Little Birds Forest Nursery Scoops Gold

The RFS Education and Learning Award 2019 goes to an outdoor nursery in West Sussex where children play and learn in the woods every day; silver awards are shared by a woodland project in East Sussex where adults with learning difficulties learn work skills and a Nursery Farm and Forest School in South East London where woodland learning is integrated with Early Years Learning.

By Becky Wilkinson · December 26, 2019

This Award is to encourage and reward schools, colleges, universities, and other recognised education and training providers, who increase awareness, understanding and skills relating to the environmental, social and economic potential of trees, woodland, and forests and who may also demonstrate the link between trees and wood products. 

1st Little Birds Forest Nursery Bury CE School, West Sussex

At Little Birds Forest Nursery children play and learn in the woods every day, developing knowledge about flora, fauna and trees. They process their own firewood, use tools, and process and use green wood for making their own toys, tools and crafts.

Judges said “It was a privilege to have visited Little Birds Nursery! It was fantastic to see those little children enjoying the forest with such confidence and enthusiasm. They were climbing trees, using tools, and even telling us about the ‘poorly trees which might have to be cut down’. It really feels to me as though this is the way to create the foresters of the future, and to embed a lifelong commitment to, and love of, trees and forests.”

For Little Birds, Samantha Lovegrove said : “We are thrilled to have been awarded first place. We are passionate about providing an inspiring and innovative approach to early years education.

“Putting the forestry in to our forest school nursery is essential to our approach, our environment is a ‘third teacher’ which continually offers a changing range of learning opportunities.”

“Supported by very highly qualified educators children are offered time to learn and explore, developing skills, knowledge, resilience and a sense of wonder, learning through play in the woodland and local natural environments.

“Working with staff and local landowners, children access authentic and child led learning in an atmosphere and environment they care for, creating deep seated connections and memories that we hope will last a lifetime and ensure future stakeholders of our woodland and natural environments.”

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Joint 2nd Little Gate Project, Beckley, East Sussex

Little Gate Farm Woodland Project is an innovative project set in 46 acres of pasture and ancient woodland helping adults with Learning Disabilities to develop work skills.

Judges said: “It was great to meet the staff and work trainees at Little Gate Farm. They have made a massive difference to the state of the woodland, by writing a management plan and working hard to deliver it. They have learned skills and techniques enabling them to gain employment and live more independent lives. ”

For Little Gate, Tracy Smith said: “Little Gate Farm is delighted to have been chosen to receive the silver award for the Education and Learning category of the RFS Excellence in Forestry Awards. We are lucky enough to be able to use the beautiful ancient woodlands of the High Weald to fulfill our commitment to helping adults with learning disabilities achieve their potential and find paid employment. The management of the woodlands and the learning for our work trainees around that has created a sustainable social enterprise and valuable skills development programme.

“Thank you so much to the judges and the RFS for recognising our work.”


Joint 2nd  Mottingham Hall for Children, Nursery Farm & Forest School, South East London

Children aged 2-5 years at this forest school learn in the woodland on site every day. The programme was begun in 2016 when work started to bring the neglected woodland back into management. There are many more plans to develop the wood further but woodland learning is now fully integrated with Early Years Learning.

Judges said: “We visited Mottingham Hall Nursery on a wet, miserable day. The children were also wet, but not at all miserable! In fact, children and staff were all having great fun out in the forest, making a home for the three little pigs. The Forest School leader explained that the children had been fully involved in planning the development of the forest – where paths should go and so on.”

The children have learned about different species of trees, about how to respect and care for the woodland, how to make things from wood, to use tools safely, and about wildlife and conservation. They have also been involved in the management of the woodland, deciding where paths should go, and how different areas should be used.

For Mottingham Hall, Director Linda Berriman said: “We knew we had a mountain to climb and we haven’t yet reached the summit!  But how lovely to celebrate half way up with this wonderful Award which motivates and inspires and means so much to all of us.  A great venture, a great team and so many special benefits to our families and all other users of our fantastic woodlands.  Eureka!”

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