Updated: Oct 11, 2018
Like an acorn growing into an oak tree, it all began when the seed of an idea was sown.
Two friends, Amanda and Mandy trained with Surrey Wildlife Trust to become Forest School Leaders to enhance their 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.
So really not knowing which direction to turn the girls and Willow had a brain storming session over a cup of tea at the public house near to the school! One drink culminated in the offer of a tiny patch of woodland which led to the birth of Willow’s Forest School.
And how it has flourished and grown!
From just these two folk holding small preschool 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 in 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 Mandy’s eye before receiving approval!
With encouragement from Director, Amanda, more sites were set up, more training courses were undertaken, providing Willows with fully qualified staff, namely Caroline, Karen, Emily, Sam, Rebecca, Cheryl, Karyn and Jackie who all became the core term time team working at Chertsey, Ottershaw Worplesdon and Sutton Green, Surrey. Ali, Kyra, Pete, Gemma, Amy, Roman, Gus, Bebe, Rory & Olivia all provide vital help during holiday camps.
Working with the Forest School ethos, Willows 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 jewelry, puppets, pencils…
Hazel has been sawn and whittled and made into medals, animal faces, mother’s day hearts, father’s day keyrings, marshmallow sticks…..
Firesteels 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, 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…
LOT of FUN!!!
A HUGE thank you to everyone who has supported us on our journey and look at us now!! Children all over the area are outside, learning about nature, taking risks, exploring and having great fun whatever the weather ! We run out of 4 sites across Surrey, we run classes for adults as well as children and we have over 2 thousand followers on social media....we still have to pinch ourselves as we approach our 5th successful year!!!
Amanda and Mandy