing the land through the eyes of our ancestors.”

james kendall - forest school leader and bushcraft

Your Tutor: Kay Ribbons-Steen

Kay has worked for a number of years in eco-therapy having trained as a Mindfulness in a Woodland Setting practitioner. Kay studied a work based diploma in Environmental Conservation with Flintshire Countryside & Coast Service. She is also an Ambassador for the National Autistic Society, and an autism awareness speaker.

She is also a qualified Forest School Leader and Social Forester.

“I am passionate about reconnecting people with nature for our own holistic wellbeing whilst conserving our unique and irreplaceable environment.”

our-team
mindfulness at midwinter event

Skills you will learn

Over the course of the programme you will learn a range of skills, including…

null

Nature Connection

null

Hedgerow Medicine

null

Mindfulness

null

Greenwood crafts

null

Firelighting Skills

null

Ancestral Skills

null

Tree & Plant identification

null

Meditation techniques

Book now

This session costs £30 per person and is open to adult learners aged 16 years and over. You can read our Event Terms & Conditions here.

bushcraft and mindfulness tools

Mindfulness & Bushcraft: Perfect Partners

Want to be healthier and happier? I’d say you need more wildness in your life!

by Lea Kendall (Counsellor, Mindfulness in the Woods Practitioner and Outdoor Activity Leader)

We, as a species, need to rewild ourselves. Practising bushcraft and taking time out for ourselves in nature can be our vehicle to honouring our ancient, wild selves. It’s an approach that we teach during our Woodland Wellbeing & Bushcraft Weekend which is one of our favourite events of the year. You may have seen plenty of stories doing the rounds about landowners who are letting wildlife do its thing as farms, forestry plantations and gardens are allowed to go back to nature. Whether it’s called rewilding, natural regeneration or non-intervention, the aim is usually the same; to benefit wildlife by increasing biodiversity. The results in many of these projects have seen a huge increase in the variety of animal and plant life, as well as the joy and happiness that comes to those who get to watch wildlife thriving around them. Species of insects and wildflowers have exploded and following them, all the birds and mammals that come with them. All because humans have withdrawn their input. Let’s take a step back and understand just what rewilding is…

“Rewilding is a progressive approach to conservation. It’s about letting nature take care of itself, enabling natural processes to shape land and sea, repair damaged ecosystems and restore degraded landscapes. Through rewilding, wildlife’s natural rhythms create wilder, more biodiverse habitats.” Rewidling Europe

So, can we also apply this approach to how we live our own lives? Absolutely!

Rewilding Your Soul

The health benefits of being outdoors is one topic I find fascinating. As well as being the co-owner of an Outdoor Education & Bushcraft company, I also work in mental health as a counsellor. In my work I have always been interested in the idea of our inner hunter-gatherer. Studies have shown that our brains are still wired up to a live in the world of our ancestors where our priorities were to hunt and gather for food, build shelter, connect with our families and communities and use plants to heal ourselves. Occasionally we’d experience the stress response to run away from danger or fight to protect ourselves from harm. In the world of the hunter-gatherer these stressful instances would have normally been short lived and with the immediate danger passed we’d soon return to the safety of our tribe, an ongoing cycle of relaxation to stress to relaxation, completed and no harm done. Fast forward to today however, and our modern, fast-paced lifestyles mean we spend much of our lives in this stress state. Cortisol (your body’s main stress hormone) is racing through our systems steadily and rarely do we get much of a break from this to reconnect with our tribe and loved ones and complete the cycle, allowing the brain to get it’s much needed rest.

Society has changed in the blink of an evolutionary eye, and our brain wiring is nowhere near caught up yet. It’s still happier picking berries, whittling spoons and bonding with each other whilst sat round the campfire under the canopy of the trees and stars.

Research by Mark Berman at the University of Chicago says that if you add 10 trees to any given urban block, residents report a 1% increase in wellness, if you wanted to give the same effect using money for increasing happiness you’d have to pay each household $10,000 or make the residents 7 years younger. Trees, nature, wildness, they all increase our happiness and well-being. So, why don’t we choose to spend more time immersed in nature if it’s so good for us?

