Wilder Woods

Central Somerset Outdoor Learning Partnership

National Lottery Grant for Drayton Wildlife Project: ‘Green Growth’

by Hannah Aitken - February 21st, 2024

We are delighted to have received funding from the National Lottery Community Fund to run our Green Growth project of woodland wellbeing sessions and village wildlife activities, following on from the creation of a Drayton Wildlife Map in 2022. This funding has has enabled us to run successful programmes of Woods 4 Wellbeing, Wilderplay and Wildlife Awareness sessions through Autumn 2023 and continues in to 2024.

Participants have taken part in various woodland activities and celebrations of the seasons, including nettle awareness, bramble basketmaking, tree planting, tree care, rustic stool making, spoon making as well as mindfulness activities aimed at relieving anxiety, building confidence and a sense of community.

As we start our New Year Spring Season we have started sessions again although the ground is again very wet after a lot of rainfall in January. The Wellbeing group is running fortnightly and hedgerow basketmaking groups are very popular, as well as an indoor Mindfulness group ‘ Guidelines for Wellbeing’

Wilderplay (which is a family group for adults with pre-school age children) will start again after Easter, when hopefully the ground and the mud will have dried out somewhat.

We are aware of an increasing need for people to find a space to relax, play and find creativity around the campfire in the woodland environment. As well as feeling part of a group and being valued for just who you are, everyone is accepted and skills, ideas and smiles are shared.

Our wildlife activities continue to help people build a beneficial relationship with the natural environment, through building awareness, and knowledge of the local flora and fauna. Gaining an understanding of the complex web of our ecosystem is more important than ever as we see it being threatened more and more by human activity. We hope our activities engendered a desire care and preserve it. Wildlife events have included talks to local groups, a bat watch and a Wildlife Fair attended by over 80 people in our Drayton Village Hall.

Coming up in March, we are holding hold a Dawn chorus event on March 3rd to which all are welcome. We are lucky to have RSPB manager Damon Bridge help us listen and identify the bird song we hope to hear and this will be followed by a campfire breakfast & woodland management activities; Foraging sessions will also start in March, collecting & sharing recipes(nettles chickweed, cleavers !) with a local Langport group. We will also be continuing our Woods for Well being for adults programme. Wilderplay will start in April.

All these activities are made possible by the people who buy tickets to play the National Lottery fund! we would like to offer them our heartfelt thanks and also to the organisers who make these funds available to small grass roots charities like ours. We are able to reach, consult with and benefit a wide range of people in our community, all who have a shared interest in woodlands and wildlife.


by Hannah Aitken - January 31st, 2020

during the Autumn of 2019 Participants on the Drayton Woods Art in Woodland programme worked with ACEarts artists Lucy Neeve and Angela Morely, exploring the creative possibilities of the woodland environment.

Using a variety of techniques and materials participants worked individually and collaboratively to produce imaginative and unique works. Expect to see creations in both 2- and 3-dimensions including leaf printing, stitching, charcoal drawings and wild weavings.

WilderWoods Wellbeing programme is funded by Somerset Skills and Learning and aims to build self-confidence, reduce stress and social isolation and help people find new directions.

Woods for Well Being

by Deb Millar - December 13th, 2015

We are thrilled that we have been successful in gaining Awards for All support for our new project, Woods for Well Being.

We will be offering sessions for those struggling with mental health issues, loneliness or otherwise in need of a ‘Green Prescription’ at Drayton and Hallr Woods in 2016. Some sessions will be offered through local schools and some through the community – through flyers in libraries and surgeries and hopefully by word of mouth!

We will be recruiting more volunteers to help us implement this exciting programme. Anyone who would like to know more can contact us through the usual contact details

Many thanks to the National Lottery for this much needed boost.

Message for all our supporters..

by Deb Millar - October 6th, 2015

We are trying all sorts of different ways to be able to support groups in the woods.

Did you know that you can now help support Central Somerset Outdoor Learning Partnership for FREE just by shopping online.

You can shop via Give as you Live at over 4,000 top online retailers, and when you do Give as you Live will donate a percentage of every pound you spend to us!

