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Family woodland crafts afternoon at Oxlip Wood

children and adults seated in open barnI think 2015 has been a pretty good summer, overall, but on the designated day for our family woodland crafts afternoon at Oxlip Wood it was unbelievably wet and unseasonably chilly.

Luckily we have an empty barn, newly erected for wood storage next winter, so we were able to continue with our afternoon of planned activities, well most of them anyway!

The idea of the afternoon was to introduce families to Oxlip Wood where we run Forest School sessions for children.

The aim of the afternoon session was for family members to work together, finding and using natural materials from the woodland to create something. However,  the heaviness and persistence of rain effectively stopped play, well some of it anyway!

We hastily found some sheets and tarps for people to sit on, to save their clothing being covered in the dust from the newly laid barn floor. There was a bit of a through draft, the barn being open-sided, but having a roof overhead made it almost cosy in the circumstances.

Our staff team of 4, myself, Liz, Susannah and Olga had braved the heavy rain before everyone arrived to collect a range of grasses and foliage, enough for everyone to use.

All the staff members got pretty wet before the session began but at least we kept the worst of the rain from our soaking our intrepid attendees, who exceeded our expectations by all turning up, despite the weather!

Making weaving looms from natural materials

woman talking to a group of adults and children seated on the groundOur enthusiastic, if but a little damp around the edges, Liz demonstrated what the group were going to be doing for the first part of the afternoon, then explained that we’d be going on a hunt for suitable sticks.

Now, in normal circumstances we’d have let the youngsters explore an area of woodland looking for suitable materials, but we felt it was just too wet and slippery to be safe for those unused to being in a wild woodland environment. So, we cheated a little bit to make sure everyone found what they needed (I’m not going to tell you exactly how, but I think the woodland Imps had a hand in the task).

Suffice to say that a trip by the whole group along the main track, when the persistent rain eased a little, produced enough ‘suitable’ weaving looms for everyone

adults and children walking along a woodland trackActually, having listened to the rain beating down on the tin roof of the bar for 20 minutes, then pitter patter to a stop, it was actually quite an adventure venturing out to experience the smell of woodland in the wet as the group slowly and carefully explored along the main track looking for suitable weaving looms.

We even ventured across an area to the edge of the wood, following the animal tracks back along the perimeter towards the barn where we’d started.

Learning to work together as a team

Once back at the barn the creativity began to flow as children, parents and grand-parents worked together to firstly make the looms.

adults and children stringing loomsThere were two shapes, either a V shape or a square made from 4 sticks tied together.  Next, the process required stringing wool tightly across the loom, two-ways.

It’s difficult to make a loom on your own, so having a helpful parent or grand-parent on hand to help was very useful, even if the children did have to remind the adults several times “not like that, like this”.

I love to hear the children taking charge and explaining how to do things to the adults helping, even if the adults know better really! Part of the Forest School experience is to let the children take the lead, within safe boundaries, which many an adult finds challenging to facilitate. Children learning through being allowed to make mistakes and then do the task again until they figure out how to do it is a valuable lesson for life.

row of girls and women weaving loomsPretty soon we had everyone ready with their loom strung tightly enough to begin to weave all manner of natural woodland materials into them.

By now the weather had deteriorate again and a stiff, chilly breeze was whistling through the open parts of the barn.

However, despite the inclement weather it didn’t dampen the enthusiasm of the children, who really got stuck into what they were doing (I took my rain hat off to them).

Leaves, grasses, feathers and even brightly coloured ribbons began to appear in the looms as the children created their individual designs. Most didn’t need any help from the adults and were quite happy to be left alone with their imaginations – it was lovely to see.

Here’s a shot of everyone working away on their looms.

children and adults in open barn


How to make butterflies appear on a cold and rainy day

Because of the rain there weren’t any butterflies to be seen in the wood, so it was decided that the children should have a go at creating some themselves.

children making paint from berriesIts amazing what can be done with a coffee filter paper and a clothes peg (I’d no idea) and the children thought the idea of decorating their calico-coloured paper butterflies was amazing with paints made from berries and earth.

Squashing up things to make colours must connect with something quite primeval in children, judging by the enthusiasm they all threw themselves into the task.

I have to say that by this point in the afternoon everyone was not just chilly but getting quite cold, but that didn’t dampen anyone’s enthusiasm – there was not stopping them.

Earth, berries, grass, leaves, in fact anything that could be squished and squashed was tried. Different colour combinations were then applied to the butterfly leaves creating a rather impressionistic outcome, due to the damp conditions. But hey, who cares what your butterfly looks like when you’re having THAT much fun!

All too soon it was time to go home, having returned the various coats and hats I’d loaned out to children and adults to keep them warm (who’d have believed it could be that cold on the 24th July?).

boy and girl holding loomsThe smiles on the faces of the children said it all – a good time was had by all.

Forest School sessions in September 2015

There are 3 sessions planned, for children aged between 4 and 9,  running on Sunday 6th, 13th and 20th September between 10.30 and 12.30.

Woodland play, activities and exploration is all on the agenda, to encourage building of self-confidence and self- esteem. You can read feedback from parents after the last Forest School sessions.

The cost is £30 for all three sessions (£24 for siblings). You can register interest in your child or children attending Forest School, or ask for further information before you book.

Who runs Oxlip Wood Forest School?

Susan Collini is a qualified Level 3 Forest School leader who has many years experience of working as a Mainstream and Special Needs teacher. Susan trained at Bishop’s Wood in Worcester, holds a paediatric First Aid certificate and is fully insured to deliver Forest School sessions anywhere in the UK.






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