Welcomed to the farm with a selection of herbs and common plants to try and identify, which sparked some rich chat about the many potential uses of each plant.
Gathered around we share what we were grateful for and set off a different route, across the fields and into the woods, which allowed us to practise some of our map and compass skills - taking and following bearings and logistics of taking grid references. It was also a great route to collect some plantain to make some ointment (great for cuts and bruises.) Although, it was another bitterly cold day, so once in the woods we set get to work on the fire and had a superb story from Anna to keep our hearts warm as well.
There was a lot of energy going this session to get firmly into building the shelters and getting them into a fit state for the winter weather. I had the joy of experiencing a superb moment of standing back and seeing the sharing of both resources and time between different groups of children working on their shelters. Furthermore, the exchange of advice, as all the shelters are in different stages of development and of slightly different design; it sparked some rich communication around techniques and materials best to use.
With such free flowing interaction, the day had a wonderful free flow movement to it and resulted with some fantastic development: in people through our social sharing and understanding, progression of shelters, working on crafts of carving mushrooms, butter knives or trees and all in the balanced presence of the natural living world.
Before entering the woods we shared what we felt our inner weather of the morning was, and awakened our senses to the farm environment around us, meanwhile, Anna went ahead and sat to the side of the path, blindfolded and armed with several clay balls…. The challenge was to fox walk past so silently we could not be heard, or else the clay balls would be flying our way!
It was a magically peaceful and balanced day. Some children continued to build shelters, sculpting clay chimneys, axing down or cutting and transporting fallen spruce trees. Others drew tracks with acorn ink, waxed leaves and used them to mark the compass directions around the camp, which led to fantastic excitement around map making and hunting for the treasure of the Golden Acorn!
Right from the offset there was energy and intelligence flowing freely: 6 out of 6 animal tracks correctly named by the group and a tip top performance yet again on bird calls and 10/10 on leaf identification!! A short awareness game of the wildlife and nature around us, then bags down and into a fiery, energetic game of ‘Highway man’ - running between tree bases without being caught and taking all manner of tactical, stealthy approaches.
We learnt the reef knot to start off on building our knot knowledge over the coming weeks, which enabled us to make a giant paracord circle for us to all carefully leeeaaan back into and give thanks to what we were grateful for.
From there it was another flowing day packed with sharing, playing, learning, crafting and connecting :-D
Anna started fire by percussion, an ancient method used by stone age people which involves striking Flint against Iron Pyrite onto a tinder holding fungus and we had fire!!
After fire, story and lunch we carefully sawed through a few more sit logs as a team, made leaf mandalas, did some whittling: clay moulding, den making, learnt the slip knot to make snares (only for our clay made mice) and heard two heart warming stories of life mixed in nature.
If that wasn’t enough we made and mixed some scrumdidlyumptious Acorn chocolate brownies, so tasty in fact that it was a true battle to get back up to pick up point and defend the remaining brownie from gobbling children so their loving parents could actually try some!
Ross - co-facilitator of the Wild Woodpeckers
After a little time outside the farm shop, gathered around fungi, tree and plant guides, tracking guides and of course our beloved bird book; this time working on identifying birds by just their individual calls. Soon after we set off on a stroll past the farm, collected some straight sections of Elder and thanked the tree with a gift, then down into the woods for a day of learning and sharing with nature and the Plaw Hatch woods really did just keep giving!
Having just passed the chickens, one of the children spotted some tracks in the mud. Thinking it was a fox track, we huddled around checking for the clear cross between paw pads, then...out of nowhere we spotted a magnificent Grey Heron!! Leaving us all totally jaw dropped as it swooped gracefully over the fields not too far away.
Down past the pond where the Heron was most likely feeding, we caught sight of more tracks, which through the children's closer inspection turned out to be Badger prints. Down deep into the woods and around our new base camp we decided on as a group last week. After a gentle discussion about respect, sharing and safety, practising our trademark woodpecker coming together call, we moved onto all manner of woodland crafts!
From Elder pipes - decorated with Anna’s acorn ink, to Hedgehog homes sculpted with teasels and moulded clay or even sawing through fallen conifers to make personal logs for base fire circle! Working as a team, sawing 20 seconds a shift, play clapping games and hyping each other through, we managed to saw down 7 stumps together! We counted the rings, and worked out it’s age, see if you can to...clue is in the fingers...)
As the flute sounded on the way in from our crafts gathered wood to start a fire for lunch. Though not just any fire, a fire that started by all bow drill and using only natural materials! Whilst the acorn veggie burgers sizzled on the fire, another story of Rascally Rabbit was told, this time about his cunning dispute with Fox’s peas.
The afternoon was filled with more crafts: miniature clay people homes, drawing on Elder pipes, guided team tree stump sawing, sat around the fire roasting fresh chestnuts and proudly, removing bark, carving, decorating and personalising stumps.
A quick squirrel game to collect some acorns for next week (might just be for making acorn chocolate brownies over our fire...shhh!!). To finish a fun little circle of charades to share what we found most joy in during our Wild Woodpecker Wednesday and a walk back up through the dappled forest sunlight to pick up.
Victoria Mew, Founder of Cultivating Curiosity