This project ran during October and November 2011. We welcome similar collaborations and partnerships – get in touch for more info.
Urban Woods is a new experience to get ready for work, to learn new things and meet new people.
Twelve 16-25 year olds are contributing to the community by digging holes, cutting down trees, learning how to use new tools responsibly to make the woods a better place.
The project has just begun
So far we have:
Felled trees using Bow saws, including Scots Pine and Alder
Taken tours of the forest
Dug trenches to create board walks in boggy areas
Over the next five weeks we would like to:
Build a treehouse
Make a rope swing
Build a fire
Build a compost toilet
Build a hide out in the woods (for Tom!)
Make a bench
Make a plaque with all our names on it
Rake up leaves to clear the paths
Strim the paths
Follow our progress in the diary below:
Here’s the Goonies posing for the camera before they set off to cut some trees down.
We split into two groups and continued working on cutting up the trees we had felled before and took down two more Alder. We cut 1metre lengths of Alder trunk and used these to make the foundations of a new boardwalk.
It was hard work, tiring but fun and VERY messy, especially for Emma who fell (or was she pushed?) into the pond
“I’ve enjoyed working what I’ve done today getting pushed in ponds, getting muddy, hands on work and meeting new people and having fun and I want to keep carrying it on and doing it again”
“It was some Buzz”
We got shown how to make Mallets from green wood and Willow platters. Then we made one each ourselves… they turned out perfect!
“The room was dead quiet cos we were all concentrating”
“I made a frisbee. It was dead good, soothing”
“It kept me concentrating for a bit making the platter”
“I had a good day, my favourite bit was making this:”
“I found it good, I liked the mallet better, using the tools”
“I enjoyed them both, especially sitting inside for the rain, it was cold but alright, ten out of ten”
A final word from Anna, the willow teacher: “I had a dead good day, everyone been really up for giving it a go, even though everyone was getting dead frustrated you stuck with it and it was really good”
Half of the group spent the day working on the boardwalk whilst the others were off felling trees and doing some tree identification to learn the names and properties of different tree types.
The Boardwalk is looking great:
“I’ve had a smashing day”
“I’ve just met a bunch of nice lads and we’re doing pretty well on our adventures in the jungle so I am happy!”
“We did a lot of tree ID with Tom, we were a really good team, doing some interesting work, a bit of theory behind the graft you know”
“Good day, its great to learn new things”
“I chopped a tree down, I’m cold man but it was good”
“My best day so far”
“We’ve been building a bridge where the water is and the mud. We’ve put the logs down and then the planks and we’ve had fun, its been a good laugh I enjoyed myself”
We also found time to get to know a few of the locals a little better:
A few of the guys stayed in today to make applications to an apprenticeship with the forestry commission whilst the others were out snedding trees and working on the boardwalk. It was such a busy day we forgot take any pictures!
We carried on with the boardwalk and some of the group made a den for the nursery wee’ans. It was egg shaped, made of about 26 willow twigs (proper name whips) woven together.
We built a fire, home made and had hot chocolate.
We met a guy called Greg, half Irish, half American, he looked like a bit of a hippy and showed us how to get the fire going properly. We used flint and steel to light cotton wool, then added birch bark and really thin twigs.
We carried on our work with the boardwalk and in the afternoon some of us started a spoon carving project. We also learned some new games…
We played a funny game, we played swapsies, it were a belter…It’s like pigy in the middle, you’re trying to steal a place, two people wink at each other and try to change places, the person in the middle has to try and get there first.
At lunchtime a few of the guys bought some pumpkins which will be carved for the little’uns for hallowe’en.
The boardwalk is looking awesome, especially with Laurie’s fantastic work on the corners:
“It was wet as hell man, me and Lucy were jumping on the log, I want to go for a bath”
“I enjoyed it, ten out of ten”
“I’m happy with the group I’m with, I’m enjoying, I like it, I’m happy that I’m doing it”
“I enjoyed myself, I’m knackered now”
“Good day man, the wet and cold made us tired, I made a teaspoon”
The morning’s the group were split into two teams and challenged to make a piece of furniture using natural materials. Each team had wood, string, scissors, loppers, a bow saw and a some secataurs.
Here’s the two groups at work:
For the afternoon half the group went outside to finish the willow structure and the other half starting making spoons with Alder.
