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Ladders & lashings...

19 October 2016 23:18

Play structures...

From the Ashes... last week, was very chuffed to be able to host its first ever adult training session, at its own site in Fittleworth. Eight Forest School Practitioners and myself,  joined forces with the one and only Jon Cree, chair of the Forest School Association, to learn and make play structures within my grounds in West Sussex. 

The day started, as is fitting of any Forest School session, chatting around the warm fire, under a parachute canopy, making introductions and catching up with old friends and colleagues. Whilst the kettle was boiling, we set to cutting and preparing our stakes for ladder making, a great structure that has many uses other than just a ladder. Working in pairs we intially lashed the two main poles together to make a sort of 'A' frame and then using the ladder lashing, simultaneously lashed the rungs to the 'A' frame to construct a ladder. With one person testing the strength of the rungs by bouncing on each rung individually, the lashing tightened, making for a secure struction and 'et voila' - our first handmade structure!

We then tried our hand at some rope work, with firstly Jon showing us how to put up a 'Strapline' securely and safely. After walking along this and discussing the benefits of balance and confidence in partners, as well as conquering maybe a fear of height for others, we moved on to making a swing. Selecting the perfect bough of the oak tree, between the garden and the paddock, a competition between the men ensued, as to who could get the rope over the, quite high, branch. Jim was determined, Jon was focused, but it was Andy who mastered the art of rope throwing, whilst the rest of us looked on in earnest... After Jon had safely secured an anchor rope to another tree and attached, with clove hitches, a seat to the hanging rope, Jon then sat on and a few of us, in tug of war fashion, held onto the standing rope to pull the seat up to give purchase to the swing, and then let go!

After lunch of homemade butternut squash and sweet potato soup, with bread and butter, followed by homemade Dorset apple cake, toasted chestnuts and honey, all washed down with tea and coffee, we started the afternoon's session by looking at where a tree-house could be constructed. The weekend before, we had felled a couple of Sweet Chestnut trees from the garden to use as the main stays and uprights, so these were then cut to size and put in place around the three Sycamore trees, in the area the children call 'Emerald City.' Using hessian as a protection for the trees and square lashings, as well as a cut to size clamp, the team worked collaboratively putting the basic structure in place. Securing the centre of the base of the tree-house with a central stay, using the trunk of one of our felled trees, the main framework of the structure was completed. Floor boards, from a recently fallen Douglas Fir, were then put in place to create the start of the flooring, a fitting place returning the tree to the garden once more... The tree-house will be worked on over the next couple of months with the aid of the children, and adults, who take part in any From the Ashes'... future sessions.