Thursday, 25 August 2011

FOREST GARDEN SUMMER CAMP






After last year’s success we decided to run two summer holiday schemes for Moulsecoomb kids. A chance for them to make camps, carve wood, try out some bushcraft, cook over fires, stuff their faces with marshmallows and generally just enjoy being outside. But we haven’t yet bitten the bullet and let people camp overnight!

Recently I did a bit of that overnight camping where all the children were having a brilliant, pretty much unsupervised, time outdoors - just like the ‘Good Old Days.’ Someone there offered a two hour bushcraft experience for twenty quid a pop. That’s 20 quid for each kid as well as adults. Er, thanks but no thanks. I know people need to earn a living but this is just the sort of thing that once again means that those who have everything have even more opportunities and, for those on the breadline, well tough.

Thanks to funding from the Pebble Trust our event was free and included lunch, snacks and drink.

This time we decided to divide the ages and the first week we had 12 eight year olds all from Moulsecoomb Primary school, 10 of whom were girls. Now thanks to our work at the school we already knew all the children, they had all visited the project before and some had taken part in our after school gardening club. They are also immersed in the schools outdoor learning environment from the moment they start at nursery.

We split into three groups (the Woodland Girls, the Hornets and the Wolf Cubs) and headed to the woods to look for materials to make the camps. Nestled at the boundaries of the South Downs National Park, this would be their base for the two days: to build, make fires, cook marshmallows and play games. And they just loved it. Watching them stare into the fire you can see how children succumb to the flickering images of TV and computers. Only one didn’t come back the next day and she’s my next door neighbour who ends up at the project on a regular basis!

The garden wasn’t ignored. We all came back to cook over the fire – sausages from the local butchers, chips from the garden spuds, trying to tempt them with fried shallots, salad and parsley. Watching them hoovering up the raspberries, blackberries and whitecurrants, sitting in the trees, balancing on the little house roof. Getting dirty. Just being kids.

The second week was for older children plus a gaggle of very young ones acting out endless superhero scenarios.

There was more camp building, but more of an emphasis on carving, wooden spoon making, a bit more gardening from some and a request from everyone to fire up the clay oven for pizzas.

It is essential for all children to get these opportunities. For the majority of those that came along they won’t be getting a holiday –certainly not David Cameron’s five holidays – and it’s also a chance for the parents to get a break.

The majority of children love being outside and even those who are a little nervous at first; well you can see by the second day how they really start to relax into their surroundings and enjoy it. It’s even more important for those not academically minded, that struggle in the classroom but can turn themselves to practical skills.

Money permitting we want to continue to roll these schemes out and make sure that you’ll find none of the children from Moulsecoomb suffering from Nature Deficit Disorder!

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