Dirt...For Your Health! Holiday Club Report at Free Rangers

During the end of July and first week of August, we ran our Forest School Holiday Club here at Free Rangers Forest School and had an excellent time of it too! It wouldn't be our Forest School without the curse of rain over our heads, and we had some short sharp downpours, but on a hot sunny day to keep , who doesn't like a little refreshing shower to invigorate, inspire and keep us on our toes!

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February Half Term Forest School Club

Roll up, Roll up! It's time for the first Forest School Holiday Club of 2014! Booking is now open for children aged 5-11 year olds so do please contact us to book places for your child, children and friends! All your favourite activities and games are available, including whittling, tool work, den building, fire lighting, obstacle courses, and more! We will be running the club during the February half term - Monday 17th to Thursday 20th at All Hallows Prep School in Cranmore. Timings are as normal - 9am till 4pm and costs £30 per day. Lunch will be provided, in the form of homemade pizzas cooked in our very own pizza ovens with a variety of delicious and healthy toppings. As always, a range of snacks will be available, including hot and cold drinks, biscuits and the odd marshmallow!

To book please ring the Forest School hotline on 07925417261 (do please leave a message if there's no answer) and you can click on these links to download a copy of the Parental Consent & Medical forms (although best to make sure you have a place before downloading). In the meantime, if you'd like to see what we got up to last year on our Forest School Holiday Club click in the link below!

Look forward to seeing you all soon.

May Half Term Forest School Holiday Club

Red Fox

Play is not a swear word!

Lately I have read and heard many Early Years Professionals justifying their decision to use play as a powerful tool with which to facilitate children’s learning. With newspaper articles suggesting that the government is going to introduce formal assessments and expect Early Years settings to teach official sessions of numeracy and literacy, it’s understandable that as professionals within education, we feel we need to explain why we don’t sign up to these potential changes and why we wholeheartedly believe children would not benefit.

As professionals, parents and carers we should do all we can to highlight the benefits of play to children’s learning and development. So, we stand shoulder to shoulder with our fellow Early Years settings and join in by sharing our views on play.

One of the ways we’d like to do this is by drawing your attention to the important matter of play. Firstly, we’d like to share with you the Free Rangers’ Play Policy, this explains our stance on Play and we hope you share our views. If we’ve left anything out then please let us know. It’s not in essay form, the topic is so vast we thought we’d condense it down to the nuts and bolts of play. But if you’re interested to find out more then please email the office and we can point you in the direction of some great theorists and studies.

With your help, we want your children to be the best they can be. We strongly believe not only the educational theories that support play as being the bedrock of early years learning, but also the emerging, sound scientific studies that further confirm; play leads to greater brain development.

Secondly, as from September 2013, we start in earnest our Stay & Play sessions, for children aged 0 – 5yrs at All Hallows School’s onsite woodland. Join us for Forest School sessions that will be tailored to encourage you and your child / children to learn through play in a beautiful and mature woodland. Please find details here.

The continued provision of our Free Rangers’ Forest School Holiday Clubs also ensures those children beyond nursery age can also access Forest School provision in the woods. Blog_110713_720x720

Thirdly, we thought the best thing to do was to invite Michael Gove to visit us for a “Play date.” We are confident that the families that choose to send their children to Free Rangers aren’t wrong, we are certain our views which reflect early years best practice (in fact only tonight we’ve just won three awards from our Education Authority) aren’t wrong, and furthermore we know we share the same ideals as many other fantastic Early Years Settings both locally and globally, so we can’t all be wrong can we? Once he sees Free Rangers’ children busy playing and learning we’re confident he’ll listen to all of us.

So what do we have to lose? Here goes:

Dear Mr. Gove,

Please come and play at Free Rangers for the day.

Toby, Laurie, Archie and William said they’d play dinosaurs with you; Josie said you could share one of the balance bikes; Lauren will sit with you during snack and lunch, Cain, Theo and Jess will show you the cement they made out of sand, water and grass and Daisy said she’d toast a marshmallow for you.

So you see Mr. Gove, all angles are covered. Please bring your wellies, if you don’t have any, we can lend you some.

Hope to see you soon for fun and frolicks at Free Rangers.

Yours sincerely,

Everyone here including Gary the Goose.

Half Term Forest School Club 2013

Another Half Term over and what a week of extremes. We started with unrelenting rain on the Tuesday and ended the week with glorious sunshine. But despite the wet start, the children came and conquered, leaving with muddy knees (or on Tuesday muddy everything!), crafted objects and treasures in pockets, and a wholesome sense of achievement from the day.

The usual staples of our Forest School sessions were available as well as a few new extra activities for the children to get stuck into. Fire lighting, whittling, den and shelter building and river exploration were all on the menu along with some May whistles carved from some young sycamore branches. We also put our hands to boat/raft making, learning how to safely use an axe (splitting and carving) and different types of saw, freetime in the woods to explore, as well as two rather splendid mud slopes.


It never ceases to amaze how children can effortlessly create and play in our natural spaces. We always plan plenty for the children to do, most of which they will complete but many will create exploratory stories and games outside of our planning; these are usually “child only” and we adults are rarely privy to them, so it’s a privilege to be part of it. Sometimes they need to be policed as we have a mix of ages and abilities attend. Our general rule of thumb is if everyone is enjoying the game then it can continue. As soon as someone stops enjoying it, we either think of way to better it for inclusion or it stops. Simple and effective. Much of what we do as Forest School leaders is of a facilitating role. Yes, we ‘teach’ in a sense when it comes to how and why we for example use a knife, but much of what we do is aid in the children’s own exploration and learning, helping expand and further their time with us in the woods, and hopefully when they get home as well.

