HOW IT ALL BEGAN!!!!
Rolling forward to the Summer of 2022, after experiencing a 2 year pandemic, Forest School's has gone wild! All of our Baby Classes and Parent and Toddler Classes have sold out. We have recently opened a new location, recruited a larger team to meet the demand and yes...we have sold out!
Many, many parents have asked us over the years to run longer Forest School classes for their children aged 3-5 year old, rather than using alternative provisions. Putting our thinking caps on, we have been able to create a fabulous team from the WFS community, who are Forest School trained and are Primary school teachers or Early Years Practitioners. They bring with them a wealth of knowledge and experience and cannot wait to run Forest School for preschool aged children. We have a fabulous new location in Wisley, surrounded by nature, with proper toilets!!, handwashing facilities and an indoor space if needed.
Nine years later and the Willow's journey is finally complete, we offer baby classes, toddler classes, preschool classes, private school classes, holiday classes and adult classes! Phew! Forest School is certainly for everyone and we cannot quite believe a group of mum's have come together and made this happen!
We are working really hard behind the scenes and we are hoping to meet up with Ofsted very soon. If all goes well we plan to be open in September. We must stress this is a Forest School for preschool aged children, we are not a Preschool offering Forest School sessions. e.g we are outside, every minute of the day but we have the luxury of two indoor spaces if high winds or lightning is forecast.
Here is our story.
Like an acorn growing into an oak tree, it all began when the seed of an idea was sown.
In 2012 , two colleagues, Amanda and Mandy trained with Surrey Wildlife Trust to become forest school leaders to enhance Amanda's childminding business however they were swiftly snapped up by a local school. "Willow the fox" was our mascot and she was named after a fox that lived under a willow tree in the school grounds, so Willow was the perfect name for our friendly foxy mascot! Weeks after transforming a piece of land into an amazing outdoor learning space, the girls were told they no longer had a role, as the school was sadly facing a few difficulties. (we are pleased to say, the very same school now attends twice a week, every week, every term and every year!)
So really not knowing which direction to turn, the girls and Willow the fox had a brain storming session over a cup of tea at the public house near to the school! One drink at The Golden Grove pub culminated in the offer of a tiny patch of their woodland which led to the birth of Willow’s Forest School. Not forgetting our roots, we incorporated the willow tree from our original site and Willow the fox onto our logo and all of our branding.
And how it has flourished and grown!
From just these two folk holding small toddler sessions, word got around and the journey began.
A piece of woodland was offered up at St Ann’s Hill in Chertsey by Phil Manzanera of Roxy Music and the expansion was underway. They were then approached by a landowner of Elm Nursery Farm, Sutton Green who asked them to set up in a small woodland based on a children's farm.
Along came more and more staff who, unbeknown to them, underwent the scrutiny of the duo's eye before receiving approval!
With encouragement from Director, Amanda, more sites were set up, more training courses were undertaken, providing Willow's with fully qualified staff, namely Caroline, Karen, Emily, Sam and Ali who all became the core term time team.
Working with the Forest School ethos, Willow's has long provided a fun, safe and holistic environment for children to lead the way in play and ideas. Encouraging and facilitating imaginative play, kindness, friendship, team building, a love and understanding of nature and respect for the environment and learning new skills.
Everything we have ever done has encompassed learning about nature, our environment, animals, minibeasts, growing, the four seasons, the elements and much, much more. Even better, all only ever with the best of fun!
We have been on bear hunts, encountered the Gruffalo and his friends, discovered endless minibeasts, learnt about, wriggled and munched our way through The Hungry Caterpillar. We have chanted Superworm and made wormeries, learning how to be gentle when handling worms (not flinging them through the air as one little boy announced!)
The muddiest of mud holes have been dug, mixed and filled with water, sat in, got stuck in, rolled in. There have been Castles with moats, rivers with bridges & swamps to negotiate – beware of the mudswamptrolls!!
Dens have been built, gardens created, clay puppets, dreamcatchers, hapa zome bunting made, willow woven, bug hotels built. The list of concoctions invented in the mud kitchens is endless, you name it, it has been made - from magic lotions and potions and mud birthday cakes to dragon’s dinners!
The humble stick has magically become pet dog and cat, motorbike, police car, wand, sword, power ranger, fishing rod, journey stick, bow and arrow, worm, bird, butterfly, hanging mobile, gnome, witch, father Christmas, Rudolph the red nosed reindeer.
Willow crowns have been made for princes and princesses of the forest…
Elder has been palm drilled and made into jewellery, puppets, pencils…
Hazel has been sawn and whittled and made into medals, animal faces, mother’s day hearts, father’s day keyrings, marshmallow sticks…..
Fire steels have been sparked and fire safety learnt…
Bread twists cooked on a stick…yum
And the best part of the day every single time to round up all the fun is the fire. Sitting around singing songs or listening to stories with a warming hot chocolate. Marshmallows toasted, popcorn popped, sizzling pancakes, crispy cinnamon apples, chocolate melted in bananas, apples raisins and sugar, bread twists toasted on a stick and a big dollop of jam on to taste.
All in all a…
Thank you for reading our story, it just shows you that if you follow your dreams, things do come true.