Forest school 'like no other' is helping change the lives of children

Keepers Gate Forest School, Weston. 

Keepers Gate Forest School, Weston. - Credit: Keepers Gate Forest School.

A 'one of a kind' forest school on the outskirts of Weston has been helping children to regain confidence and 'grow as people' as they relearn the joy of nature. 

Keepers Gate Forest School is a pre-school and holiday club situated on 30 acres of woodland near Bleadon and Hutton.

It was started in October last year by experienced early years practitioners Rachel Landen and Nicky Lewis after they realised the fantastic benefits of immersing children in an outdoor environment. 

Keepers Gate Forest School, Weston. 

Keepers Gate Forest School, Weston. - Credit: Keepers Gate Forest School

Keepers Gate runs along the traditional forest school lines but instead offers children freedom of the outdoors to play, learn and develop in a wide open space which overlooks Weston and the Somerset Levels. 

The forest school is now in receipt of government funding which allows educational provides to offer 'healthy food and enriching activities during the school holidays' to children who are aged between five and 16 years, and receive benefits-related free school meals.

The holiday, activities and food programme (HAF) was designed to help struggling children get back on track after a period of heavy disruption caused by the pandemic. 

Keepers Gate Forest School, Weston. 

Keepers Gate Forest School, Weston. - Credit: Keepers Gate Forest School

Children from underprivileged backgrounds in Weston, and further areas in North Somerset, get to not only climb trees, learn about the flora and fauna, exercise and create things using raw materials such as wood, but it's all child-focused and directed. 

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Rachel Landen said: "We're all about getting children outdoors whatever the weather - it's so important for their mental health and well-being when many of our young people find it difficult to set their own boundaries and get off their gadgets.

"It's amazing to see the change in them from when they first join to when they leave at the end of the holidays. They're confident within themselves again and they're sure of their choices.

"A lot of children stay behind four walls and don't play outside like we used to when we were kids. So many of our young people have become scared or afraid of outdoors and we're working to overcome that. 

Keepers Gate Forest School, Weston. 

Keepers Gate Forest School, Weston. - Credit: Keepers Gate Forest School

"There's no electronics on-site and we're self-sufficient, from growing our own veggies to cooking our meals by the fire. 

"We have children from all ages and abilities growing together and interacting, when outside our school, that may not necessarily happen. 

"The children we cater for may not be to able to normally access the things we do here and it helps them to grow and gives them opportunity they might not have otherwise had.

"To help the children and see them grow in the six weeks they're here is amazing, its such a remarkable difference and its so emotional to see them overcome their fears.

"I think the best part about it all is while they're learning all these new skills, they're getting fit and active too."

Some of the facilities at the school include a mud kitchen, mud slide, allotment plots, play equipment and dens. 

Compostable toilets at Keepers Gate.

Compostable toilets at Keepers Gate. - Credit: Keepers Gate Forest School

Keepers Gate pre-school also runs all day during term time from Monday to Friday. 

Spaces are available for the pre-school in September for those aged three to four.

There are 24 spaces for the holiday club over the six-week school holiday's for children aged four to 11. 

To learn more about the forest school, visit www.keepersgateforestschool.com or email info@keepersgateforestschool.com.