Although anyone can turn up at our workdays, most of the children and young adults that come in their own time are the ones we already work with.
To tackle this, four children from Moulsecoomb Primary met with a funder from Novas Scarman to put together a plan for a wilderness project during the summer holidays. On the back of this, we were successful in being awarded money to fund it.
Through the Primary School, we distributed fliers to Years 4, 5 and 6 (ages 8 – 12) inviting them on a three day camp. We easily filled the maximum of 12 spaces – the majority attending where from Moulsecoomb Primary, one boy was referred to us by his social worker and one came from Falmer High.
Working in the area for many years has helped us build up strong relationships with the children – all them had visited the forest garden at least once during school trips or taken part in the weekly gardening club at the school.
We split the children into groups and built three dens in the woods, using material from the woods. During the building process, they learnt how to identify trees, plants, eco systsems and how to increase bio-diversity.
The camps became the main focal point of the whole three days, where they also learnt various bushcraft techniques; fire lighting with flint and nap; carving; knotwork and use of woodland tools.
The children really enjoyed adding to the structures, putting on tarps on them when it rained, clearing brambles and brash, and building small fire pits.
Each day we would go back to the forest garden for a communal meal cooked on the big fire-pit, testing their fire lighting skills in the process. Part of the criteria of thegrant money criteria was to promote healthy eating, and we bought extra food from the Falmer farm shop to supplement food wasn’t available from the garden.
The children tucked into local sausages, bacon and eggs; spent one of the days preparing and making pizzas in our outdoor clay oven; ate local apples, picked raspberries, blackberries and white currants; dug up potatoes and made chips over the fire and harvested salad and runner beans.
There were no fizzy drinks just fresh fruit juices, smoothies, water or milk. Only on the last day did we allow marshmallows to be cooked around their own camp fires, using sycamore sticks to roast them on.
The children also learnt about collecting suitable firewood for their campfires; some made mallets from harvested wood; some helped with the gardening, while others learnt about bees and how they collect nectar and turn it into honey.
On the last day the children showed their parents and carers around their camps.
Money is tight for many, with large families or low or no income. Keeping the event completely free made sure that everyone who wanted to attend could. Making sure we supplied food meant that there were virtually no fizzy drinks or snacks brought into the garden.
The majority of the children had no planned holiday during the summer break and many parents remarked on how great it was to have an exciting activity for their children on their doorstep.
The event has also strengthened our links with parents in the community, who are beginning to venture up to our events and open days.
The children had fun – and learnt valuable skills at the same time. As well as the tangible skills of survival and bushcraft, they had to learn to work together, co-operate and put their egos aside. Valuable lessons indeed.
We asked the children at the end of the 3rd day what they liked and disliked, and making camps came top and that they liked everything – but it wasn’t long enough!
The event was a resounding success and we want to look for further funding to roll this out as a regular holiday activity for the children of Moulsecoomb and the surrounding estates.