I believe that positive mental and physical health can be achieved through the art of bushcraft and being mindful in nature. Here we are doing two very simple things; we are honouring our inner hunter-gatherer and living in the present moment. We are also surrounding ourselves amongst trees in a beautiful forest. Those trees have been scientifically proven to have their own natural healing powers, but that’s a story for another time.

bushcraft and mindfulness in north wales

Bushcraft – Just What the Doctor Ordered

So, how do we start to rewild our spirit? We need to make time to nurture our emotional, cognitive and social selves.

Our good friend Nick Hulley at in2thewildwood is a fellow Bushcraft Instructor based in Staffordshire and a previous tutor on our Woodland Wellbeing & Bushcraft Weekend in North Wales. He brings mindfulness into the very core of his life. Let’s let Nick explain in his own words…

“After my ‘safety-rounds’ along the rides, the trails and the woodland fringes; I ease into the fire circle glade. I lower my rucksack, remove the kindling from home along with the tinder, heft my axe into a couple of logs, light the fire and boil the kettle – wood smoke, tea, crackling billets, fresh cut logs, the fire light flicker, the outer focus stillness and yet the inner calmness continues to enrich my wellbeing. I ground myself, cross-legged and centred. The following fifteen minutes of the breath, the inner sight, the acknowledgement and the continued return to the breath sets me up for the day: this marriage works, forest environments, Bushcraft and Mindfulness: even if it is just a short centre and pause whilst doing.”

When hosting a woodland skills session, mindfulness informs how he moves about the woods, how he uses all his senses to feel the forest, how the trees nourish him, how he pauses and calmly absorbs all about him: likewise for his learners on the courses he delivers for them. Nick continues…

“It is wonderful to now be aware that for all these years, working as I do in a forest setting, that research has been going on with the intent to establish positive links between woodlands & improved health. Shinrin-yoku (forest bathing in Japan) and its beneficial outcomes is one of the many researched avenues involving forested settings; which provide a life enhancing backdrop to the union of Bushcraft activities and primitive skills learning complimented by Mindfulness, with its slowed, peaceful and thoughtful considerations of the natural world and our impact on it.”

Rewilding Your Body

Many of us already know how to rewild our back gardens, letting nature take over or by planting native plants and bee-friendly flowers. But we can also increase the ‘wildness’ of our gut by eating healthy, fermented and ‘dirty’ wild food.

fermented wild greens kimchiI’ve recently discovered the process of fermenting wild greens. This is an ancient technique to preserve foods and to increase the nutritional value which greatly benefits the overall health of the body. This further led me to develop my understanding of how the gut plays a major role in our mental health too. It was fascinating to discover that 90% of serotonin is produced in the gut, it’s like the body’s second brain. Eating fermented food is incredibly good for us and up until very recently in western history we have been preserving food in this way.

The average body contains around 39 trillion microbes & bacteria in the intestines. Our lack of exposure to dirt and animals along with the cleaning and disinfecting of our crops and environment with chemicals, has reduced the biodiversity in our guts, and like the health of the earth, our own overall health has declined as a result. We are our own ecosystems, and some scientists are suggesting we even need to rewild our intestines with bacteria from indigenous people – its sounds crazy but it’s already happening. Want to know more about this subject? Check out Mary Beth Nawor’s Ted Talk.

We can also take positive action when out in nature by getting into the right mindset. I’ve put together a bunch of simple nature-based exercises that you can try for yourself to rewild your body and soul. Take a look at my video which demonstrates 9 techniques you can use.

