Forest School and Us

Ewan at five years old, in his element in the woods
Ewan in his element in the woods

First published in The Mother magazine issue 72, Winter 2016

My son at Forest School

Sitting quietly on a log, I observe my five-year-old son as he carefully places some leaves onto the roof of his fairy house. Ewan then scampers off to find additional roofing material to ensure the fairies are kept dry, totally immersed in play and at one in his environment. My son’s fairy house has taken six Forest School sessions to complete, complete with a washing line in the garden and fairy furniture made of out moss and leaves inside.

Set within a beautiful broadleaved, native woodland owned by the National Trust in the Peak District National Park, this Forest School site is truly magical. All around Ewan children are also engaged in free, exploratory play; a cluster are playing super heroes in one of the dens, another group are leaping in and out of a make believe pirate ship and a couple are fishing with stick rods with shiny leaves proudly attached as their catch. A lone child sits contemplatively on a log by the fire, companionably close to a Forest School assistant, whilst another child stirs a magic potion composed of natural materials collected from the forest floor. Finally, a group of children are peeling bark off hazel sticks with support from the Forest School practitioner, beginning the process of making swords for the upcoming knighting ceremony, which will commemorate the children who are leaving forest school this term.

My family at forest school
My family at forest school

The familiar sing-song voice of the Forest School practitioner gently breaks the children’s activities. They all happily ‘come and join in our small circle‘, sitting on logs at the fire circle to share food and drink together; hot chocolate warming and raisins and jam sandwiches energising. Nourished, the children return to spend the rest of the morning playing or joining in the supervised activity if they wish.

As the session draws to a close, the children gather around the fire circle to reflect on the session. Ewan says in a clear, confident voice ‘I enjoyed making the fairy house’. As the children return to preschool, a fifteen-minute walk through the woodland and across a sheep field, I observe Ewan squelching through mud, climbing over a gate, splashing in streams and hiding behind stone walls with the other children. His exuberance reassures me, confirming that after much deliberating I did choose the right pre-school environment for him.

Finding Forest School

My search for a suitable pre-school for my son appeared futile until I stumbled across an advert for a Forest School Open Day. From that day forward we did not look back. A few days later, on a crisp winter’s morning with temperatures as low as minus six, we headed out into the frozen woods. Captivated, from that day forward we did not look back. We were welcomed into a small, nurturing Pre-school with open arms, run by a committed team of staff who were passionate about re-connecting children with nature. We were delighted when Ewan secured a place at Playgroup the term after his third birthday, knowing it was well worth the thirty minute commute to enable Ewan to experience the many delights of Forest School. Continue reading Forest School and Us

Birth story

First published in The Mother magazine, Issue 72, Winter 2016

My watch stopped at 6.15am on 8th March 2013, at the same moment my body told me it was moving into the first stages of labour; the show felt like a plug suddenly unblocking. I hoped for an active VBAC home-birth with my independent midwife, after a traumatic first labour almost three years earlier, resulting in an emergency caesarian under general anaesthetic. I was emotionally and physically ready for labour, vowing to stay out of hospital at almost all costs.

The morning passed peacefully as my surges gradually intensified. I vividly remember nursing my 33-month-old son Ewan, crying silently as he suckled, treasuring this moment knowing it would be his last feed as a single nursling. When my surges became too much, I gently unlatched him. He cried and cried as if sensing a sudden catastrophic change was about to take place.Ewan in the birthing pool Continue reading Birth story

Our Nepalese adventure

Ewan and Tessa
Ewan and Tessa

First published in ‘The Green Parent’, Feb/March 2016, Issue 69

My family and I stand entranced on the roof of the world, pausing for breath as we gaze at the awe-inspiring view of the Langtang Himal before us. We are on the summit of Kyangjin Ri, thousands of prayer flags fluttering in the wind, awesome snow-capped mountains rising majestically in every direction around us. The silence and almost unearthly stillness of 4,779 metres is suddenly broken by the soft chuckles of my twenty-month-old daughter Tessa, as I pull her round out of the sling to join us for a proud family photo. We stand relieved, exhausted, amazed, as our trekking guide freezes this moment in time. I hold Tessa tightly in my arms as our four-and-a-half year old son, Ewan, stands safely between me and his Daddy. As we continue our fifteen-day trek, I muse on what has brought us to this moment; four faces smiling into a camera, snow mountains projected sharply behind us, dazzling azure sky above, like a family airbrushed into a photo-shoot, yet this is real. So, what led us to embark on the adventure of a lifetime, six weeks in Nepal with two young children? Continue reading Our Nepalese adventure

What shall we do today?