“I enjoyed making a seat this morning, good fun, something I had never done before, this afternoon I had fun making a spoon, nearly finished, 10 out of 10″
“I done a spoon, that was alright, too impatient for it, it done my nut in but it was alright”
“I had a really exciting day today”
“Our log seat was better than their treehouse thing by far! Ours is solid! Its pretty good out there, quite in the wilderness innit, I seen a Robin Redbreast”
“I preferred the second half making the spoon, I quite enjoyed that.”
“Second half of the day was alright, doing the willow, it was easy”
“I had a good day I enjoyed it man, It was all good, I enjoyed making the seat”
Today we had a visit from a couple of the project funders and some of the group gave a wee tour of the woods, showing off the work so far. We ran into the nursery children out near the Willow den. The wee’uns hadn’t seen the den before so we got see first hand how excited and pleased they were, they think it was built by fairies!
After a morning outside carrying on with the boardwalk we spent the afternoon indoors planning activities for the nursery. In pairs the groups came up with full lesson plans that showed how the willow den could be used for games and learning. The three main ideas were:
1. Musical stories: A story space were the children can go and enjoy themselves and sing and read. The group sits in the den and the teacher reads stories, the children sing along and use props and instruments. Blankets could be laid down to make it cosy and drinks and snacks.
2. Princess Castle: A fun magical place where all the little girls can be princesses. We would make the den safe with leaves on the ground and move any spikey branches or trips out the way. We could decorate the den with glue, silly string, glitter, confetti etc. Before hand in the nursery you could make up a false story that a Princess once stayed there, then take them to the castle and get them to defeat the gruffallo. We could spend a whole day making costumes.
3. Aliens Coming: The group walk around the outside of the den in a circle. The leader makes a noise, for example shouts “asteroids” or “aliens coming!” and each person has to run into the den/space station. The last one in is out (like in musical chairs) and gets to join the team and choose when to shout “aliens coming”. You could take flying saucer sweets to give to each child once they got out in case they needed cheering up. Once finished they can play again, maybe 3 or 4 times in half an hour.
Once we had worked out our lesson plans the group thought about what qualities are needed for working with Children. We then spoke about each person in turn and chose two guys to lead the first activity with the nursery.
“I really enjoyed seeing the wee’uns in the den”
Half the group stayed inside to work on their spoon carvings and made good progress, the others went out to the board walk which is getting close to being finished:
Two of the guys were off with the nursery where they read some parts of the Gruffalo, played a game of Gruffalo’s coming (Based on ‘Aliens coming’ described above) and got shown where the fox hides out!
“Working with the kids made me feel more mature and more of an adult”
“I felt working with the children was a good experience and most of all fun”
A few folk continued with boardwalk whilst some other went out into the woods to build a car, made from willow, for the nursery kids.
In the afternoon we did a bit of spoon whittling and built a cracking fire.
” I think its good to contribute, especially for the wee’uns. I hope they enjoy it!”
“It doesn’t feel like hard work, it feels like you’re doing something good”
Two of they guys got to take part in a special scything workshop with vthe amazing visiting Groundskeeper. Tom (the woodland Officer) was pretty impressed with their efforts “Danny and Stephen were amazing at scything with groundskeeper Willy, about a million times better than me!”
“It’s (scything) the best thing I’ve done so far here…”
“I didnae mind sitting listenin tae the guy about scything, it was interesting he was brilliant. Everybody should get the chance to do it. Bring him on the next course!’
The rest of us finished off the willow car and got to see it be given a test drive by nine over excited three year olds!
“I think the car has turned out to be cracker…the weans absolutely loved it”
“We got 9 in the car…Ryan was an absolute star…I was really impressed”
“I enjoyed this afternoon, had a laugh wi’ Jason, it was brilliant”
We did a bit of classroom work this morning, to review everything we’ve done so far and make plans for how we want to showcase our skills and creations at the celebration day on Thursday. Here’s a list of everything we could think of that we’ve done:
Built a Boardwalk
Learned safe and proper use of lots of different tools
Made Willow platters
Made willow structures
Made mallets and spoons from green wood
Lesson planning and capacity building
Firelighting (using flint and steel)
Worked and played with the nursery children
Learned names and properties of different trees
Given tours of the woods
This morning we split into small teams to finish off different things… marking out the trails with painted posts, nailing in the u-nails on the boardwalk and fixing not TWO steering wheels to the willow car!
In the afternoon we did a team challenge: make a den for at least two people using natural materials.
Here’s what the teams came up with: