Autumn Syrup

Before I had children I loved to travel and was lucky to visit many far-flung places.  I was always in awe of the way many locals I met in Asia and South America had a vast knowledge of every plant in their environment and how it was used as a natural remedy.

Years ago, our ancestors would have known all the plants around us and how they could be used to treat common complaints. Yet somehow this knowledge has been almost lost from our everyday lives.  We're quick to reach for the paracetamol or Vitamin C supplement, yet the treatments can often be found in our environment. Usually in the shape of weeds!

When plastic being so rife it is found in our drinking water, wouldn't it be great to stop relying on plastic covered pharmaceuticals and use remedies that occur around us naturally?

So, with that in mind I have been mixing up a family natural remedy with some of autumns top superfoods this season. Put your Echinacea away because it's Wild Berry season!

Health Benefits of Wild Berries

As many of you who come to our Baby Bee sessions will know, we are big fans of the elder tree at Bee in the Woods! Not only is the Elder Tree associated with ancient magic, but the hollowed out branches of the Elder provide endless opportunity for crafts - pencils, whistles, beads, etc. The flowers are great for elderflower cordial (and champagne) and autumn elderberries make great syrup (and wine-hic!). Elderberries are rich in Vitamin C, polyphenols and anthocyanin's. This means they are packed with anti-oxidants and immune boosting, antiviral properties and make amazing natural remedies for families.

The same goes for many other autumn treats.  Blackberries are packed full of important nutrients (including vitamin C, vitamin K, manganese, polyphenols and anthocyanin's) and have been found to fight everything from premature skin aging to aggressive cancers.  Wild grown blackberries fight infection and boost immunity.  So treat yourself to as much blackberry crumble as you can forage - it's good for you!

Berries from the Hawthorn Tree are also packed with antioxidant goodness and were traditionally used for heart problems.  They are also known to boost the immune system - which is why I'm adding them to my syrup.  Due to hawthorns effect of blood pressure, it's best to AVOID if pregnant or breast feeding.

Syrup Recipe

So here's my winter cold immune-booster natural remedy recipe (the measurements are 'woodland' measurements). Freeze in an ice cube tray on the day of making and add the cube to hot lemon & honey at the first sign of a cold...

  • 8-10 Elderberry Heads (pick the berries off and remove stems)
  • Handful of Hawthorn Berries
  • Handful Blackberries
  • Sugar (about 1lb to 1 pint water)
  • Water (enough to cover the berries about 1.5pints)
  • For extra potency you could add cinnamon/ginger and cloves too.

Wash the berries and pop in a pan, cover with cold water and bring to a rolling boil. After 15-30 mins it should become thick and gloopy. At this point you can strain or sieve your mixture. Mash the berries to get all the juices out. Add sugar to the liquid and mix.

Be careful when foraging. Only harvest with permission and if you are 100% certain that you have identified correctly. The BBC had some good advice here; www.bbcgoodfood.com/howto/guide/berry-bonanza

Muddy Mamas

Muddy Mamas - Twilight camp

This summer is such a special one for us here at Bee in the Woods, for many reasons. 

Our youngest is off to big school in September so we’re savouring those last moments of him being really ‘little’ and dependent on us.  We know that his confidence will trot away with him and he’ll make more of his own connections and friends away from us.  He’s ready and looking forward to it. 

This new chapter brings changes for the whole family and especially for me as a working mum.

While I won’t be weeping at the school gates (who am I kidding – I’ll be sobbing!), it has made me reflect on motherhood.  The highs, the lows, the changes.  And especially the fact that it simply moves forward, irrespective of our readiness for the next stage.

The idea for Muddy Mamas has been a long time in the great Bee in the Woods ideas pipeline; but this feeling of time slipping by, along with your reviews (where so many of you told us how valuable your time at Bee in the Woods is to you, too); prompted us to get our first Muddy Mama’s session into the calendar.

