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Forest and Beach is the outdoor activity experience for children with a difference.
Set up five years ago by teachers Pete and Andrea Moore, it is a fusion of education and adventure that allows kids to feel closer to the natural world, developing an understanding that will help them to protect it as well.
Aimed at boosting mental and physical health and well-being as well as providing them with a space in which to develop independence and an understanding about personal responsibilities, it is an environment where friendships thrive on activity days on the beach, in the forest at school and in the holidays.
We spoke to Pete to find out more…
How did the business start?
I was a teacher for 18 years in a primary school, and in my last four years I was working with the youngest children. I had a choice to go management or follow a passion for outdoor learning and I chose the latter.
I set up a forest school within the school where I worked, which involved taking the class out regularly into the woods to learn. After four years of doing that an opportunity arose to buy an old barn used for farming education with some land, and together with my wife, Andrea, we felt it was the right time to develop our idea.
The goal is really make sure people are connected with their natural surroundings, especially children, because if they grow up connected with the environment, they’re going to care about it. That’s at the heart of it - getting as many people outside and caring about our beautiful coastline and countryside as possible, and in turn protecting it.
What made you passionate about outdoor learning?
I grew up in the South Hams and I remember having so much freedom to explore. Today, children’s connection with nature has been diminished quite a lot, which I think is a real shame, and so much of their learning is inside and on the computer. So the idea is all about finding a way to get them outside and to discover that sense of exploration again.
It’s very much child lead, so children play games, build shelters, light fires, and learn a sense of independence and responsibility as well as respect for the environment, which I hope will lead to them wanting to protect it as they grow up.
How can children get involved?
It started with birthday parties and then we began to do school visits and school residential visits.Gradually more schools started to get more involved and now that’s a big part of our work. It’s very much about working with local schools as much as possible, and then as also provide activity days in the holidays. In the summer parents can drop their children off in the morning and know they’ve spent all day outside having fun and getting fresh air.
What can people expect?
On a general forest day the children all meet in the morning and do introductions. We find out which schools they’re from and their names and so forth. We’re very proud of having a big age range from 4 to 12 or 13 years, so children can mix with other ages if they want to.
We then go to the woods and do activities such as building a fire from scratch, building dens and shelters, they can do whittling and archery as well - it depends a bit on the season. At the moment we roast chestnuts on the fire and we always have hot chocolate and lots of outdoor cooking like popcorn and pizza. There’s also plenty of equipment and children can come up with their own ideas, which is really important.
On coastal adventure days we go up to the nearby lighthouse and walk back along the route that local children would have once walked to school. That’s always wonderful and when children start to flag we can tell them children used to walk the route to school every day. We also do canoe days out on the estuary, exploring the shoreline, and we spend time on the beach stuff as well, learning about plastics and what’s been washed up - it’s a real variety of things.
What has feedback been like?
It’s been great, which is really rewarding because the whole idea was to make sure everyone has a great time. What’s nice now we’ve been going for five years is that children know each other from Forest and Beach, and when they come back they have connections. After not having my own class, which I’ve missed, it’s nice to have a sense of community, and the returning children have grown up with us.
It’s also wonderful as at Forest School, teachers, who have very high stress jobs, can accompany their kids and see their children in a different light. The children and the teachers benefit from being outside.
What are your plans for the upcoming year?
We hope to update our centre to encourage all year round visits, but at the moment I go into schools in the winter months, and we are exploring plans for social prescription by teaming up with local doctors.
The NHS is looking to prescribe ways in which people can get outside, which I think is really important. Health and safety executives have said that children need to experience things like this, for their health, but also for their development.
Children are going to grow up and work in big industries where they will have to deal with risk, so they need to learn about that now. Activities like the ones we do allow them to start understanding how to take sensible, measured risks by climbing trees and lighting fires, and learning about monitoring and guarding them.
We have also started offering business days - getting local businesses in for team well-being and development. We had a group from NHS Totnes join us for fire lighting, archery, group cooking and spending time outside, and it went really well - it’s so good for health, well-being and productivity.
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