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
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".