Forest School for All – Chase & Chalke’s Woodlands Wild Things project

by Claire Harding
12th September 2022

Claire Harding is founder of Forest Yogi Minds and has helped to deliver forest school sessions for the Woodlands Wild Things project, part of the Chase & Chalke Landscape Partnership Scheme.

Here, Claire tells us of the fun they’ve had thanks to the children’s infectious enthusiasm as they became young forest explorers this summer at the National Trust’s forest school site at Fontmell Down.


This year, I have been fortunate enough to work with the Chase and Chalke team in the wonderful woodland forest school site at Fontmell Down. We have delivered some fantastic forest school sessions to lots of excellent young explorers.

The project’s aim was to provide the opportunity for all children to experience the magic that is nature and get children outside experiencing our natural surroundings.  The National Trust Fontmell Down forest school site is a wonderful setting and a great place to explore.

As a primary teacher of many years, one of my main reasons for leaving the confining walls of the classroom was the realisation that the outdoors provided a setting that was perfect for all children. Removing those walls allows children – as well as adults – to relax and be free to grow and breathe in a nurturing way.

The ethos of forest school is that holistic development; the freedom; the creativity and the space to develop without pressures and the boundaries and limitations that some children feel inside the classroom.

The children arrived on the minibuses each week full of excitement about what we would be experiencing during the sessions. Even the youngest of explorers embraced the walk to the site (some just wanted to run all the way!) as they soaked in the beautiful surroundings, the views, the red kites, flowers and huge array of ‘wild’ on the way. For some, the walk was just a lovely time to have a chat – to me such a lovely element of being outdoors with children. For some that time gives them the opportunity to share what’s important and to be listened to in a relaxed and informal way.

The woodland itself is truly magical and holds a very special energy, which, when you look around at the children you can see mirrored in them. They simply loved their time at forest school; the interactions we had with them as they discovered bugs, peeked under logs, used their senses to explore the site and slowly week by week gained confidence to explore that little bit further.

To me, it is vital that we continue to get as many children experiencing the outdoors as possible. The forest makes such a huge difference to us all. With the children, I have noticed and experienced the huge benefits that it has to their resilience, emotional development and communication. To the way they connect to each other. Every child should have access to some quality outdoor time in nature.

The project is a fantastic resource for local schools to give their children the chance to experience forest school at a site that is set up ready to be explored, right on the doorstep.

I’ve absolutely loved being involved with the project and I hope that I will be able to work alongside Chase and Chalke again soon. Thanks to the team for having me on board. Here’s to many more forest school adventures for everyone.

Claire Harding is a Level 3 Forest School Leader. You can see what they’ve been up to at the National Trust Fontmell Down forest school site on the Chase & Chalke Instagram and Nature Yoga & Mindfulness (@forestyogiminds) • Instagram photos and videos