The Woodland Walk Project

Kings Worthy outdoor classroom © Chris Carr

Team Wilder's latest Wild School is Kings Worthy Primary school, just north of Winchester. They've spent the last 9 years wilding their school grounds and making more spaces for children to interact with nature.

Team Wilder's latest Wild School is Kings Worthy Primary school, just north of Winchester. They currently have 420 children enrolled with an additional 40 children in their pre-school and are doing some amazing things for wildlife.

In the summer of 2011, we finally regained access to an area of our school grounds that had fallen into a state of neglect caused by a lack of access due to various building and development projects that were being carried out.  Armed with little more than a vision and some serious dedication, we set about sympathetically clearing this area with a view to creating a unique and completely natural learning environment that would benefit the school's children and wider community whilst ensuring that our grounds were fully utilised and that every child in our school had the opportunity to benefit from learning outdoors. We set ourselves the challenge of trying to achieve our goal with the minimum impact on the school's budget, tapping into support from the local community to work alongside the staff and children, whilst seeking funding from external sources who were willing to share in our vision.

Our Woodland Walk comprises of four acres of native wood land, within which we have tried to create differing habitats and attract as vast an array of wildlife as possible to give our children the opportunity to learn about areas of the curriculum linked to sustainability, horticulture, life cycles, conservation, recycling and the importance of caring for and maintaining their natural environment.

The children are continually involved in the project, designing, mapping, naming and creating this space as it evolves. They have created artwork, explored and constructed mini-beast habitats, planted trees and shrubs, dipped in our ponds, harvested fruit from the orchard, helped build an Iron Age style roundhouse and planned an allotment area. They have also sown wildflowers and harvested the seed to create a sustainable meadow and planted a bluebell wood, hatched eggs and studied our bird cam-footage, all enriching learning experiences.

Our project has been supported by various community groups since it began. Some of these include; the Kings Worthy Conservation Volunteers who provide work groups to advise and support us, Hampshire Gardens Trust, The Fores try Commission and Hilliers Education Centre have all helped us out at various stages of our journey. The project provides a safe placement for the Hampshire Probation Trust as part of their rehabilitation programme for low-risk offenders. They provide routine visits and help maintain the area to keep it safely accessible for the children. It has also provided Level l Forestry students from Sparsholt College with an area to learn and develop their practical skills as part of their coursework and assessments.

As our Woodland Walk has evolved, we've reached a point where most of our resources now go into maintaining what we have achieved so far whilst also trying to add something else each year if resources are available. Over the last l 2 months, we've embarked on a whole school funding drive to raise enough money lo build an outdoor classroom in the middle of the Woodland Walk to serve as a central outdoor learning hub.

By February 2020, we had raised enough money through grants and the children' s own fundraising to complete Phase 1 and 2 of our project to get the building constructed and furnished to meet basic needs.

Kings Worthy outdoor classroom

Kings Worthy outdoor classroom © Chris Carr

Our eco-features have begun to be installed with rainwater harvesting into a water butt, with a solar panel and wind turbine to be added. We anticipate that the energy generated will be fed back to our school electrical supp ly in Phase 3 of the project. We are looking into the possible addition of outdoor washroom facilities and creating a rustic outdoor cooking area too which we hope to be able to add within the next year or two.
Most recently, some of our foundation stage children watched Pekin Duck eggs hatch in an incubator in their classroom. The children looked after the ducklings on a day to day basis until we could provide a new home for them. We've built them their own house and enclosure within our pond area, with the majority of materials recycled from those already on the school site from previous projects and the ducks have now taken up residency in their new home.

Duck house in Kings Worthy Primary School

Duck house in Kings Worthy Primary School © Lynn Keeble

Once all the children return to school, we'll begin to fully utilise the new outdoor classroom and explore ways in which  we can promote and encourage more community use of this space whilst also trying to generate an additional sustainable income that can then be used to further develop and maintain the school's grounds in the future.

Wilder Future team walking into sunset

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