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Down in the forest

14 December 2012

THIS wood, tucked at the back of All Saints', Harrow Weald, was once part of the vicarage garden. Now it is the Forest School, Harrow, classroom for some of the lucky primary-school children of north-west London. It is run as a partnership between Harrow Education Department and All Saints', and is supported by John Lyon's Charity. It offers half-day and full-day learning experiences to children and young people from the Harrow area.

"The children thrive through working together in an outdoor and very different environment from their everyday experience," the Forest School tutor Jan Boresta says. "It's great to see them grow in confidence as they engage in practical tasks such as shelter building and cooking out of doors."

A path winds through the trees to where smoke drifts up through the branches, and the Forest School meets there even on winter mornings. A tarpaulin is stretched between the trees to offer some shelter; for they meet in all weathers. A teacher from Weald School is equally enthusiastic. "Our children have the opportunity to really work together as they explore the wood and make things from the natural materials they find there. It is a challenging but safe place to be."

The Forest School initiative started, some 15 years ago, in Scandinavia, where they have a great deal more forest than London, but it is being pioneered here, and may be developed elsewhere in the UK. The Vicar of All Saints', the Revd James Mercer, sees it as a project that provides genuine engagement with the needs of the wider community, "working in partnership to enable young people . . . to develop a self-esteem and sense of belonging is what the job is all about".


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