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The Trust’s innovative project for people with mental health needs

Woodland Works

Collecting tree guards

Two groups of adults with learning difficulties have been visiting The Retreat over the last year to learn new skills and help us manage the woodland.

Last week people from Choices4U helped clear dozens of tree guards and create a small area of hazel coppice. Participants from The Milestone Trust’s Stepping Forward group have also been hard at work in the woods, creating a dead hedge and pond dipping amongst other things.

The Woodland Works project was funded by South Gloucestershire Learning Difficulties Development Board and The Baily Thomas Charitable Trust and has been running since last summer. Participants have learned about fire lighting, shelter building, safe use of tools and wildlife identification (in all kinds of weather!)

A support worker from Milestone Trust said: “The retreat experience gave the service users valuable outdoor experiences. Learning about safety outdoors and using tools and fire. They learned to work together as a team and did independent projects. Outdoor confidence grew as they learned to make things from nature… All ask to go back to experience more.”

Using hand made bows and arrows

It hasn’t all been hard work though! The groups have also had fun making bows and arrows, building shelters, making music and creating woodland art. The Retreat also provides a therapeutic environment to spend time sitting quietly, listening and watching, a chance to feel connected to nature.

If you are interested in finding out more about Woodland Works, please contact: jonattwood@forestofavontrust.org

Posted in: Adults with Learning Disabilities, Forest School, Latest News | Tagged , , , , |

Showcasing our Work

The Trust celebrated its third ‘birthday’ in December by taking on the lease of The Retreat and by filming three videos at the site, illustrating our work.  Trust patron and One Show regular Mike Dilger took time out of his busy schedule to help us with this, working with local media production company Constellation Media.

We were supported in the films by Forest School trainees; children and staff from Bradley Stoke Community School; and representatives from some of the organisations, businesses and Councils we have worked with.

Jon Clark, Trust Executive Director, said:

‘It was a cold and windy day, so huge thanks to everyone who took part. It was really heartening to hear everyone’s commitment to the cause. I am really pleased with three short films, which I hope speak for themselves.’

A mention has also got to go to Manor Farm Shop for an excellent warming lunch.

The videos are below: (also available on our YouTube Channel)

Tree Charity: the Forest of Avon Trust

Click here to play the video

 Tree Action in and Around Bristol

Forest School Leader Training

Click here to play the video

 

Posted in: Adults with Learning Disabilities, Business Sponsors, Community Partners, Forest School, Free Trees for Communities, Future Woods, Garden Forest, Join us as a Friend, Latest News, Natural Connections, Our Projects, Training activities | Tagged , , , , , |

Exploring the benefits of the Forest School approach

Person wearing a willow crown decorated with leaves

Activities at Ashton Court

The Forest of Avon Trust has been using the Forest School approach with a number of groups of adults with learning disabilities over the last few years. Getting groups out in to local woodlands to explore and undertake a range of activities that has brought them in to close contact with nature has been fun and beneficial. Through talking to those involved we have picked up on some common themes that demonstrate how individuals and groups can benefit from this small group based experience in a natural setting over a period of time. The following link explores this in more detail – Outdoor Activities with Adults with Learning Disabilities.

Posted in: Adults with Learning Disabilities, Forest School, Natural Connections | Tagged , |

Woodland Activity Family Day

Marshmallows being cooked.

Cooking on the fire.

The Forest of Avon Trust in partnership with with Bristol Adoption Support Service has run a day for 30 people in the woods at Ashton Court Estate. The family groups went on a short walk across the top of Ashton Court Estate exploring natural colours that can be found in the landscape. Then, in a small woodland clearing the group  spent the day enjoying games and activities in the woods, as well as having a relaxing lunch and marshmallows toasted on the fire.

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Posted in: Natural Connections, Our Projects |

Big Green Week Woodland Conference

Keynote Speech in Water Vole Woodland at Lawrence Weston Community Farm

Keynote Speech by Rowena Kenny

The beautiful and sunny Water Vole Woodland at Lawrence Weston Community Farm was the excellent host for our Bristol Big Green Week woodland event. It was a great success with a fantastic turn out of over 40 professionals from education, social and health sectors attending. Rowena Kenny set the scene with an enlightening and inspiring talk exploring how children’s and adults’ relationships with the outdoors has changed over the past few decades and why it is so important that we are all able to get out into natural spaces.