As forest school practitioners and mothers, the Bee in the Woods team all recognise the value of getting out into the woods and away from wifi and TV and the speed of life; to wriggle our toes in the grass and whittle a stick or two.

For lots of us, as our children grow up and move on, and we refocus on work, or full-time work; we can lose connections with our ‘mummy’ (and daddy), friends.  Having babies and preschoolers is HARD, and being at home with them can be isolating. The clubs and groups that we build, whether in formal settings like classes and groups or those that we fall into, in our local parks and libraries, are a lifeline.  When things change, those relationships need to change too.  Some will fall by the wayside, and lots will evolve.  I’m hoping I can evolve mine.

We all know too, how easy it is to simply focus only on our kids, and find ourselves without networks of our own.  To find our own relationships have hollowed or neglected over time.  Its normal.

So, Muddy Mamas came from that too.  From the need to start to think about ourselves.  From our need to nurture our existing relationships and those we have made through the journey of motherhood.

We hope that it will become something that we can do regularly, maybe monthly, with big groups of welcoming women, to support one another and nurture and build and protect those relationships.

We’re not the only ones waving our little boys off in September.  We said goodbye to lots of our regulars last week, as they ready themselves for school and new things, but we’re very much hoping that we will see those children at our ‘Outdoor Learning for Schools’ days and the ‘Bee Wild’ holiday clubs.

It would be wonderful to see you mamas too.

Muddy Mamas is a twilight session of fireside creativity, natural crafting (how many of you have been itching to get involved in a dreamcatcher or some wooden beading), potion making (think beeswax handcream), camp cookery and elderflower fizz.  Come.  Invite your NCT group, your old or new workmates, your sister, the woman you like at your child’s music club, or just your good old Bee in the Woods mates, and get a grown-up nature fix to get you through the holidays and ready for everything September sends.

Book Now

Wednesday 23 August, from 6.30 – 8.30, £15 including fizz and nibbles

 

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Curriculum-linked Outdoor Learning for Schools

Outdoor Learning for Schools

Lorraine Perks, Bee in the Woods’ School Adventure Coordinator

The arrival of summer has seen the Bee in the Woods team buzzing (sorry!) with excitement about our latest venture; outdoor learning for schools.

We launched our outdoor classroom with the lovely children from Hove Junior School and it’s been not only a joy for us but also a resounding success for the children and their teachers.

Over two weeks in June, we worked with around 400 children, stripping back the classroom walls, replacing the ceiling with the sky, and immersing the children in their natural world.

When the tired, smiling, dusty children boarded their buses and waved goodbye, we all reflected on the immeasurable benefits of learning outdoors.

My Story

I have taught in Primary schools for about 9 years. On my journey from NQT to experienced teacher I met and taught hundreds of children, all unique, all with different interests, strengths, levels of confidence, struggles, worries, life experiences, skills, home lives and so on. All different. But, and I know it sounds obvious, the thing that unites them, is that they are all children.

What do children need to learn

Towards the end of my time in the classroom, I kept coming back to this question: what do children need to learn? Yes, I know, it’s a BIG question and I know my old colleagues could debate this for hours. The tools of learning might include desks, chairs, pens and paper. But what about before those things are needed? The word I came up with was inspiration. I think that word really fits the bill for me and for many of my teacher friends. And so, leaving behind the phenomenally inspiring and talented classroom teachers I worked with, it was time to try a different form of inspiration. Nature.

Curriculum links

I left my teaching role last December, and since then have worked with the Queen Bees of Bee in the Wood to create our curriculum linked programmes for schools to inspire young minds. Our outdoor learning sessions are designed specifically to inspire learning and to help teachers ensure that the breadth of the National Curriculum and Programmes of Study are covered.

Do our sessions cover the curriculum?

Yes: Science, DT, Art, Maths, English, History, Geography (and all the subjects) can play a part, and this can be as big or small as the teachers wish.

The outdoor classroom is one where a growth mind-set can be nurtured, resilience developed, co-operation practised and communication skills honed.

Just try and build a shelter big enough, stable enough and sufficiently waterproof for yourself and 9 of your friends without those skills!

The Bee in the Woods’ outdoor classroom has seen bread baking, fire craft, story telling, poetry, miniature world creation and felting. The children have made crowns, dream catchers and natural mobiles using woodland treasures. We hosted a bunch of Wild Things, Tree Detectives and Ancient Castaways (Wolf Brother is definitely one of our favourite books at the moment)!

Our woodland classroom has seen children who have never visited a woodland before, lead a team of natural treasure hunters and learn to identify tree species; we met a child who has barely spoken all year, proudly and confidently explain his mini-world to his whole class and, perhaps most significantly for me personally, our woods have witnessed the great ‘levelling’ effect that this kind of learning provides.

There are no maths tables, no reading groups or writing levels in the woods.

The class dynamic is gently shaken and shifted. Quieter children become leaders. Children work as a team and new talents come to light. Creativity and the ability to think outside the box is celebrated (Edward De Bono’s Green Thinking Hat springs to mind for any philosophy geeks out there).

Children leave with new life skills and confidence, increased respect for their natural world and simultaneously (and not entirely coincidentally), they leave having worked on some of those curriculum goals!

So, were our first school sessions hot and sticky?

Yes, very much so!

Was it dusty and dirty?

Definitely!

Was it exhausting and utterly fabulous?

Totally!

Would we recommend outdoor learning for every child, every school and all the hard working teachers out there?

Unreservedly!

We will continue to hang our ceiling with leaves and clouds, extend our walls out into the trees and to inspire young minds, filling them with wonder at their environment, new found confidence, reliance and skills. This is after-all their world. We are just trying our best to take care of it for them.

What the teachers thought.

"Year 5 at Hove Junior School had the most magical experience with Bee in the Woods this week. From learning how to build their own survival dens to creating beautiful, natural dream catchers, our day was filled with exciting and wonderful projects which the whole class loved and couldn't stop talking about on the coach back. Thank you for having us and providing us all with so many magical forest memories"

"We had a school trip organised and run by Bee in the Woods with year 5. It was a wonderful day, filled with adventure and excitement and Lucy and Lorraine made it fit with our topic (Into the Woods) and our core text (Wolf Brother) so well. Very well planned and organised and the children loved it. Would highly recommend"

You can find out more about what we can bring to your child’s school on our website.

Please do tell your children’s teachers, head teacher and teacher friends about us. We can’t wait to work with more fantastic schools!

  • Sessions are available to book all year round and are suitable for EYFS, KS1 and KS2 (we haven’t forgotten about KS3+ - watch this space)
  • We have a wide range of workshops for teachers to choose from. They can be used in a mix and match style to design the perfect learning experience.
  • Why not have a chat to us about a bespoke programme for your class, based on your topic.

Bee Wild

Bee Wild Holiday camp, Brighton, Hove, Portslade

Bee Wild -Summer Holiday camp for 7-12 year olds

Our New BEE WILD Holiday Club at Bee-autiful Foredown Woods

We have been such busy Bees at BitW HQ this school year.  Simone, Lorraine, Jess and Chloe came on board, we are running four forest school sessions each week in term time, from 2 sites, and delivering sessions in two nurseries; we also have a whole host of exciting adventures up our sleevies ready for next term (subscribe to our newsletter to keep up to date with the new news as it happens).

But one of the most exciting, much requested and hotly anticipated new things is our forest school holiday club for bigger Bees!

We are thrilled to announce that we will be offering two holiday clubs this summer for children aged 7-12.

Our Foredown Woods site is our really wild site, and holds a fire license; so if your bigger kid enjoys nature, woodcraft, dens, wild cooking and generally mucking about in the woods, this is a fabulous opportunity to get some outdoorsiness into them this summer.

Drop off is at 10am at Foredown Allotments, Thornbush Crescent, Portslade, BN41 2GW 

Activities: Den building, survival skills, tool-use, natural crafts, bows and arrows, wands, potions, firecraft, wildlife, pond dipping, team games, camp cooking and much, much more.

