Portfolio Diary

Site Survey

Panoramic view of reservoir from the education hide on the edge of the wood.
Panoramic view of reservoir from the education hide on the edge of the wood.

I took a really interesting visit to the forest school site this morning to take some photos and gather some information for the impact survey. Since taking the first week of the course and starting work on the portfolio I’ve noticed I seem to be paying so much more attention to what is around.

The woodland is minimally managed and there is no public access so it is about as natural as it could be and as a result there is a huge variety of plants and insects. The more we looked the more we kept finding.

Bird viewing screen at entrance to woodland.
Bird viewing screen at entrance to woodland.
Bird feeders at entrance to woodland
Bird feeders at entrance to woodland.

There are a number of bird feeders at the entrance to the woodland and a large wicker screen to watch them from. The site ranger fills them daily so they are usually covered in birds. Today we saw Great Tit, Coal Tit and Nuthatch feeding on them.

The hide used by a bird watching club.
The hide used by a bird watching club.

In one corner of the woodlands there is a hide used by a bird watching club. The site for the forest school sessions is some distance from this though so there’s no chance of us disturbing them or the birds they are watching.

The 'education' hide.
The ‘education’ hide.

A 5 minute walk along the edge of the woodlands is the ‘education’ hide. The education hide is on the very edge of the reservoir and when the reservoir if full the water comes right up to the hide. The water level is relatively low at the moment though and on the shore there was swathes of Watermint growing, the smell was incredible.

Snag of a tree struck by lightning
Snag of a tree struck by lightning.

There were some interesting reference points around the woodland including this snag of a tree that was struck by lightning. These landmarks will be useful in setting boundaries for the sessions.

Wooden building that houses a composting toilet.
Wooden building that houses a composting toilet.
The composting toilet.
The composting toilet.

I’m really fortunate that there is a very posh Natsol Full Access composting toilet at the entrance to the wood and just 5 minutes walk from the site I’m using for the sessions. Toileting problems solved!

A Forest School Site

A short drive away from our mooring is a reservoir. Unlike some that are commercialised this one is surrounded by woodland, most of which is designated as  a Site of Special Scientific Interest (SSSI). There are a few permissive walks through the woodland and a small education centre. There are two areas of woodland adjacent to the education centre that aren’t accessible to the public which are used for school visits.

I went down to speak to the education co-ordinator today. She took me on a walk around the two areas of woodland they use for their education programmes and we talked about what the sessions I was planning would involve. She has kindly agreed to let me use either of the woods for my sessions. I’m really pleased, it’s a beautiful site. There were lot’s of interesting things to see on the walk. As well as a large variety of trees and plants there were plenty of signs of wildlife big and small. There is an education hide we can use on the edge of the reservoir and adjacent to one of the woods is a wildflower meadow and also a grassed area we can use for games if we want. On the edge of the track between the two woodlands is a very impressive composting toilet which solves all toileting issues.

There is a hide used by a bird watching club in one corner of one of the woods but other than that we should have the woods to ourselves for the duration of the sessions. Time to start planning…

Looking for a Site

We’re fortunate enough to have a very large area of publicly accessible woodland very close to where our mooring is. We went for a walk today looking at potential sites to run Forest School sessions. Much of the woodland is managed and predominantly pine. The area we looked around today is natural woodland made up mostly of silver birch, some of which have clearly been there a long time. There is a good variety though of both other trees and also plants growing at grass and shrub level.

Clearing in the woodland
Clearing in the woodland

 

We found a couple of nice clearings that could potentially make good spots for sessions. It’s a popular area with horse riders, dog walkers and cyclists though. It would need at least another reccy or two to ensure there wouldn’t be too many passing through the area to disturb a session. One edge of the woodland also lies against private land which is actively used for shooting so that’s another potential disturbance that would need to be checked.

Fungi
Fungi

I also found a fungi growing on some standing dead wood which I believe is Fomitopsis Ochreacea.

King Alfred’s Cake at last!

Flynn has been well trained in identifying Ash trees and has been hunting for King Alfred’s Cake whenever we’ve been out recently but we’ve had little luck locally.

Ash Tree Rope Swing
Ash Tree Rope Swing

We just spent 5 days at this years Peak Camp 2, the longest running home educators camp in the UK, on Barracks Farm camp site near Hartington in the Peak District. Whilst we were there we took a couple of walks out and Flynn was, as usual, on the look out for dead and dying Ash. We found several pieces but all were on standing trees and far too high to be able to reach so eventually we gave up hope of finding any that was accessible in that area as well.

King Alfred's Cake
King Alfred’s Cake

Later in the week we finally found a respectably sized piece at the foot of an Ash tree right in the middle of the camp site. The same tree with a rope swing that the children had all been climbing up and swinging on the whole time we’d been there.