I am heavily biased but you just can’t beat the rugged beauty and rural wilderness of the Yorkshire Dales! As a Yorkshire lass, born and bred, it really is my happy place. So I was thrilled when Yorkshire Dales National park invited us to try out one of their new Forest Schools adventures.
Forest school in the Yorkshire Dales
We met bright and early at the Aysgarth Falls National Park Centre and headed out into Freeholders’ Wood. I had expected to be trekking deep into the forest but it was a pleasant surprise to discover our destination was less than 100m from the centre (making the inevitable emergency toilet dash later on much easier to deal with!).
Kirsten, our leader, immediately spotted something of interest – a tree stump with open nutshells scattered around it. She told us it was evidence a squirrel or deer had been having some breakfast there. Then she explained the difference between squirrel teeth marks and dormouse teeth marks and we were hooked – we were sent off to hunt for some other “treasures” and test our tracking skills.
Kirsten was so knowledgeable. For example, did you know that squirrels can be right- or left-handed, and that this affects the teeth marks they leave in pinecones?! Fascinating!
We have been to other forest school events before but they have always been quite formulaic – a programme of planned activities. This was much more about exploring the environment and adapting the session to what we found there.
Hubby described it as “the difference between Bear Grylls and Ray Mears” – Bear Grylls being focussed on staged scenarios to provide entertainment, and Ray Mears looking to educate and teach useful skills.
This was the Ray Mears of Forest Schools and we loved it!
Fresh from our glamping trip in East Yorkshire, we were feeling confident – less than 24 hours earlier, we had toasted marshmallows on a campfire, and we thought we knew what we were doing.
However, Kirsten had much bigger plans than a few marshmallows on sticks – the Yorkshire Dales Forest School is about getting back to basics and utilising the woodland!
First of all, we had to go “chumping” (the Yorkshire word for wood collecting).
It had rained the night before so the wood on the ground was too damp for firewood. Instead, Kirsten taught us how to identify dead wood in the trees, as this would be drier.
And forget matches, we had to create a spark using a flint fire steel (although we did have a bit of help from some cotton wool kindling!).
Another interesting bit of info – did you know that you should flank a campfire with logs rather than stones because stones can explode with the heat?!
Once the fire was going, we turned our attention to cooking utensils. We headed into the woodland again to find some long, straight sticks. Then we used potato peelers (yes, really!) to whittle the end into a point. This made the perfect campfire cooking tool!
We cooked lots of different foods and had a real feast:
- Halloumi Cheese
- Croissants (these were my favourite!)
- Cheesy English Muffins
We also used a Kelly Kettle to boil some water and make some hot chocolate – yummy!
We were out in Freeholders Wood for 4 hours and did lots of other activities including making a kazoo, building a nest, and learning about woodland maintenance.
How to sign up
The Yorkshire Dales National Park Forest Schools are run by fully qualified leaders and need to be pre-booked via their website: – https://blog.yorkshiredales.org.uk/events/list/
It costs £5 per child (adults free) and is suitable for children aged 3-12 years, although sessions can be tailored for children up to 16yrs if required. My girls are 3 and 7 and they were both fully engaged the whole time.
They also host Forest Schools for adults too so keep your eyes open for those.
We had a brilliant time and can wholeheartedly recommend these Forest School sessions. Hubby has already ordered us flint fire steel so we can test our new survival skills on an adventure of our own!
Have you ever cooked over a campfire? What are your favourite outdoors-y activities? Have you visited the Yorkshire Dales and what did you think? Let me know in the comments section below.
Disclosure: We attended this Forest School session in exchange for an honest review. All opinions are my own. For more information, please check out my disclosure policy.
Pin it for later: