Friday 23rd September

Heritage Trail

Visitors demonstrated great interest in the short talk by John Vaughan on the wood’s history, dating back to 1328 when the area was first granted permission by the King to be made into a deer park.

As John come to the end of his introduction there was a sound from behind the audience, causing them to turn around, whereupon two Knights in armour on horseback come thundering towards them through the trees. The horses came to a halt before the audience (thank goodness) and Dominic Sewell of Historic Equitation added further historic insight into the story unfolding.

Gerald Collini led the group along winding paths, deep into the wood to explain the changing management methods through the centuries, along with pointing out evidence of the ancient bank that once surrounded the deer park and the many over-stood coppice stools.

Eventually the visitors came across what we call the Home Guard Tree, with ladder and lookout platform dating back to the second World War still in situ. Captain Mainwaring  in Home Guard uniform (Brian Braithwaite) told the story of what the Home Guard had been doing in the wood, while Private Pike (Stan Quirey), late as usual and in more modern battle dress, causing consternation for his commanding officer.

I even got to play a part too.  My role was to be seen picking my way through a denser part of the wood, wearing a long black cloak and hood,  illustrating the once common and necessary practice involved with daily gathering of firewood.

All in all a great fun afternoon, topped off by a comment from East Northants Tourism officer Karen Williams who called our Wild Wood Heritage Trail a “superb event”. I think everyone who attended was in total agreement, judging by the comments that the trail format had well exceeded their expectations.

Sunday 25th September

Wild Wood Encounters

Over 2 sessions we welcomed 70 people to the wood on what was a sunny and warm September afternoon.

We have a special area of the wood that is risk-managed for children to be able to explore and enjoy free play. The area of wood we use for sessions is under constant development and now has several special interest areas to help stimulate creative and imaginative play.

Once the children understood the area boundaries they were introduced to the various activity areas and were given opportunity for free play over a period of about 30 minutes.

There wasn’t one activity area that stood out as being the favourite but the mud kitchen was very popular, as too the chance to use a saw to cut some wood.

Creating homes for little animals was popular with many too, children and adults, with winter shelters being made at the base of many of the trees.

The sessions were loosely based on Forest School principles where, as I explained to my lovely team of helpers, the focus was to be on observation with positive encouragement, with minimal guidance unless the child was considered to be putting themselves or others at risk. Parents were encouraged to keep in the background, allowing their children to engage in what they wanted to do at their own pace and in their own way.

We experienced some remarkable changes in attitudes and behaviours of some of the children during both sessions. Two highlights for me were the boy who hid inside his hood at the beginning of one session, but by the end had the hood down and was almost smiling! The other was an older boy who was exhibiting defiant and negative behaviour at the beginning but was relaxed and almost ready to ‘go with the flow’ by the end of the session.

My name is Susan Collini and over many years I’ve worked with all kinds of children in formal and informal situations. I strongly believe in the power of the outdoor environment to effect positive change. I have witnessed some remarkable transformations in both children and adults who have been along to a series of sessions at the wood, whether attending Forest School, Woodland Working Parties or Wellness Walks.

I’m a qualified teacher and Forest School Leader and am happy to run sessions when I have sufficient number of children to make a suitable group. You can read more about Forest School, or telephone me for a chat on 01832 733457 or 07799 892900.

I’m also insured to run Forest School sessions elsewhere, which can be anywhere outdoors, not necessarily in a wood.

We currently run weekly Woodland Working Parties aimed at adults, with the aim of promoting wellbeing. So, there’s opportunities for all, whatever your age, to benefit from spending time in a wild wood. Why not contact us and find out more?


Outdoor Tribe Team Nene Valley Festival Team

6 people standing in a row
Forest School Association qualification details for Susan Collini
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