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Our Forest School
In the past, a small number of our Key Stage 2 pupils were invited to attend Forest School sessions, organised by the Plas Derw Trust. These took place in woodlands many miles from our school site. Children experienced a wide range of games and activities, including campfire cooking and tool making. Everyone had a wonderful time and they were sorry to see the sessions come to an end. Other children in school were very jealous and wanted to know when they would get their opportunity to have their Forest School experience.
Luckily, a memo arrived in school from Flintshire County Council offering to fund a small number of teachers across the county to train as Forest School Leaders. Mrs. Griffiths, who has a background in Guiding and Uniformed Youth Groups, jumped at the chance! Mrs. Griffiths began her year-long training in May of 2012, and is now a qualified Level 3 Forest School Leader.
At Ysgol Bryn Gwalia we are very lucky to have extensive grounds comprising of two large yards, one small yard, and a wonderful split-level field. The lower field area has always been known as ‘The Dell’ and is bordered by an area of mature trees which unfortunately were out of bounds due to problems with litter and fly-tipping and had sadly become dangerously overgrown. The potential of this site was obvious. With time, effort and some financial investment, this area could become Bryn Gwalia’s own Forest School, allowing all pupils to benefit.
We made an application to the Thomas Howell’s Foundation for a grant to supply and install new fencing to make the area secure. This application was successful and work started almost immediately. In May 2012, Bryn Gwalia held its first ‘Give and Gain Day’, when local businesses including P&A Garden Products, Shotton Paper and SP Energy Networks, along with governors, parents, and staff grafted for two whole days to make our Forest School a reality.
They used mini-diggers to clear litter and undergrowth, power saws to remove dangerous trees and branches and even made our own wood chippings on site by recycling our felled trees. These chippings were used to floor our paths and campfire circles. Log seating was installed, minibeast hotels erected and resource stores established. By the end of the second day, our Forest School was ready to welcome children!
Since then, our Forest School has been used in all seasons and weathers, and we are continuing to develop our Forest School area by increasing our wooded area and developing a woodland meadow full of wild flowers and long grasses.
Our Forest School is now being well used! In the late Spring we planted 450 new trees (a gift from The Woodland Trust) with every child planting at least one tree each. We hope that future Bryn Gwalia children will enjoy a denser forest than we have today.
We are also delighted that our Bryn Gwalia Oak has been short listed for Welsh Tree of the Year 2014. Click here to vote for our tree on the Woodlands Trust Website. If we are lucky enough to win, we go forward to the European Tree of the Year competition.
We have been approached by "The Tree Hunter", along with the BBC, to feature in a special programme about trees. Our Forest School is always in need of maintenance so please do get in touch with Mrs Griffiths if you have any spare time and would like to help.