Exploring Tiverton Forest School

27
Aug

Exploring Tiverton Forest School

You probably already know that we are now running activities from the very special Tiverton Adventure Playground in Tiverton….you might even have been one of the hundreds of people that came and joined us for a fabulously busy open day back in April! Owned by the charitable Tiverton Adventure Playground Association, we have kindly been loaned the use of the site for term-time activities whilst they still run provision during the school holidays.

However, there’s a lot more to this site than meets the eye and we thought we’d take some time today to tell you a little more about this unique space. But before we start to talk about the amazing ecology onsite and explain the specialist provision that we provide, it is well worth a wander down memory lane to explore some of the history of the site.

In 1972, the government published a book entitled ‘Intermediate Treatment’ which proposed an alternative to custody provision for young offenders, that of supervised activity programmes. A group of local workers met in Tiverton to explore this concept and one of the eventual recommendations of this group was the establishment  of an adventure playground in Tiverton. After help from the council in identifying a suitable site, the first pilot play project took place in the summer of 1973 and charity status was eventually obtained three years later in 1976. At the time, the adventure playground was defined as:

‘a place where children can take part in any form of play that takes their interest. This can be building a village, painting, pupperty, music-making, gardening, games, processions or anything at all feasible on the site. Trained playleaders and voluntary helpers will be there at all times so that the children can play safely over their guidance.’

From this initial goal, the site has gone from strength to strength and has now been offering outdoor play provision for the children of Tiverton for 45 years! The 3.5 acre site itself is located in an old railway cutting which is reflected in the two levels, the upper where the railway bridge once stood and the lower larger level which is populated with fir trees and lots of native undergrowth. It may not be a traditional forest setting but the beauty of Forest School is that where it takes place isn’t in itself of utmost importance; what makes outdoor education in this way effective is the philosophy and the approach of the people running the provision. Forest School is a way of thinking and exploring, it’s a fluid and ever adaptable concept…this is one of the things we love most about it!

And we definitely have the right approach with our staff at Tiverton. Our two main members of staff are the wonderful Annie Milverton and the very talented Jake Ward. Annie is an ex-teacher who trained with us last year before falling in love with the Forest School way of things and coming to join us at The Outdoors Group. She lives in Exeter and is passionate about reaching children through outdoor education. Jake is a qualified bushcraft instructor with a background in the armed forces which, combined with a childhood spent exploring Dartmoor and Exmoor, helped establish his passion for survival and bushcraft practices. With a desire to inspire everyone he encounters, he joined us earlier this year to help reach more children and adults who are craving an adventure in the outdoors!

Here at The Outdoors Group we are passionate about being accessible to all. That is why, as well as runnning sessions for local schools in Tiverton and Toddler Clubs for pre-school children, we also run Home Education groups for those choosing to educate their children outside of the traditional system. We now accept childcare vouchers and parents claiming Working Tax Credits may be eligible to claim back some of the costs of the session as well.  Hopefully this means that price won’t be a barrier to accessing what we offer. And from September, we are responding to local demand and starting a teen/tween group on Wednesday afternoons for those slightly older children who want to be exploring and learning in the great outdoors but perhaps free from annoying younger siblings….!

By trying to make sure we offer provision for all local children in the area, we hope to ensure that everyone who wants to can explore this amazing site and especially, discover it’s incredibly unqiue ecology. Despite it’s surburan location, our bug hunters have found glow worms, the largest beetle in Northern Europe (Longhorn beetle) as well as plenty of bees, butterflies and other interesting beasties. And for those interested in less mobile wildlife, we have plenty of edible and interesting plants growing such as our willow maze, the medicinal plantain, edible 3 cornered leek and of course at this time of year, blackberries by the bucketful! We’ve also invited in the local gardening group Learning With Plants who use a small area of the site for their green fingered exploits.

So as you can see, whilst not in a traditional location for Forest School, our site at Tiverton has a lot to offer the children, young people and adults that have the pleasure of treading our beautiful paths. Why not join us next term to see for yourself? Bookings are now open for our Toddler Clubs and various Home Education Groups and we look forward to meeting lots of you in amongst the wildlife in just a few weeks time!

2 Responses

  1. John Carter

    It was wonderful to see the progress and development of the Playground as it celebrates its 45th year . I was playleader there in 78/79 and was based in Social Services working closely with Simon Bush . The first hall on site was a sectional concrete building that Simon and I picked after visiting the company in Portsmoth . After 79 I continued as a social worker in Tiverton till 1995 . I have some great memories of the children and events that epitomised the fun we had . I wonder how many parents of todays children remember the Cowley Moor Venturers Under thirteen soccer team we ran . ‘I now live in Powell River on the West coast of BC Canada ( now I follow our Junior A Ice Hockey team instead of Soccer )
    I wish the very best to all involved with the Playground and it makes me feel very proud to have been a small part of its development .

    1. Hannah Durdin

      Thanks for commenting John, it’s great to hear your memories from when you were working at the Playground in the late 70’s and that you found our post even from over the pond! You should be proud, it’s a very special place 🙂 Hope your Hockey team do well this season!

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