Since we moved to Nottingham 6 years ago, I have been trying to work out where the forest that Robin Hood roamed in could be. Sadly much of it has been chopped down, you can see the 800 year old Major Oak, but it doesn’t quite give you the feeling of being an outlaw I was looking for, because the forest no longer feels boundless. I did get something of that awe inspiring outlaw feeling however, when we were invited to a family forest craft and activities day out at Sherwood Pines, the East Midlands largest forest open to the public. It must be something to do with the sheer size and number of the trees, but the feeling of being overpowered by nature hits you the minute you leave the car.
Our modern day Robin Hood, a ranger by the name of Kev, led us deep into the forest, away from the corporate teams on Go Ape bonding days, away from the kids hurtling around the adventure playground, the mountain bikers prepping and hiring bikes for the day, past the families bonding in the novice den building areas, to the proper forest. There, along with four other blogger families Miss L and I took part in five simple forest crafts that really helped us engage with the forest.
1. Den building
Building on my previous experience of den building with the National Trust and nature writer Rob Cowen, I was keen to rise to huge challenge of the first of the forest activities, building a den for 5 people. Maid Marions, Amanda, Jen, Louise, Becky and I worked as a great team.
The kids meanwhile were utterly absorbed in team building dens for 3 cuddly creatures Kev brought along. Here they are looking very proud by ‘Mickey Sniffy’ the badger’s den. They also built a series of roads between Mickey Sniffy, Spiky the hedgehog and Harry the fox’s dens. Both adults and children were very proud of their den building.
2 Nature pictures
Clear an area, use sticks to mark the outline, then fill the outline with whatever materials are at hand, leaves, twigs, stones and pine cones. Another lovely way to engage with all that the forest has to offer.
Once again the whole team was very proud of Harry the Fox.
3. Forest photographs
This was my favourite of the forest activities, so simple yet so effective, stick a piece of double sided sticky tape onto a piece of card and collect bits of the forest to make a ‘photograph’. It really made us look properly at our surroundings at colours, textures, shapes and patterns, up, down and around us. And it got them asking questions, to which Kev gave explanations: about seeds, how to age a pine cone, the age of the trees and what squirrels eat. I am going to keep a few of these blank cards in our family rucksack!
4. Make a Boggart
All you need is a lump of clay, or even playdough on a stick, and your imagination. Kev told us boggarts were the creatures that live in muddy puddles and try and bite your wellies, well that had Miss L giggling and looking for bite marks in her wellies, and then creating her own boggart by sticking leaves, bark and other finds in to make a monster
5. Make a pen pot
Okay I lied, this forest craft isn’t so easy, it requires some drilling and sawing from an adult beforehand, and some small dowels, but Miss L loved wielding the hammer to tap the small logs into a woodpecker pen pot holder which she coloured very convincingly using a bird book and felt tips afterwards. Other children made mice, deer and rabbits. A simpler idea would be to look for sticks to turn into stick people or animals back at home. Or why not adapt the boggart idea to make birds?
Thanks to the Forestry Commission for hosting the day, for all the wonderful forest craft activities and a hearty and much appreciated lunch. The on site catering, via the cafe, is excellent and after all that fun, we really appreciated it.
Sherwood Pines offers – cycle tracks, cycle hire, walking paths of varying lengths, some suitable for pushchairs and wheelchairs, a cafe, Go Ape, two playgrounds, a den building area, constant distractions for the kids along the way in the form of wooden play structures little huts, thrones etc, but more than that, a real escape into the forest.