Immerse Yourself in Nature

So, what have we learned? Practising bushcraft doesn’t have to mean taking on extreme survival skills, pushing yourself to the edge of your endurance or eating up a dish of witchetty grubs, ala Bear Grylls. For me, bushcraft skills are about slowing down, tuning into nature, connecting with our ancient past and being present in our natural environment. Through bushcraft skills such as tracking, carving, nature awareness and plant identification we can become extremely mindful and train our brain to leave the fast-paced, modern world behind even if just for a few hours. bushcraft and mindfulness are the perfect partners to leading a healthier, happier lifestyle, enriched by nature, sharing time with like minds and learning some very old, new skills.

adults learn fire lighting skills in north walesWoodland Classroom are hosting a whole weekend of Woodland Wellbeing & Bushcraft at the National Trust’s Chirk Castle estate in North Wales this summer. You can give some time to your inner hunter-gatherer for a weekend of mindfulness in the woods accompanied by a range of bushcraft activities aimed at focusing the mind and increasing awareness & appreciation of the natural world.  If you’d like to know more about this event, just follow THIS LINK.

“In wildness is the salvation of the world” Henry David Thorough

winter tree identification course in north wales

Identifying Trees in Winter

When you’re out walking, have you ever wondered, “which tree is that?”

Once the leaves have fallen from the trees, many people can be stumped when asked what they’re seeing in the woods. But if we can understand the clues trees give us we can unlock their identity and so much more. On this one-day course, we’ll show you how to identify trees in winter by looking at buds, bark, the shape of the tree and other clues. We’ll also look at the different uses that trees have, their place in the ecosystem and dive into a bit of woodland folklore. You will also take away your very own FREE Tree Leaf Identification Swatch Book, which is perfect for continuing your learning and practicing tree ID after the course is done.

Join James, who will be your tutor for the day. He has worked for many years in and around trees from managing the largest community woodland in Wales to hosting his own program of bushcraft and woodland skills courses at National Trust venues.

The Chirk Castle estate is a fantastic site to learn about trees because there is such a wide range of species here which make up a range of varied habitats including broadleaf woodland, scrubby grasslands, and ancient hedgerows.

The course is suitable for anyone aged 16 or over. Tickets cost £35 per person.

Please bring a packed lunch on the day but hot drinks and biscuits will be provided. Please also bring suitable clothing and footwear for the outdoors as we’ll be exploring the estate parkland.

winter tree identification

Leaf ID Swatch Guide Included!

woodland trust leaf ID swatch book

Everyone attending this course also gets a FREE Leaf ID Swatch Book to use throughout the day and take away with you. Produced by the Woodland Trust, this pocket-sized and lightweight little guide features leaves, twigs, and buds from 32 common UK trees and shrubs which are cleverly presented and grouped according to similarities in leaf shape, in a format that also makes it ideal for bringing the natural world closer to everyone. On the reverse of each page, the tree or shrub is briefly described. There are also interesting facts and information about where that species tend to grow.

About the Tutor

bushcraft skills in north wales

James Kendall is Bushcraft Instructor and Forest School Leader. He has been working in environmental education & conservation for over 10 years now. He received the Bushcraft Competency Certificate awarded through the Institute for Outdoor Learning after 2 years of real experience and practical study. He was also the Project Manager for Long Wood Community Woodland, the largest community-owned woodland in Wales, overseeing the management of 300 acres (120ha) of broadleaf and conifer forest. He is a former Director of Llais y Goedwig, the voice of community woodlands in Wales.

James has always had an affinity with woodland habitats, being at home amongst the trees, and he has made it his 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).

identifying winter trees in north wales

Booking

Get in touch if you’d like to know more email us. Advance booking is essential. Tickets are available just below on this page.

YOU CAN READ OUR EVENT TERMS & CONDITIONS HERE.

mindfulness in nature on the BBC

Woodland Classroom on the BBC

We were recently interviewed and filmed by the BBC for the popular documentary series ‘The Why Factor.’ The programme asks the question’ “Why does nature calm anxiety?” The crew came to the ancient woods at the National Trust’s Chirk Castle estate in North Wales where Lea and James, of Woodland Classroom, run their Mindfulness & Bushcraft sessions, engaging all ages in nature connection. Here they experienced a Nature Therapy session, lead by Lea, a qualified Counsellor and Mindfulness in the Woods Practitioner. Next up, the crew got stuck into some practical bushcraft skills to bring to life their inner cave-people. We had a lot of fun during the recording.

