Help children discover the great outdoors

Crowdfunder launched to create outdoor classroom in Chingford, writes Marlene Barrett

Woodland classroom design

Woodland classrooms are made from natural materials and blend in with the surrounding landscape

Organiclea’s market garden site, Hawkwood, is on land that the ‘peasant poet’ John Clare will surely have meandered through during his four-year stay in Epping Forest from 1837.

Clare harvested his poems from nature. He found companionship in the flowers, peace in the woodland, and distress at the great changes brought about by the Enclosures and the Industrial Revolution which changed many people’s relationship to the land and nature irrevocably.

Organiclea’s work is focused on food growing, and the connections created when people come together to grow food. A large proportion of our 12-acre forest edge site in Chingford remains woodland, bramble hedge and meadow; we share this land with nature and seek to maintain it to the benefit of all that grows and lives in it.

It’s this link with nature that we are now focusing on, so that even more people can benefit from nature-based learning and activities at our site. Thanks to Heritage Lottery funding, we are starting a project in September called Bee Wild, which will offer volunteering and training opportunities in protecting pollinator habitats, and raise awareness of how vital pollinator species are to maintaining biodiversity.

To allow this new direction to really take root we are also fundraising to build a classroom tucked into the woodland at our Hawkwood site. It will be a low-impact roundhouse structure built using organic materials with traditional greenwood techniques.

John Clare poemThis new space is crucial to our learning programmes. Our current classroom is fully booked and we can’t meet the demand from groups who want to come to our site. But we also want to create the opportunity for people to enjoy and experience Hawkwood differently – with an outdoor space away from the main hub that allows us to be in touch and in tune with nature.

Food growing remains the heart of what we do, but we recognise the growing need for people to reconnect with nature in different ways and we want to provide those opportunities. And, of course, supporting a healthy and diverse ecosystem goes hand-in-hand with sustainable food growing.

So please help us get our woodland classroom on the ground and support us to offer some of the nature connections that John Clare experienced as he spent time in the “mid-wood silence”.

We’d really welcome any donations to our crowdfunder appeal, no matter how small, to help us raise the funds we need for our woodland classroom. We’re also running a competition for schools in September, so if you’re linked to a school send us an email. The school whose supporters generate the most engagement and donations will win a prize of three free class visits to Hawkwood.

To support the woodland classroom appeal and to find out more: