Before we moved to London in 2019, we lived on a small family farm in the picturesque countryside of Dorset. The converted Cider House we occupied was situated a few meters from the main farm house, overlooking the arable fields, with a sheep path directly outside the kitchen window. Every morning for four years, we watched hundreds of sheep grudgingly make their way along the sheep path into the outer fields, knowing most of them well enough to give them names, such as Cow (a particular sheep with a giant cow-sized head), Bramble (whom we were always untangling from thorn bushes), and The Iron Duke (no other sheep dared to mess with The Iron Duke). The truth is that I was a pretend farmer in every sense because I did not actually do any of the farming, nor did I actually know that much about sheep or growing crops. However, each Sunday, I would lean on the stone wall that separated our barn from the main farmhouse and spend an hour with the aging farmer, confidently discussing our shared dismay at that year’s lamb prices, or of course, the all-important weather that can make or break a farmer’s profits for that year.
When you are surrounded daily by animals, immersed in the wilderness of the countryside, and at the direct mercy of the English weather, it does something wonderful for your sense of well-being. For one, I believe it made me more resilient, with just the cycle to work in all weathers along dark, hilly, winding roads being a huge adventure to endure each day. The changing seasons are also witnessed in their purest form on a farm, with each season bringing its own beauty, creating a rhythm that has often been cherished for generations, giving a reminder of the timeless connection between the land and those who tend to it. Farming is hard work, and watching those around you often work 18-hour days gives an awareness with the energy needed to prevail.
Our move to Richmond, although still wonderfully green, was a real shock to the system. On our first night, I asked Sally to turn off the bedroom lights, not understanding that they were already off and it was, in fact, the glow of the city that was lighting the room. The reassurance came from the green space in Richmond Park, as it allowed a transition space from life in the country to a more urban environment. I still spend as many hours as I can in the park amongst the trees.
I am passionate about nature and the importance for children to spend time learning outdoors, surrounded by plants and animals. We continue to reduce the amount of concrete spaces in Broomfield and are set on our mission to rewild the land and give children the opportunity to enjoy exploring the local ecosystem. Kew Gardens is a stone’s throw away, and yes, all children spend time visiting this magical space throughout their time with us. But equally, I believe the benefit lies in learning outdoors when on the school site. This is why I am delighted that we are launching a Forest School for our Early Years children beginning this term. We have partnered with Red Beard Forest School to deliver these sessions, which will make use of both our recently rewilded outdoor spaces and the wonderful pond area. We look forward to campfires, songs, stories, flora, fauna, and the progression of physical and communication skills over the course of the academic year. Children will develop their independence using tools and build self-reliance through a series of outdoor craft projects.
Forest school provides numerous benefits for children. It offers a unique and immersive learning environment that encourages curiosity, creativity, and a deep connection with nature. The sessions will give the children the opportunity to explore, play, and learn in a hands-on manner, fostering their problem-solving skills, resilience, and self-confidence. It will also further promote physical activity, contributing to their overall health and well-being. Additionally, we hope that more time dedicated to outdoor learning in the natural world will help them develop a strong sense of environmental stewardship and a love for the outdoors, ensuring they grow up with a strong foundation of respect and care for the environment. Although we are not able to bring my Dorset farm to Broomfield, I look forward to seeing how our Forest School offering progresses over the course of the year and considering if this would also be beneficial for older age groups.
Categories: Headmaster's Thoughts