Watch the short video on the BBC News website RIGHT HERE or via the link below.

You can listen to the programme RIGHT HERE.

Lea described her experience, “It felt great to be a part of the programme. There’s so much research coming out about the power of nature to heal us, with professionals and projects from all over the world reconnecting their clients with the wild places, I’m excited to be part of this movement. It truly feels like nature therapy’s time has come.” Lea believes that the antidote to stress is found through our connection to nature and that through this we can connect with others and with ourselves, building emotional resilience and community.

The official description of the BBC documentary reads;

“As the world grows more urban, humanity moves further away from nature. Could this be the reason anxiety has become the most diagnosed mental illness in the west? The idea of mindfulness is becoming more popular as the mainstream grows more aware of how panicked we all are. How are we tackling this issue? Jordan Dunbar dives into a niche of researchers and therapists who are learning about and treating the negative symptoms of urban life with a dose of nature.”

In the programme Lea takes the show’s presenter, Jordan Dunbar, on a taster Nature Therapy session where she convinces him on the power of walking barefoot on the earth. Later, James gives Jordan a crash-course in ancient bushcraft skills including firelighting by friction. This awakened Jordan’s inner cave-man as he learned how to make fire using only the natural materials he could find around him.

The programme’s presenter and producer, Jordan, has this to say, “The video was listed in the top 5 on the BBC News website over the weekend, making the front page of the BBC website and we had over half a million views on the BBC News Instagram! We’ve had great feedback on the radio doc already and it wouldn’t have been half as good without the sounds of the woodland and bushcraft!”

bbc filming lea kendall - counsellor

Lea is interviewed about the power of nature for improving mental health and well-being by the BBC.

SO, WANT TO JOIN US FOR A ‘MINDFULNESS & BUSHCRAFT’ EXPERIENCE?

If you like what you hear in the programme and the idea of not just getting away from it all for a weekend but actually coming away with real skills and techniques appeals to you then you’ll be happy to hear that Lea and James host immersive weekend workshops in Woodland Mindfulness & Bushcraft for adults which features activities such as: spoon carving, awakening your animal senses, crafting your own woodland getaway (mindful shelter building), breathing space meditations, natural navigation techniques, fox walking, traditonal fire-lighting techniques, foraging, wildflower identifcation and more.

The aim is not just to give you a couple of days from the rat race but to enable you to come away with new skills and techniques which you can use to be more mindful going forward and bring nature deeper into your life.

Our next Woodland Mindfulness & Bushcraft Weekend is taking place in September 2020. You can find full details RIGHT HERE. Book your place now for what promises to be a fantastic weekend. To find out more about our upcoming courses and events for all ages, check out our Events page.

We also take bookings from organisations and for events to deliver our nature connection workshops to groups. Get in touch if you’d like to know more.

We’d like to say a big thanks to Jordan Dunbar and the BBC crew for visiting us all the way up in North Wales, and for spreading our message that nature is a positive force for improved mental health and well-being. Also, we could not have had this opportunity without the kind permission of the staff at the National Trust’s Chirk Castle who we work in partnership with to deliver our programme of courses and workshops.

mindfulness in nature workshop

How Nature Heals

autumn leaf mindfulnessNature heals us, builds new connections and improves our mental health. Many of us know this instinctually, that walking in woodland is somehow good for us, at the very least we know it helps us to relax. There are also now many scientific studies that provide evidence of why woodlands and forests are so beneficial to human health… aside from the obvious production of life-sustaining oxygen of course 😉 What I’d like to talk about though is my own personal experiences and how practising mindfulness outdoors and hedgerow medicine has enriched my life, and how it could benefit you too.

