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Our Forest School Areas

Botley School Forest School Map

The Woodland

When the school opened in 1938, 'Rural Studies' had been designated an important part of teaching at Botley School. The school was located with farming fields next to Seacourt Farm. An area of land in the North-West corner was planted with trees and a pond dug to encourage wildlife. By the 1970's, the Woods had matured and a larger pond added.

 

This still important to the school, with a maturing woodland of varied species and is our primary site to teach Forest School today.

 

The school grounds now proudly own a variety of tree species:

 

 

Common Name

Botanical Name

Native/Non-Native

1

Apple

Malus x domestica

Non-Native

2

Blackthorn

Prunus spinosa

Native

3

Blue Atlas Cedar

Cedrus libani

Non-Native

4

Cherry

Prunus

Non-Native

5

Ash

Fraxinus excelsior

Native

6

Beech

Fagus sylvatica

Native

7

Quince

Cydonia vulgaris

Non-Native

8

Walnut

Juglans regia

Non-Native

9

Crab Apple

Malus sylvestris

Native

10

Dogwood

Cornus sanguinea

Native

11

Elder

Sambucus nigra

Native

12

English Yew

Taxus baccata

Native

13

Goat Willow

Salix caprea

Native

14

Hawthorn

Crataegus monogyna

Native

15

Holly

Ilex aquifolium

Native

16

Horse Chestnut

Aesculus hippocastanum

Non-Native

17

Lawson Cypress

Chamaecyparis lawsoniana

Non-Native

18

Lombardy

Populus nigra

Native

19

London Plane

Platanus x hispanica

Non-Native

20

Norway Maple

Acer platanoides

Non-Native

21

Pear

Pyrus

Non-Native

22

Rowan

Sorbus aucuparia

Native

23

Silver Birch

Betula pendula

Native

24

Spindle

Euonymus europaeus

Native

25

Sycamore Maple

Acer pseudoplatanus

Non-Native

26

Wayfaring Tree

Viburnum lantana

Native

27

Whitebeam

Sorbus aria

Native

 

Around 2010 both the large pond and small pond were filled in due to health and safety concerns but the children have already begin to dig out the smaller pond as we would like to bring this back to help the biodiversity of the site improve but with the correct Risk Benefit Assessments in place to secure it's future for the school.

 

We now have a Wood Shed where we can store our firewood as well as it quickly being dubbed "Nature Donalds" where the children would serve popcorn through the hatch. We also have a Slack-line for the children to practice their balancing skills, develop their core strength and confidence. 

 

Over February Half-term Break 2023 I have developed the Woods area as planned. The Nature Reserve and the Woods are now combined so they can be enjoyed by the children during their sessions, offering them two very different spaces. The parachute has been hung over the fire circle where it is more practical, keeping the seating area dry and the sides can be brought down to protect from the weather. I managed to purchase some bare-root fruit trees (with a kind discount from B&M Stores Abingdon) to replace the trees we lost in the extreme heat in 2022. These were planted by Sycamore Class in February 2023.

The Woodland Pond
 

As part of our Forest School sessions in 2022/23 all classes have been working on bring back an old pond that was buried in the centre of the Woods. Each class has had a group of 'diggers' who have been amazing at digging out the old pond liner, discovering bottles, bricks, clay tubes, shells and lots of paving slabs. Their resilience has been astonishing and their will to keep digging to make this for our woodland.

 

This pond was first dug out many years ago according to some of the school staff and was deemed insufficient after a few years and a new, much larger pond dug at the back of the Woods. The original pond was filled in and around 2000 the new, larger pond was also filled in because of health and safety concerns. 

The old pond was re-dug in 2022 and finished in the spring of 2023, lined and filled and the classes have begun to transfer frogspawn from the Quad pond as well as plants and water insects. 

The Apple Grove

During the Second World War, the lower field area of the school was transformed into a 'Dig for Victory' allotment, producing food grown by the school for the school and local residents. Here a row of seven apple trees were planted and today they provide the school with much-needed shade in the hot summer and an abundance of apples to use in lessons in the autumn.

 

In 2000, the school expanded its Forest School areas to include 'The Apple Grove', a dedicated space at the end of the lower field - to teach outside with a fire circle shelter, teaching bench, and a new selection of trees including Rowan, Oak, and Whitebeam.

 

Only five of the original apple trees remain, so in 2022 as part of the Queen's Green Canopy - the school planted an orchard of new fruit trees at the end of the lower field for the future of the school. The Apple Grove has become a more activity-specific area of Forest School sessions including a mud kitchen, tree swing, dens, sandpits, and plenty of fauna, flora, and fungi.

The Nature Reserve

Nestled up against the Woods, the Nature Reserve has developed into a calm space for children and wildlife. Previously an area known as the Pen, this evolved over the Covid Lockdown in 2020/21 to become a specific nature reserve after it was discovered the area contained several Bee Orchids growing amongst the grasses. The plastic equipment was removed to the Apple Grove and the area allowed to rest for a few years.

 

Forest School classes have enjoyed watching mice nesting, ants building their nests, butterflies, and grasshoppers' habitats, and in 2022 Year 6 Cedar Class built a bug hotel to encourage more wildlife to come to the area.

 

As of February 2023 the Woods and Nature Reserve have been connected together to form one space for the children to use whilst in a session to observe wildlife, find a peaceful sit spot, and to set up stepping logs for balancing. The area is to be seeded with Wildflower Seeds to develop the biodiversity of the site. The Hedgerow Arch is now the main entrance to the Woods/Nature Reserve.

The Upper & Lower Fields

Botley School is incredibly fortunate to have such a large outdoor field space. Forest School sessions utilise this space for games such as 'Spiders & Flies', 'Screaming Game', 'Echo', and 'Welly Wanging'. Sessions are usually opened with a teamwork or esteem game to energise the children before we enter one of the main sites.

 

The fields are bordered by a hedgerow of mixed species trees including Hawthorn, Field Maple, and Blackthorn bringing a wide range of food and shelter for many animals and insects. In spring 2022 the children planted over 400 saplings donated by The Woodland Trust, creating a new hedgerow of Crab Apple, Rowan, Elder, Hazel, and Dog Rose. Sadly, in the summer 2022 heatwave, we lost all of these trees. We are re-thinking a plan for 2023/24 before we embark on ordering more trees.

The Jubilee Orchard

In March 2022, as part of the Queen's Green Canopy to celebrate her Platinum Jubilee the children helped plant about 20 mixed-variety fruit trees next to the Apple Grove, creating our newest Forest School area - The Jubilee Orchard. The tree's were provided by Bunker's Hill Plant Nursery and paid for by a generous donation by Seacourt Ltd.

 

Unfortunately, despite our best efforts, the extreme weather in the summer of 2022 - we lost 9 of these trees. Digging them up in the following winter showed that they had established themselves well but the heat was just too much for them and they had perished. 

 

Not to be beaten, we have sourced some more fruit trees and as part of the Forest School sessions the children have planted these ahead of the spring 2023.

The Quad Garden

Located at the heart of the school, a peaceful garden that is enjoyed by all the school. Its a useful area to study pond life, frog life-cycles and habitats, bird nesting in the spring, and mud faces on the school walls.

 

We grow our school pumpkins here each year and plan to develop the Quad in to a gardening and contemplation area for the school.

🢀 Forest School Health & Safety                             Forest School Calendar 🢂

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