Start shopping now: http://www.giveasyoulive.com/join/central-somerset-outdoor-learning-partnership/ec181350


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Sign up to Give as you Live on your desktop, tablet or mobile. It’s fast, simple and 100% secure.

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Shop for millions of products at over 4,000 top online retailers including Amazon, John Lewis, eBay and Expedia.

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When you shop, a percentage of the purchase value is donated to Central Somerset Outdoor Learning Partnership. The best thing is, it won’t cost you a penny extra!


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Autumn 2015 update

by Deb Millar - August 29th, 2015

We have continued to post regular news from Hallr Wood and Drayton on our facebook pages. Both woods have run very well attended summer events thanks to Short Breaks, Aster Community and the Isle of Avalon Foundation.

Our regular work with schools continues and we are looking forward to welcoming children from Brookside School who will be coming to us at Hallr Wood for 10 week programes this year. They will also be sending some of their children with mobility issues to Drayton Woods. Drayton Woods is set up for wheelchair access to the woods.

We are delighted that Somerset Community Foundation have linked us with a supporter for our Community Volunteering days. We have long links with Somerset Community Foundation and are so pleased that they continue to support us as they do. Without the background work of maintenance and management at the woods, we would struggle to deliver our educational programmes and so this funding is really crucial.

We are looking forward to our Open Day at Hallr Wood on Saturday September 26th from 2:30- 6:00pm.




Hallr Wood News

by Deb Millar - December 5th, 2014

dragon chairIn addition to our regular groups of young people, we have had a busy term with various other events this autumn.

Open Day

(Sep 13th) Thanks to Aster Communities for supporting this. We fired our kiln up again and enjoyed a lovely week end with quite a few people sleeping over to be there for the kiln opening too. We hired a minibus from Brookside School to enable those without transport to attend. As usual there were lots of activities, trails, music on stage and delicious teas in the café. We estimated 84 adults and 38 children attended.


Barton Scouts came to us for support for their fire and shelters badges and gave us a donation of £20. (Sep 23rd)

Volunteer Day

(Oct 5th) Supported by Aster Communities. We planted bulbs, cleared some of the growing area, processed fire wood, built an arch into the orchard and moved timber.

Get Inventive with Nature’s Patterns: a workshop for forest school practitioners and school staff (Oct 6th).  We had some great email feedback. ‘As always the Hallr Wood workshops are fabulously inspiring and full of achievable ideas. Thank you so much, it is wonderful to be able to access such high quality workshops so reasonably.’

Super Heroes Day for Charlton Mackrell Primary School: (Oct 16)

It was lovely to be able to work with our local Primary School as this doesn’t happen enough. 24 variously caped super heroes made dens and power sticks and emblems.

superheroes den

Playscheme for Brookside School (Oct 28th) 24 children, 4 adults. Mixed activities, including den making, firelighting, crafts and Pizza making.

Inclusive Youth Volunteer Day (Oct 29th) (9 young people) Short Breaks funded.

It was especially lovely to see three of our old participants return. Tom’s dad had taken the day off work unpaid to bring him.


Visit of mizer to plank timber (Nov 7th) We had a very intense but rewarding day planking our timber. We worried there wouldn’t be enough for Rupert to do but he didn’t get through it all. This was funded through our Wood Fund.  wood mizer at HW

Wessex Water representatives came on November 11th to present us with a cheque for £160 towards our wildlife  pond. Many thanks to Wessex Water.

Wessex Water cheque

Twilight Trail

by Hannah Aitken - September 2nd, 2014

24 young people joined the Hawk & Owl Trust at Wilderwoods Drayton. We walked across the fields to the big wild wood and heard tawny owls , both male & female, as well sounding out the bats. The shrill cry from a vixen fox got everyone shivering…..Hawk & Owl TrustTwilight trail

Spring Update

by Deb Millar - January 12th, 2014

We are delighted to have received support recently from the Co-op, Short Breaks, SCC and Aster Communities towards events we are running this Spring at both Hallr and Drayton Woods. CSOLP has always aimed to prioritize provision to the disadvantaged and enable wide access. Even small amounts of funding help us to do this. Many thanks to all of the above for their support. Do look at the events page as well as the facebook pages for Hallr and Drayton Woods for details of forthcoming events.