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Posted in: Adults with Learning Disabilities, Forest School, Latest News, Natural Connections, Training activities |

Windwhistle Allotments Mini Orchard

Orchard Planting WSM

Orchard Planting Weston Super Mare

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Posted in: Natural Connections, Our Projects |

Woodland Conference

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Posted in: Adults with Learning Disabilities, Forest School, Latest News, Natural Connections, Training activities |

Activity & Games Guides for Woodland and Parks

Kingsweston Estate family dayThe following activity guides have been developed by Rachel Tomlinson for the Forest of Avon Trust to help groups and families use their senses to explore and discover natural spaces that have trees growing in them.

These activities can be used during a walk, picnic or as a more formal education session to learn about the natural world.

The first two activities relate to Kingsweston Estate in Northwest Bristol and are set out to be part of a walk to explore the area around the house. However the spaces to play and explore guide has activities that could be used elsewhere.  Kingsweston Estate is a public park with a cafe.

Kingsweston Estate Activity Guides

Tree Treasure Hunt at Kingsweston Estate (pdf)

Spaces to play and explore around Kingsweston Estate (pdf)

Explore & Discover using your senses – games and activities

Woodland Collecting Game (pdf)

Woodland Bingo – Natural Textures – page1 (pdf)

Woodland Bingo – Natural textures – page2 (pdf)

Woodland Bingo – Natural Shapes – page1 (pdf)

Woodland Bingo – Natural Shapes – page2 (pdf)

Woodland Bingo – Looking – page1 (pdf)

Woodland Bingo – Looking – page2 (pdf)

Woodland Bingo – Listening – page1 (pdf)

Woodland Bingo – Listening – page2 (pdf)

Posted in: Activity Guides, Latest News, Natural Connections, Our Projects |

What are the benefits of Forest School?

Experiencing woodlands in Bath

Some quiet time to reflect.

Children playing outdoors and groups being taken in to natural spaces is nothing new. Forest School in the UK has been developed over the last 15 years through influences from Scandinavia but also from a long history in the UK of groups playing and learning outside.

What is starting to develop now is a wealth of both informal and formal observations and case studies of the benefits of supporting groups of all ages to access nature. Anyone who has come across Richard Louv’s book Last Child in the Woods will be more than convinced by the need to get children out in to green spaces. Over the last 10 years Forest Research, which is part of the Forestry Commission, has expanded its research to explore in detail the ways in which trees benefit wider society. The breadth of evidence presented by Forest Research of spending time in woodlands along with books such as Sara Knight’s Forest School for All helps to establish the importance of these experiences for all of us.

Common themes emerge from Richard Louv’s overview of global research and of the work of Sara Knight and researchers at Forest Research. Experiences in nature, particularly but not exclusively for children, have the potential to provide the following key benefits: Increased confidence; Increased social skills; Improved language and communication; Improved motivation and concentration; Improved physical fitness and ability and increased levels of interest in and concern for nature. An important point as highlighted by Richard Louv is that if society does value the benefits of spending time in the natural world then it is important that children develop a lasting and caring relationship for it as they will be its future stewards.

Locally the work of the Natural Connections project, at the Forest of Avon Trust, and Rowena Kenny, of Forest Foundations, have explored these themes through case study projects in the Bristol area.

Rowena’s in depth Exploratory Case Study of Forest School in the Early Years Foundation Stage and her wider work can be found online here.

Jon Attwood’s case study project in partnership with Twerton First Steps Nursery in  B&NES can be downloaded here.

Posted in: Forest School, Latest News, Natural Connections, Our Projects | Tagged , |

Groups with Learning Disabilities go ‘Into the Woods’

Into the Woods Project

Exploring natural colours in the woods and creating a Natures Palette

Sessions run by Natural Connections to work with Adults with Learning Disabilities are being further developed through a new project ‘Into the Woods’. The development of a new partnership with the Silvanus Trust and the Faculty of Education at the University of Plymouth has made it possible to extend this work and explore in more detail the potential benefits. The project is being developed and run by Nicola Ramsden and Rachel Tomlinson for the Forest of Avon Trust and has three main aims:

  • To explore what people think and feel about their involvement in woodland activities and how their experiences contribute to their personal and social wellbeing;
  • To help people providing these activities to establish the benefit they have;
  • To share the results and any lessons for best practice, with other people who provide woodland activities, as well as funders and researchers.

Information and feedback will be collected before, during and after the six sessions being run with the groups, from Shirelink day care centre and City of Bristol College. A report will be produced evaluating ‘Into the Woods’ and findings will be used to inform best practice.

Posted in: Adults with Learning Disabilities, Latest News, Natural Connections, Our Projects |