A mother and daughter's microadventure

This article was first published in Juno magazine, edition 43, Spring 2016.

What shall we do today?

A micro-adventure is a fun, easy way to make the most of a free day, Caroline Cole discovered

One Wednesday morning in late February I find my daughter and I home alone without any plans. Amongst the daily list of household chores we could do today, I wonder what we can do which is more challenging, exciting and embracing of the freedom such a day offers. This is a rare opportunity to do something different and memorable, just mother and daughter together. We are car-less, but have countryside right on our doorstep. Continue reading What shall we do today?

The need to name

This article was first published in JUNO magazine, edition 31, Spring 2013 

The need to name: holding a baby naming ceremony 

The need to name

On the birth of our son we were keen to celebrate his arrival in a formal but non-religious ceremony, shared amongst family and friends. My husband and I are spiritual people, who believe our son should be provided DSCF8378the opportunity to develop his own spiritual or secular ideas about life as he grows. A naming ceremony was therefore ideal. It enabled us to welcome Ewan into his community in a unique way whilst including all our guests, regardless of their own belief system. Having made this decision, we began planning the practicalities of the day and exploring its deeper meaning.

Communities seek to name and announce their newest members in a huge variety of ways. A child’s name is significant in many societies. The image of a parent holding its newborn to the sky, sun or moon and repeating his name transcends time, place and culture. It can be that simple, or it can be an elaborate affair, involving the whole community. In the UK it is traditional to hold a Christening, but as we become a more secular society naming ceremonies are growing in popularity. For our family it was a deep spiritual need to present Ewan to the earth, for the world to recognise him. Continue reading The need to name

The Sea

Acton Beach, Irleand

Waves breaking

Salt water and wind buffering our faces

We embrace the howling sea,

As I carry you along this unspoilt shore

I suddenly hear your voice, unbounded, speaking to me:

All this I have seen before, mummy,

The froth, the ebb, the flow of the ocean,

Its elemental beauty.

For I have come from another life,

To dwell for a time here with you.

You know me mummy

You knew me before time began and shall carry on knowing me in eons of time, Continue reading The Sea

Wild camping in the woods

This article was first published in The Green Parent magazine, issue no: 57 Date: February/March 2014

Wild camping in the woods

Wild places of the heart

Wild camping means camping amongst nature away from a managed campsite. Wild places hold a special place in my heart; after a privileged childhood spent outdoors as much as possible, and an enchanting gap year spent in the Himalayas, I continued to feel connected to the mountains at university by joining the hill-walking club. Here I met my lifelong partner, Richard, at the top of a Munro in Scotland (a mountain over 3000ft). Richard developed his passion for wild and mountainous places, learning outdoor skills after spending much of his formative youth in wild places in Scotland on school trips on Hebridean Islands. We both followed our shared passion for the outdoors by spending as much time as possible together in the mountains. We find that being within nature cleanses and rejuvenates the sole, offering us a true perspective on life and a much needed breath of fresh air.

Our first wild camp was memorable, spent on the beautiful, untamed, uninhabited island of Taransay, our window the waves crashing metres below our tent. From this we wild camped whenever possible, combining it with mountaineering trips in the Highlands of Scotland, North Wales, the English Lake District and the Alps. Wild camping offers seclusion and a rich experience of nature, the chance to really ‘get away from it all’, from society and our multi-media, high-tech, electronic age. It also brings a rich feeling of being self-sufficient and minimalist, in that you have to carry everything you need with you on your back, a rarity in our everyday lives.

Continue reading Wild camping in the woods