There have been exciting devlopments at both woods over the autumn. The Heritage Lottery project with the Charlton’s Historical Society was a fabulous opportunity and many people enjoyed the kiln firing w/e. There is a full report available on the kiln build for anyone who is interested and there are lovely photos on Hallr Wood’s facebool page. https://www.facebook.com/Hallrwood

Drayton now have a beautiful pizza oven which will be tried out over February half term. Again, do check out the events page for more information.

We apologize that we haven’t made more posts here. Hannah and I are focusing on regular updates on each wood’s facebook page. Do have a look and ‘like’ us to get regular information on activities and developments.

Wishing all our supporters a wonderful 2014.

Literacy Project

by Deb Millar - July 23rd, 2013

Ernest Cook Make your Mark Literacy Project – August 2012- July2013

Final Report July 2013

 Summary of the Project –

 Our outdoor literacy project has been full of variety with input from creative practitioners with many different skills; professional story tellers, artists, green wood workers, teachers and forest school leaders.

The project took place at two managed woodland sites (Hallr and Drayton Wood) and the main beneficiaries were:

·         19 secondary school children and 186 primary school children attending through their schools

·         In addition to this, we have held various events- including holiday schemes for children with disabilities, open days and play days where double this number of children and families have engaged with us and made use of the resources produced through the project.

 Our main aim was to improve literacy levels by offering a different approach which would especially appeal to those who may find learning in the classroom difficult.

Our greatest challenge was tackling a failure to engage in literacy in a very disadvantaged group of young people. This part of the project took place at Hallr Wood, Charlton Mackrell.

For Primary pupils (mixed ability) we experimented with one off curriculum enrichment events and some sessions involving regular visits, at two different woodland sites.

Primary Schools

At Drayton Woods, the Ernest Cook funding enabled us to offer regular sessions to 65 children from Curry Rivel School.  31 children from Year 5/6 came over a period of 4 weeks. Later we worked with 35 Year 4/5 from the same school and on the same basis. They all came in 2 groups of 15/16. 

  Activities covered

·         Expressive games and storytelling activities in the wood

·         Awareness of living things, habitat & sustainability

·         Exploring woodland areas as settings for stories              

·         Researching folklore stories relating to animals and trees (in school time)

·         Achieving through working together in small groups

·         Using cloth books and natural mark making materials (charcoal,clay, leaves etc) to document progress

·         Group story telling performance in the woodland, using spoken word, rhyme and music, sounds made from woodland materials (eg stick instruments)

We also worked with a local artist who has created wood cuts inspired by the children’s stories and will form a story trail in the woodland to inspire further groups.

Children all really enjoyed the course and all filled in feedback forms (available in hard copy). A further oak woodcut was also presented to the school by the artist as a permanent reminder of the storytelling sessions.

 School feedback; “We took part in Forest School, because it seemed to fit perfectly with the way we teach story writing in school.  We always want to make writing as interesting and stimulating as possible. Although I was at first nervous whether it would be appropriate for my class of mixed year 5 and 6, but I was soon reassured.  The woods provided a great stimulus for the childrens writing, giving them lots of ideas of how and what they could write about.  They had great fun exploring the woods and finding places to retell and invent their stories.  The children were really enthusiastic and the parents thought it was great!  I wouldn’t hesitate in recommending this to other schools (in fact we want to send another class) to provide a great fun stimulus and location for storytelling and writing.” 

At Hallr Wood, Charlton Mackrell we experimented with whole class groups as we know that getting children outside is difficult for schools and there is a need for easily accessible whole class curriculum enrichment. We worked with 121 primary children including the whole of Charlton Mackrell Primary which is within walking distance. We ran mixed creative activities designed to get children making their own stories with Martin Maudsley. Feedback has been good. “The children loved their time in the woods and staff came back inspired and determined to do more creative work outside.” He also gave a workshop for adults. 

We also ran a Dragon Taming workshop for two further classes including one from Long Sutton Primary School. The children hunted for dragon’s eggs and then in groups made homes for the young dragons, describing the characteristics of each dragon.  “This was a superb day for the children who have been writing stories about dragons ever since. Not only has it enriched their creative writing, they worked so well in teams – that was lovely to see. Thank you – we would love to do more.”