  • Please provide suncream/appropriate weather clothes and a packed lunch

  • Pick up is at 3pm sharp from camp

  • Suitable For: 7-12 year olds

  • Dates: Wednesday 23 and Wednesday 30 August

  • Times: 10-3pm

  • Cost: Early bird tickets £28 until 15th July, £30 after.  Sibling discount available.

  • Please note that places are strictly limited.  Early booking is essential for Bee Wild

Book a place on 23 August Bee Wild Holiday Camp

Book a place on the 30 August Bee Wild Holiday Camp

Or you can see all available sessions, including our much loved Family Forest School sessions, suitable for children of all ages and their families, on our  'What's On' page

Storytelling around a campfire and kettle

The Penguin, The Elves and The Goonies…

Once….Not Twice. Not three times, But Once….upon a time, on a cold and drizzly January day deep in the dank Sussex woodland, 30 Forest School Practitioners gathered around a fire to hone their storytelling skills!

I was lucky to join my Forest School friends for a Storytelling day this week, hosted by Jon Cree and Circle of Life Rediscovery. There is something deeply primal and comforting about sitting around a cracking fire hearing old tales – and making up new ones. An ancient pass time that we’ve lost along the way somehow – like playing outdoors from sun up to sun down!

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Playing outside in winter…and keeping warm.

There’s no escaping it….it’s cold! And if you’re little one is anything like mine playing outside in winter can feel like pulling teeth when they are fed up and cold. It doesn’t help when they refuse to wear their coat…yet it’s freeezing!!

As you can probably tell, I’m an outdoorsy mum. I think being outside is good for my family. Everyone eats, sleeps and plays better when we’re outdoors and we all tend to get along better when we’ve had a good dose of fresh air! Research shows that playing outside boosts immune system – especially when there are so many nasty bugs circulating around indoors.  We get our hearts pumping, our imagination flowing and our moods lifted by exposure to that much needed vitamin D. However, despite loving the great outdoors I am unashamed to admit – I hate getting cold! I really do.Continue reading

Our Favourite Trees

The things we love about trees - the Bouncy tree (Cedar) - Stanmer Park, Brighton, East Sussex UK

Celebrating trees.

It's National Tree Dressing day this week and as a result, I've been thinking about our favourite trees.
 
Do you have a favourite tree and what does it mean to you? 
 
I have lots of favourite trees. The amazing old Oaks and Chestnuts in woodlands I have worked in, the big Beeches at Three Cornered Copse, the huge gnarley Sycamore tree in Hove park...I love all of these trees. They're beautiful landmarks, ecologically important and full of history. I like to point them out to my oldest son, who's 5.
 
...He usually replies 'meh'. 

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Back to School for Lucy…

I started my new school this week. It’s not quite like the other schools I’ve been to though. This is the School of Social Entrepreneurs…and it’s almost as magical as Hogwarts!

School for social entrepreneurs logoLast year I thought I’d take a chance and apply for the fantastic Lloyds Bank Social Entrepreneurs Start-Up Programme. After a weighty application pack, two nerve wracking Dragons Den-style pitches and an interview – I was overjoyed to secure a place for Bee in the Woods on the programme!

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Mindfulness in Nature Activity with Children

Mindfulness, children and forest school - a picture of sun shing through the leaves of a chestnut tree

Mindfulness and Forest School

Mindfulness and Forest School are happy partners. Not in the cross-legged, silent way you might associate with meditation, but in the way that being mindful of the sensory experience’s outdoors helps us to let go of worries, anxieties, stress and enjoy the moment – in nature.

Many people reading this will have at least one cherished memory of playing in a wild space. Remember the excitement of building a den from sticks; the concentrated effort of mixing up mud pies; the fear and fascination of discovering a world of creepy crawlies under a rock; the nervous determination to climb up to that higher branch of the big tree; the sweet smell of summer grasses or the fun of chasing your friends around the trees.

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