Surrey Hills Forest School
A good number of years ago I worked alongside Lee for 3 years at a pre-school in Guildford, and in that time we both tried to get as many qualifications under our belts as we could. Lee was always very vocal about the end goal for him, being to run his own forest school. He worked his socks off and achieved his NVQ level 3 in Early Years Foundation as well as continuing to get a degree in Childcare.
We remained in touch over the years and through mutual friends, I was able to follow what Lee had been up to. I heard that he had started a forest school in the Chantries for birthday parties and smaller groups; this had then led on to him renting an acre of farmland for a couple of sessions a week for a nursery school, as well as a group of nannies and childminders.
However, Lee wanted more He wanted to create his own forest school pre-school that was not sessional or seasonal. His dedication and hard work was about to pay off. In June 2019, Lee found the space he had been searching for. After a visit from Ofsted, Lee was given the green light to make his dream a reality.
Last week I was invited to come along and have a look at the space. As I drove in, I was greeted by both of his daughters, both holding a pair of secateurs, cutting back the foliage to create pathways in and out of the space. I was quick to learn that this forest school had been a very family orientated labour of love. Lee’s father-in-law had dedicated a lot of time and effort helping get the space set up and ready.
The Surrey Hills Forest School will be open 8am-6pm 3 days a week during term time. There is a bell tent which is a permanent fixture at the setting. This provides shelter from both the rain and the sun, and as we head towards the colder months, Lee will be getting a heater for the tent.
I was led around the back of the tent where there is a wooden platform that has cushions and rugs in it, this is going to be the book corner, where children will be able to get some peace and quiet and read stories. This space is also very cleverly situated in a gap in the trees to allow sunlight in, therefore creating natural light for the children to read.
There are outdoor toilets for the children to use, and an outdoor sink for them to wash their hands, again which Lee and his father-in-law have put in position. I was then shown to the textiles station; this is where the children can explore more sensory activities. Lee will also be teaching the children tool work as well as basic survival skills.
The preschool is set up for 24 children, and there will be 2 hot meals served a day, and in addition, the forest school also has a fire pit and the children will have opportunities to do some outdoor cooking.
There is a table set up in the middle of the space where the children will eat their meals as well as being able to use it for various activities planned throughout the day, some of these activities will be den building, nature walks, bug hunting to name but a few.
The forest school is also situated next to a care home, so once a week the children will go and visit the care home. This promotes intergenerational relationships, and over time, Lee hopes that the more mobile occupants will be able to come down and spend some time with the children.
The Surrey Hills Forest School will be accepting children from September, and in a world where screen-time is at an all-time high, I think the importance of some outdoor activities with the bonus of learning key skills is vital for future generations.
For more information please do get in touch with Lee;