 Our reflections and evaluations show that the smaller group model has the highest number of outcomes and is preferable wherever practicable. However we still feel that there were positive outcomes working with whole classes – including increased enthusiasm for story telling and writing amongst children and also the impact on teachers who maybe more willing to run their own creative writing activities outside as a result.

Secondary Schools

We worked with small groups of young people from three different secondary schools, medical tuition unit and a PRU over a prolonged period of time (whole year). The funding enabled us to plan the programme and pay for artists and story tellers to come to our regular SEN sessions.

 The pupils we worked with often have poor levels of literacy and are very disaffected from learning. We hoped that they would respond to the brief of physically preparing areas in the woodland as ‘story spots’ and trails for younger children. This was an effective strategy. The pupils initially reflected on their favourite stories – sadly mostly taken from films seen rather than from books read. This sometimes had to be done on a 1:1 basis and not all the group participated at this stage.

 Willing participants then decided on various activities and props which could help younger children create and tell their own stories as well as considering props specific to well known stories. The main stories we looked at were Winnie the Pooh and Lord of the Rings. We made maps of our wood on the lines of those we found in Winnie the Pooh and Lord of the Rings. We created a model of a hobbit house, made our own magic staffs and children built a den which they described as Eeyore’s house.

This secondary group also worked on designing our woodland stage for our performance area. This included completing drawings and measuring. The stage has become a vital asset and significantly those who wouldn’t join in with the earlier work, are happy to take part in the numerous plays which are now created and performed. Along with the Animal story trail, the stage will form a lasting legacy from this project. One child said to me “I’m too naughty to do drama at school but here I can do it every week, be the prop person.”  

 In September 2012 we held an open day with an Elves and fairies theme. It was a lovely opportunity to show case the children’s efforts and the performing area was a big success.

 Meanwhile, throughout the year we have worked with two chain saw artists on story trails and a fairy glade.  At Hallr Wood we now have a fabulous animal story trail. Each animal has had stories created about it. It was especially valuable for boys from our SEN and EBD groups to get engaged with this side of the project. It has motivated them to see the chain saw artists (neither of whom had achieved well in school themselves) enthusiastic about the children’s stories and suggestions.

Transcript of Badger’s story:

Badger is the King of the Badgers at Hallr Wood. He likes to keep an eye on things and that is why he stays at the top where he can see farthest. He is very wise. He especially hates to see anyone dropping litter because he knows some of the animals are quite stupid and could eat the litter and end up at Secret World having operations. He notices when people work hard and when they waste time chatting. He liked the badger project because he got to eat molasses and peanuts. But he didn’t like it that the dog ate some of it first. Badger has quite a lot of adventures but that is private and I’m not telling you about those because he doesn’t want me to.

 An unexpected outcome of the project was that it has aroused an interest in supporting literacy outside amongst other Forest Education leaders and we have held informal skills shares of our ideas and lesson plans.

 THANK YOU TO ERNEST COOK TRUST FROM US ALL.                                                                                

 Report by Deb Millar, Central Somerset Outdoor Learning Partnership/ Wilderwoods Forest School www.wilderwoods.org

July 2013

Woodland Babes and Toddler Group at Hallr Wood

by Deb Millar - June 15th, 2013

Thanks to a grant from the Health and Well Being Fund which was awarded through our then County Councillor, Jimmy Zouche, we have been running monthly sessions for babies and toddlers with their carers. In addition to mums and young children, we have also welcomed lots of dads and grandparents.  The children have explored the woodland environment, made mini dens for teddies, had lots of fun in our Mud Kitchen, and enjoyed stories and snacks around the camp fire. Our last session culminated yesterday in a Teddy Bear’s Picnic. Well done to all the carers for joining in with the song! It has been a lovely project and we are keen to continue the sessions so we are on the look out for more funds. Our next Open day will be a fund raiser for this group. Many thanks to our Parish Council and to SCC for the support that enabled this great pilot to happen.

Mud Kitchen

Mud Kitchen