On Friday as well we were visited by some of the Pre-School children from the Nursery who came down at exactly the same time as we were about to have marshmallows. Far too convenient for my liking. 

As a review process we ask the children what they thought of the day, what activities they enjoyed the most. One child reversed the question and asked me. My answer? Watching the children walk down to Otter Brook woods in their individual groups, but travelling back as one cohesive entity, new friendships formed through their time in the woods. Overall I was really impressed with the children. We have had several new explorers start and their existing knowledge and thirst to know more was really fantastic. We hope to see them again. Our veterans have also been excellent and it was nice to see some old faces from long ago! We’ve already had some great feedback from parents on how we’ve done but we’d love to hear more! Do get in touch.


Lovely stuff. Until next time...


R. Fox

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May Half Term Forest School Holiday Club

May half term is rapidly approaching and we are currently taking bookings for our exciting adventures on our Forest School Holiday Club down at Otter Brook Woods. We running sessions from the 28th (TUE IS NOW FULLY BOOKED) to 31st of May from 9am till 4pm. The pricing is £25 for each session with a £5 discount for any extra days booked. Click on the link below to see some of the activities the children get up to during one of our previous Forest School holiday clubs. I’m sure you’ll agree they look like they’re having a fantastic time!

Forest School Holiday Club


If you would like to book your child or children onto these sessions do please email here or call on 07925417261 (do leave a message if I don’t answer with a name and contact number!)

For more information on our Holiday Clubs such as what gear to bring, please visit our Holiday Club information page.

Enjoy your bank holidays!


R. Fox


February Half Term Holiday Club - Red Fox Review

With another Forest School Holiday Club done and dusted, it’s important to look back and review its successes and indeed where it could be improved. As a forest school leader, as all educational practitioner do, it’s paramount to review your practice. This enables you to develop and progress your own skills and implementation of sessions and, just as importantly, better the children’s experience for the next time they come. The week saw very a very positive turnout of children over the 4 days we ran it, but unfortunately also bore witness to some extremely cold and inclement weather and even some snow! This had a real impact on the longevity of some of our smaller members despite having a roaring fire and plenty of activities to take their mind off the cold north-westerly wind that whipped through the trees. It was also testing for the staff members, as those in the know can appreciate how much preparation and clear-up there is to deal with during such events.

With the weather not improving over the course of the week, we took the decision to run the rest of the course on site at Free Rangers Nursery, so the children were closer to our facilities, (the woods is a good 10-15 minute walk depending on the size of your legs and how tired you are) but could still be outside and enjoying themselves. It was a hard week, but the children make the best of every opportunity to play in the outdoors, and we did all the activities we normally do during a Forest School day: knife work, shelter building, fires, cooking over the fire, creative activities like paining with mud and sculpting clay embellished with natural materials as well as some slacklining (“Slacklining? What’s that?” I hear you say! Click here to see - redirects to YouTube). We also tried felting, making some little eggs to go into a bird nest made of materials found around the grounds. It was great to see the nursery forest school area being used by older children, whose group dynamic showed me different ways of utilising the space; this gave me some definite food for thought on developing the grounds.

As a result I have taken the decision that next year in the February half term, we will run dedicated “Forest School Skills” sessions in one of the barns at the Nursery. This will enable us to build upon the skills the children have put in place as well as having closer access to our Nursery Forest School area without having to contend with the chilly weather for too long if needed!

Weeks like this are hard and tiring, and it’s easy to lose focus on why you are doing it in the first place. However, I was warmed by one child, a frequent visitor to our Forest School, who went out of his way to make me a poster of his time that week. It showed our woods, the sun (which believe it or not did shine!) our fire pit and the cold wind blowing through as well as token flower for added flair. I was really touched and it has pride of place above my desk. It’s moments like this that you remember why you do what you do, and even more rewarding that children take your sessions home with them continuing their learning and passion.


And yes...to JV who drew this picture. I do like it. Thank you very much!

We look forward to welcoming our Free Rangers back in March (25th - 28th) to bask in Spring's glory and to some hopefully warmer weather!


R. Fox


February Forest School Holiday Club

Where has January gone?! February half term is fast approaching, which means the first of our Forest School holiday clubs of 2013 is nearly upon us here at Free Rangers. There are still places available so do please get in contact with us! (see below) We running sessions from the 11th to the 14th of February down at Otter Brook Woods from 9am to the later time of 4pm. The usual suspects are on the menu: fire lighting, den building, knife and tool skills, slack-lining and forest school games. We are also looking to add some camp-fire cooking activities as well! Maybe some delicious baked bananas? Or some Bannocks perhaps? Delicious.

The pricing is £25 for each session with a £5 discount for any extra days booked. Have a peek below at some of the activities the children get up to during our Forest School holiday clubs. I’m sure you’ll agree they look like they’re having a fantastic time.

If you would like to book your child or children onto these sessions do please email Ed on edfreerangers@gmail.com or call 07925417261 (do leave a message if I don’t answer with a name and contact number!)

For more information on our Holiday Clubs here at Free Rangers please visit our Holiday Club information page.

We look forward to welcoming you to the woods!

Red Fox and Kingfisher.

(Ed & Vince)

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