There have been a whole range of positive differences, on top of an improved state of mental health, that have manifested in my life since practicing Mindfulness in the Woods. My anxiety levels have been much reduced after a difficult period, which I’ll explain in more detail later. I also find I am eating a more plant-based diet and have discovered a renewed passion for natural remedies and herb lore. My knowledge of tree & wildflower identification is getting much better and I am also considering my daily impact on the planet more than ever; I’m buying products without palm oil, reducing my waste and buying more organic foods from small local businesses. My latest venture is lacto-fermentation, an ancient way of preserving whilst increasing the nutritional value of wild foods and vegetables. I no longer eat intensively farmed meat or dairy produce. In a nutshell, I just care more about myself and my natural environment, as if we have become one, or maybe the journey isn’t about becoming anything, maybe it’s about un-becoming everything that’s not really you, so you can become who you were meant to be in the first place. A natural part of the forest.

mindfulness in nature - north walesI have been running courses in Mindfulness in the Woods for a while now and during this time I have met all sorts of people who decided to attend for different reasons. As they introduced themselves around our campfire circle I would get an insight into their stories; some said they were looking for ways to reduce their anxiety, some were keen on outdoor pursuits and wanted to bring something new and meaningful to their time in the great outdoors, whilst others were just curious, knowing that they loved being in a woodland and that mindfulness could possibly help towards reducing stress in their lives.

“Lea is a lovely, warm person who quickly put the group at ease. We practised engaging with nature with all our senses and learnt some strategies to deal with stress and anxiety. I am a walker so this will really enhance my walks and make them more meaningful.” Course Participant

My sessions act as an introduction to the subject and last three hours. Activities can include mindful walking with the senses, reflecting on the Seven Principles of Mindfulness and what nature can teach us about them, making art in nature, Sit Spots and more. The feedback has been great, with many participants asking for a longer version of this course… more on that at the end of this blog.

“I have to say it was a fantastic introduction to mindfulness and meditation. We were immediately made to feel welcome and secure, she created a good nurturing space. We learned new skills and the practical work was really eye opening. Lots of things to take away, and I will certainly be actively practicing what we learned. I would recommend it to anyone who wants to step out of their hectic lives for a couple of hours.” Course Participant

Becoming a Mindfulness in the Woods Practitioner has led me to reflect deeply about my own relationship to nature and how it has developed my connection to self in the process. I now see that when I connect with nature I am also connecting with my body and spirit and don’t see these things as separate but one and the same. Practising mindfulness whilst out in nature has allowed me to connect with the very essence of who I am, the building blocks of my body and the spirit of generations past before me.

Mindfulness in Nature Healed My Own Anxiety

Last year I qualified as a counsellor and life coach. During my study for this I spent four years trying to ‘find myself’ and connect with my body, feelings and authentic self. I did not find this easy. Years of social conditioning and self-protection led me to construct a sense of self that was about other people and their opinions of me rather than my true nature.

Qualifying as a counsellor and leaving college was a difficult transition for me, it coincided with a home & business move from Mid to North Wales, leaving family behind in the process, all the while I was still feeling very much on my journey to self-discovery, peeling away the layers to often difficult and painful aspects of self, but without the weekly Personal Development group I was used to having at college, as a support and space to discuss, cry and reflect, I was beginning to find myself overly anxious with a real fear of slipping into depression.

I love to learn new skills and take positive action, so on completing my counselling training I then went on to complete training as a Mindfulness in the Woods Practitioner, which for me, brought my love of nature, my Forest School business and my love of personal development and therapy into one neat package. Being able to deliver this all together into a beautiful combination, so others can benefit too, continues to be very rewarding.

I knew it was important to practice what I was teaching to others, so I made regular time for yoga, meditated at home and developed my knowledge of woodlands by noticing and deepening my observation of my natural surroundings; watching the birds and just being still in nature, drinking in her essence and being at one with this place that was also inside of me. For me this was my cure.

Science Agrees: Nature Is Good For You

There are studies that show the levels of cortisol (stress hormone) in a person’s saliva is reduced when spending time in nature and studies in Japan show cancer rates being higher in people living in towns compared to those living near a forest. In Japan, mindful time spent in nature is called Shinrin Yoku which translates to “Forest Bathing.”

