From building bridges to cooking bread, the children of Marshwood Primary School in Dorset have been busy learning amongst the trees of Harmshay. This patch of woodland, which neighbours Babers Farm, was bought by the CRT in 2021 thanks to a grant from the Government’s Countryside Stewardship scheme.

The local primary school uses the woodland for its forest school sessions. Shelley Strawbridge, a teacher and qualified Forest School Leader at Marshwood Primary, tells us what activities the children, aged 4 to 11, enjoyed in the woods over the last school year:

“In September 2021, we began the school year by going on fungi hunts and photographing different fungi species. The children also met Adrian Strawbridge, my husband and the son of farmer Jim Strawbridge, whose sheep and cattle graze the pastures of Babers Farm. The children watched as Adrian laid hedges on the farm and learned all about why and how it is done.

“In the spring, we planted oak and cherry tree saplings in spaces in the forest and drew sketches of the beautiful bluebells as they sprouted all around.

“The children worked in teams to create bridges and dens with deadwood and used natural clay from the stream to sculpt and build. They carved Mother’s Day ‘flowers’ using the abundance of hazel wood in the forest, learning how to use knives in a safe and well managed way.

“They’ve also learnt how to build and use a small campfire in a safe manner. Then they cooked bread and picked wild garlic to make their own garlic butter dip. They’ve made pizza, popcorn, marshmallow s’mores and stinging nettle crisps. They’ve even drunk stinging nettle tea!

“The children have enjoyed lots of crafts using natural materials, from baking hazel wood in a tin to create charcoal and using it to draw, to pounding flowers and leaves with a stone to print on fabric.   

“When a bit of quiet time was needed, we’ve enjoyed reading stories under the canopy in the rain.”

Wow, what an incredibly busy year the children of Marshwood Primary School have had on Harmshay. We can’t wait to hear what you get up to in the 2022/23 school year.

Published: August 2022