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2017, where have you been...?

22 December 2017 09:32

My 2017


Although fairly slow to start, this year for business started off with four schools looking for Forest School sessions during the year and a number of enquiries about my ...Bespoke Birthday Bashes. The main event for January was continued rehearsals for the local village pantomime, where surprisingly I had been cast as one of the main roles! How, I don't know how or why, although it was the character part of the beast, in Beauty and the Beast, if that says anything. A very wet birthday party at the end of the month, saw a great group of children make wooden mallets, using a bow saw, axe and knives...


February was an exciting month, starting with a trip out of the woods and into the great city of Prague. A fabulous, cultural visit, taking in all the sites and enjoying being immersed in exquisite artwork, whilst visiting The National Gallery on its 220th anniversary, we witnessed original pieces of Monet, Picasso and Van Gogh, to name but a few... 

Half term events and birthday parties continued to flourish, gaining new children and interest from schools all the time. Another cultural trip, but this time to the big smoke, took us to see the Burberry & Henry Moore Exhibition at The Maker's House in London. A great display of the reimagined cape, using all forms of textiles, including feathers,  jewels, metal and wool, were entwined amongst Moore sculptures. Two of my favourite interests, fashion and sculpture, in one grown up day, rounded off with supper.


Normal service resumed throughout most of March, with the added excitement of one year 5 class, from Great Ballard School, obtaining their Discovery Certificate, as part of their John Muir Award. This award is a great way for children to learn about their environment and be connected with it in a way that they will nurture it for future generations. Look here for more information about this fabulous award, Towards the end of the month, a couple of events, as part of The South Downs Society, saw a talk from Tristan Gooley, the Natural Navigator, and taking part in the South Downs National Park conference, held at Plumpton College. Meeting like-minded people, who also deliver Forest School programmes or who are involved in outdoor activities, is always heartwarming, as it confirms that you are doing the right thing... 


A little adventure with my gorgeous Cocker Spaniel, Monty, started the first week of April off and what a week to choose! We had decided to challenge ourselves to walk from Eastbourne to Winchester, along the South Downs Way, all 100 miles. Starting off with an overnight stay in Eastbourne, we began our walk the following morning walking through Eastbourne and then continuing up the side of Beachy Head to be met by incredible views and extreme winds... The week saw us walking on average 15 miles a day through the stunning scenery that is the South Downs National Park and with an overnight stay in Alfriston and being collected at the end of the other days, we completed our walk in 7 days - although Monty dipped out on our second to last day as he was too pooped! Next year we intend to walk the SDW again, but in reverse, started in Winchester.


During May, From the Ashes... entered Trafalgar Community School into the Horsham Festival, Eco Beast Sculpture Competition, as part of Sussex Green Living. This entailed the school and children collecting items of rubbish that can or cannot be recycled and building a beast during our Forest School sessions. The children were very imaginative and this resulted in entering individual beasts as part of a Beast Village. Not expecting to be placed anywhere due to the extent of quality entries, imagine my surprise when I went back at the end of the day to collect our creations; a certificate showing that we had gained 2nd prize! What a treat and great for the school and me...


My Godson's Wedding in a beautiful woodland and a new school, were my highlights of June. On the iconic date of - 17/06/17 - the happy couple tied the knot, under a canopy of conifers, with the sun beating down through the needles and with the pews formed from tree trunks, we witnessed a special joining in a magical environment. At the end of the month a Woodland Day for the Year 4s at Pennthorpe School, was the nature of the day. The day took the form of 30 children having a relaxed Forest School experience in their extensive 16 acre site, taking part in activities that consisted of Viking Knitters, bug-hunting, stream exploration, hammocks, branding irons, Nordic Slinging, story books, scallop-shell fires, pitta pockets and the old favourites, hot chocolate and s'mores. A talk by Ranulph Fiennes, on his incredible life describing his numerous expeditions, finished off the month beautifully. 


Birthdays, birthdays and more birthdays, plus a great camping week in Shropshire, kept us busy during July. From the Ashes... took a couple of birthday parties to the houses of the individuals, which was a first, but turned out to be very successful. Activities for the parties ranged from survival bracelets, bug-hunting, t-shirt dyeing using natural dyes, branding irons, picture frames, slacklining and shelter building, saw a mass of youngsters running around the woodlands being immersed in their environment. A week camping at the end of the month, in the unsung county of Shropshire, was just what the Doctor ordered to end a very busy school summer and to see the start of an eventful summer holidays...


And it's back, for the third year running, to the lovely setting of Cornbury Park, in Charlbury, just outside of Oxford, to join a team of Forest School Practitioners to deliver sessions to this years' campers at The Wilderness Festival. Around 60+ children sleeping, once again, in homemade shelters, under starlit skies and enjoying the peace and tranquility, away from the heartthrob of the festival, taking part in a programme of fun activities with new and old friends. A Forest School week with Little Laura's Nursery School, and our own From the Ashes'... sessions busied us for the rest of the summer, enjoying all the usual activities and rekindling old friendships.


Schools start again and the end of the month saw the start of my next half century, when I turned 50! How did that happen? A month full of celebrations, both in and out of woodlands, took the form of a reunion of old school mates, a trip to Kew Gardens, a cinema outdoors, afternoon tea in an old railway carriage, birthday breakfasts and lunches in the woods, ending in a fabulous weeks' holiday on the beautiful Isles of Scilly, my childhood paradise and the home of my Uncle and Aunty, who own the vineyard on the stunning island of St. Martin's. The weather was incredible and the scenery exquisite, as we spent the entire week walking Monty, eating and spending time relaxing...


More From the Ashes'... events during half term and a plethora of ...Bespoke Birthday Bashes, kept me busy during October, which was just as well as it was my last month of working in the woods for a while, as at the end of the month I was taking a break from activity and hibernating for 6 months, due to the fact of discovering Osteoarthritis in my feet and having to have both feet operated on. Wondered why they hurt so much...! A special trip to the Weald and Downland at the end of the month, spent the evening at the beautiful venue, walking between the buildings of vernacular architecture and listening to traditional stories, spoken by actors in period costumes, whilst sitting around open fires. Culminating in warm, spiced cider and fruit flapjack, a fitting ending for the end of my year...