Together We Grow – Forest Schools reimagined and reincarnated.

Just before the Covid 19 lockdown we were excited to receive a generous grant from Colchester Borough Council specifically for use with our Forest School activities. For about 2 years we had had the occasional Forest School in High Woods, Colchester, under the supervision of Tim, a volunteer who is a qualified Forest School leader and with the support of a number of volunteers. These were always for families, although some children attended with their befrienders. In this way parents could meet and socialise on neutral territory and the children could play and take part in various activities in the outdoors. At the time of the lockdown we had started to make a shopping list of equipment we needed to buy with the grant, including wellingtons and rainware, tools and a new wheelbarrow. We had set 2 dates for Forest Schools during April, one for families and one for vulnerable young men who came here as child refugees and are still waiting for leave to stay.

With the lockdown in place and High Woods closed to groups we had a Zoom video meeting at which we decided that an alternative to meeting outdoors was to be able to grow plants in whatever space you have for it. A number of our friends (clients) welcomed this idea and in collaboration with Wayne from the Big Garden (allotment) in High Woods we are working on a project called ‘Together We Grow’. On 7th May a number of the Forest School volunteers came together at the Big Garden to put together growing kits suitable for those with only a windowsill, those with a patio and those with uncultivated patches of garden at their accommodation. These were devised by Wayne and involved putting compost into large green bags for growing potatoes and weighing out smaller amounts to be packed in boxes with different combinations of seeds which included herbs, tomatoes, corn and beans. Delivering the kits has been followed up by explanatory videos made by Wayne which have endeared him to the growers and inspired their confidence. They also inspired one little Syrian boy to make his own short video which was very amusing! It’s amazing how quickly you can become an expert… As seeds germinate there will be a video on pricking out and planting on and some people will continue to nurture their seedlings and some may return to the Big Garden to the polytunnels there.

This scheme has been welcomed by those families and individuals who feel they can take part and their enthusiam may inspire others to grow in the future.

In addition to Together We Grow other Forest School plans are underway. Tim ia planning to meet with some of the vulnerable young male migrants in a private wood where he is confident he can organise some activities, whilst maintaining social distancing with them.

We know that our outdoors activities are much appreciated by our communuity and they give new experiences to many whilst reminding others of home and we are pleased that we can keep something going in these difficult times.

Elizabeth Curry
Community activities co-ordinator.