In their article, Science Agrees: Nature Is Good For You, The Association of Nature & Forest Therapy says that stress is dramatically reduced by both gazing upon a scene in nature and by walking in nature.  Again, cortisol levels, sympathetic nerve activity (your body’s reaction to stressful situations), blood pressure and heart rate were all reduced in participants. The article also talks about the increase in immune functioning and creativity. One study showed a group of outward-bound participants scoring 50% better in problem-solving tasks after 3 days of wilderness backpacking.

Amazing Things Happen When You Just Sit Still

When you let yourself relax with nature, become present with it with both body and mind, amazing things start to happen. I’ve seen the evidence first hand, during my mindfulness sessions. The activity I asked the participants to take part in was a Sit Spot, which is time spent looking on a scene in the woodlands, being present in the moment and watching nature. During the Sit Spot, woodland life becomes at peace with us. Insects, birds, even mammals begin to accept us as we slow right down, no longer pose a threat to them but becoming part of the landscape.

On coming back to the fire circle after our Sit Spot one participant told me she had glanced at her Fit Bit whilst sitting and her heart rate was reading lower than it had ever been. Quite a positive result I’d say!

“it seemed the animals accepted me as a natural part of that place. Going there felt like going home. Even the song sparrow who hung out in a nearby patch of knotweed eventually stopped chipping its alarms at me; instead while I sat, it would come to the bush behind me and sing its beautiful song right over my head…. I had so many amazing, unforgettable experiences, just sitting quietly in this place until I became part of the other world of wild animals and nature. You can do the same thing.” Evan McGown, Coyote’s Guide to Connecting with Nature

sit spot in the woodlandI recently had two wonderful experiences myself using the Sit Spot technique. The first was with my husband as we sat in the woods, leaning against an old oak. A dead tree stood close and in the forefront of our view. We were privileged to watch a woodpecker fly to the dead tree and busy itself for the next forty minutes as it drilled, pecked and flitted in and out of holes in the search for insects, seemingly unaware of our presence just below. My most recent experience was a half hour Sit Spot spent in woodland in Derbyshire. Here, amoungst the bluebells, two little woodmice appeared right next to my foot. They were rustling under the leaves and going about their business, paying me no attention at all, leaving me free to watch them up close with absolute wonder and amazement, feeling such gratitude for this experience. My smile reached my ears after this very special encounter.

Want to try Mindfulness in Woodlands for yourself?

I run Mindfulness in the Woods events regularly in North Wales and occasionally in Swansea, Cardiff and Lampeter. If you are interested in attending one of these then you can find upcoming dates on our Events page HERE or you can email me if you’d like to know more.

I am also excited to be co-hosting the Woodland Mindfulness & Bushcraft Weekend in North Wales this coming June, along with three other tutors, each with their own specialism in either mindfulness or bushcraft skills. It’s going to be a fantastic event bringing these two disciplines together.

Lastly, following the beginning of my private counselling practice and running Mindfulness in the Woods events, I have now started offering one-to-one nature therapy sessions. This came about naturally due to a demand from course participants who wanted more and wanted to know what else I could offer them. One woman asked whether she could have a ‘monthly top up’ of Mindfulness in the Woods whilst also having the space to talk privately and focus on herself for a couple of hours with a trained counsellor. If you would like to know more about this service, please get in touch.

mindfulness in the woods wales

forest school and outdoor education in wrexham, north wales

WOODLAND CLASSROOM LANDS IN WREXHAM!

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.

felin puleston outdoor centre

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.

forest school in wrexham

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.”

outdoor activities for children erddig wrexham

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

wildcraft adventureSo, 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.

Woodland Classroom are members of the Institute for Outdoor Learning and Forest School Wales.

james kendall - profile picJames Kendall

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 kendall - counsellor and life coachLea Kendall

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.

outdoor kids club in wrexham, north wales, forest school

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.

family fun day in the woods

Even More Opportunities at Chirk Castle

forest school circle 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!”

outdoor activities at chirk castle

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.

outdoors home ed group in wrexham

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 hey@woodlandclassroom.com or phone James and Lea on 07876 794098.

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